The so-called ‘sinsemilla technique’ was already employed in southern India at least 500 years ago. There is no debate about this. Reason being, there is the evidence to prove it.
The Ānandakanda (आनन्दकन्द) or ‘Root of Bliss’, a renowned compendium on Indian alchemy compiled around the 15th Century, details the process of rogueing out males to produce a seedless crop known as ‘ganja’. Some experts date the text to as early as the 10th Century.
Rich as the modern cannabis scene is in gobshitery, many folks in the West still seem to believe ‘ganja’ is a catch-all term for any kind of cannabis. It very definitely isn’t. Ganja refers specifically to seedless or lightly seeded female inflorescences and the particular tropical domesticates used to produce them (colloquially, Sativas).
Most likely this product – ganja – was developed to be chewed. Searching Monier-Williams for the term yields gṛiñjana (गृञ्जन), ‘the tops of [cannabis] chewed to produce an inebriating effect.’* Ganja could be chewed with betel leaf, which is the main ingredient of paan along with areca nut and a range of spices and flavourings. Powdered toasted cannabis is added to paan mixes in contemporary southern India (and in early twentieth-century Bombay so was cocaine!)
Only in the late 1600s do we see the first references to a widespread custom of smoking ganja. The 1600s is likewise when available archaeological evidence suggests the sudden emergence of a chillum industry. Tobacco had rapidly taken hold in India in the early decades of the same century and seems to have been the catalyst for the habitual pot smoking with which the world is now familiar. By the late 1700s there appear the first paintings of mass smoke-ups and hookah-toking dreadlocked yogis.
Based on references to well-known landmarks, a confident guess can be made that the Ānandakanda was composed at Srisailam, an important centre in the sacred geography of Shiva and now part of Andhra Pradesh. The compilers themselves were Naths, followers of syncretistic Shaiva traditions that fuse knowledge and practices from sources as diverse as Islam and Buddhism.
This is the great thing about cannabis culture. Its origins are richly and confidently syncretistic – not frightened by difference but arising out of a culture of mutual curiosity and admiration. So very unlike the grievance cultures that blight contemporary life around the globe, in other words. Perhaps cannabis really can offer us a way toward ‘the healing of the nation’.
The header image on the homepage is Dervish Receiving a Visitor, Bijapur, India c. 1620. Shown is a local Sufi shrine of the Shattari Order. The ascetics with beards are dervishes or Sufis, without beards are yogis.
*Though as far as I know both terms can also refer to red onions and other plants, and are the root of misleading claims such as that cannabis is prohibited in the ancient Indian ‘legal’ text the Manusmṛiti (‘Laws of Manu’).