Unlike the Western countries, India has a long history of relationship with cannabis. It is growing wild all along the northern part of the country and is especially abundant in the areas around the Himalayas. Moreover, certain forms of ganja, the Indian name for cannabis, are still widely popular and available throughout the country.
For instance, you can find bhang, a common cannabis drink, not only in tents during the traditional Hindu festivals but also in most of the government-sanctioned stores at any time of the year. It is popular among the locals and tourists as well.
Another famous cannabis product you can find in India is charas. It is not an edible but a kind of hand-rolled hashish joint that you are supposed to smoke. While in the Western culture we are used to consuming dried and cured cannabis, in India it is common to use freshly harvested weed. That is why both bhang and charas are made of the local fresh buds that are used a few weeks after they have matured. And that is why the taste and the effects they cause may differ from what most of the Western consumers are used to. Even though charas is often compared to hash, as they both represent cannabis concentrates, they are different.
In India, charas is used not only recreationally but also as an important part of the religious festival celebration. In the Hindu religion, it is believed that the god Shiva, the Supreme Being, loves consuming cannabis. For this reason, smoking weed is connected to worshiping Lord Shiva. Sadhus (ascetics) and young professionals consume it regularly using a chillum, a special small clay pipe, and chanting Shiva's numerous names while smoking.
There are several kinds of charas in India, and their potency varies a lot. Almost all the cannabis for charas in gathered in the northern part of the country, in Parvati Valley, Kashmir, or Malana regions. These places, close to the Himalayan mountains, are known for their abundant fields of wild-grown cannabis.
One of the most potent and most powerful charas is called Malana Cream. It is made from the cannabis grown in Parvati Valley, which is known for its high THC content. Although this product is very popular, very little has been done to improve the growing or harvesting process in this area. The weed is still gathered by hand, it is transported by mule, and the whole process of making charas takes much longer than producing regular hashish—at least twice as long. For these reasons, the price for Malana Cream is high, and since it is considered the best concentrate in India, it also commands the prices on all products in the country's cannamarket.
Another popular charas you may find all over India is Kerala Gold, which is sometimes called Idukki Gold or Neelachadayan. It was at the height of popularity back in 2013 after the release of a Bollywood movie called Idukki Gold. The film showed the story of five friends who were traveling around India to find the special cannabis strain that had impressed them all in their young days.
However, Idukki Gold can barely impress anyone these days. The strain that used to be super-powerful a dozen of years ago was burned by the police right in the fields. That is why the Kerala Gold we have now is actually a hybrid that was bred by crossing the remains of the primal strain with local plants to adapt it to the climate. This hybrid got the name “Sheelavathi,” but it is sold under the name of Idukki Gold anyway. Its quality is generally not really high, and the THC level is about eight percent.
Luckily, to get charas, you do not need to go to India. You can quite easily make it at home. However, you should not expect it to be exactly like the original one, mainly because of the different strains.
First of all, pick a handful of buds from the cannabis plants that are not completely mature but have two or three weeks before the harvesting time. Trim the buds, leaving a bit of the stem but removing all the leaves. Then, to make the production of charas more authentic, release the oils and THC with the help of your own hands: simply rub the buds between your palms until you feel that the flowers start to secrete a black substance similar to tar. After that, you need to start rolling a charas ball from the cannabis and roll it until it stops releasing oils.
The secret of making high-quality charas is to do it slowly and patiently. The faster your hand movements are, the more resin you risk losing during the process. You can make about 8-9 grams of charas in a day, but high-quality product requires much more time and effort.
Moreover, expect this process to be not only long but also quite messy. Your hands will become sticky and resinous, covered with a black substance. You can either use gloves or clean your hands with a heavy-duty dish soap after the whole procedure is over.
When the ball is formed, it is already ready to use. You can mix it with tobacco and make a spliff, or you can place it directly into a pipe or chillum and smoke it directly without any modifications.
After all, if Lord Shiva loved smoking it, why should we not as well?