India in Analog | Part Three – Holi

02 August 2010

At winter’s end on the last full moon of the lunar month known as Phalguna, bonfires ignite across India, symbolising the start of the festival ‘Holi.’ To make one of many long stories short the fires represent the triumph of good over evil; the burning alive of the demoness Holika, and the survival of Prahlad, who thanks to his unshakable devotion to the god Vishnu escaped the same blaze unscathed.

As the fires dim huge pots of bhung, a sweet ‘herbal’ shake are brewed to get everyone in the festive spirit. Bright coloured powders are dished into bags or mixed with water and everyone takes to the streets to douse each other in colour, hug and exchange with bhung eyes and smiles “HAPPY HOLI!”


2 Cups water
1 Ounce marijuana (fresh leaves and flowers of a female plant preferred)
4 Cups warm milk
2 Tablespoons blanched and chopped almonds
1/8 teaspoon garam masala (a mixture of cloves, cinnamon and cardamom)
1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/2 to 1 teaspoon rosewater
1 Cup sugar

Bring the water to a rapid boil and pour into a clean teapot. Remove any seeds or twigs from the marijuana, add it to the teapot and cover. Let this brew for about 7 minutes.

Now strain the water and marijuana through a piece of muslin cloth, collect the water and save.

Take the leaves and flowers and squeeze between your hands to extract any liquid that remains. Add this to the water.

Place the leaves and flowers in a mortar and add 2 teaspoons warm milk. Slowly but firmly grind the milk and leaves together. Gather up the marijuana and squeeze out as much milk as you can. Repeat this process until you have used about 1/2 Cup of milk (about 4 to 5 times). Collect all the milk that has been extracted and place in a bowl. By this time the marijuana will have turned into a pulpy mass.

Add the chopped almonds and some more warm milk. Grind this in the mortar until a fine paste is formed. Squeeze this paste and collect the extract as before. Repeat a few more times until all that is left are some fibres and nut meal. Discard the residue.

Combine all the liquids that have been collected, including the water the marijuana was brewed in. Add to this the garam masala, dried ginger and rosewater. Add the sugar and remaining milk

Chill, serve, and enjoy.

Recipe from

Coming to next week:

India in Analog | Part Four – Kumbh Mela

So, what do you think about all this?