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Charas is the name given to hand-made hashish in India and Pakistan. It is made from the extract of the cannabis plant (Cannabis sativa). The plant grows wild throughout Northern India, Pakistan and the Himalayas (its putative origin) and is an important cash crop for the local peoples.    


History of charas

Charas has been used across the Indian sub-continent for its medicinal and religious properties for thousands of years[citation needed] and was sold in government shops (along with opium) in the early days of the British Empire[citation needed]. Charas plays an important and often integral role in the culture and ritual of the Hindu religion, especially among the Shaivs - the sub-division of Hinduism holding Lord Shiva to be the supreme god (in contrast to Vaishnavs who worship Lord Vishnu) and it is venerated as being one of the aspects of Lord Shiva.

Despite this long history, charas was made illegal in the 1980s and draconian sentences were introduced. Even the mere possession had a mandatory ten year prison sentence. These laws have now been somewhat relaxed, however Charas has been known to be a popular medium for police to extort bribes from consumers of the drug.

Even at the peak of the crackdown, charas was still popular and it remains so today, especially amongst Indian sadhus. The Naga Sadhus, Aghoris and Tantric Bhairav sects smoke it freely because they claim its use as being an integral part of their daily life. Many smoke it in clay pipes called chillums, using a cotton cloth to cover the smoking end of the chillum or by inserting a tightly packed pebble sized ball of dried ganja or weed as filter for the chillum. Before lighting the chillum they will chant the many names of Shiva in veneration. The government even provides its supply in huge quantity to meet the demand during the largest gathering of sadhus of all sects during the Kumbh mela, or festival of the holy men.

Relevancy of charas in Indian subcontinent

Today the best place for travellers to smoke charas is Manali, Himachal Pradesh and its surroundings in the northern mountainous state of Himachal Pradesh. It is also extensively available in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan. For instance, the charas found in the mountainous areas of Tirah in Orakzai Agency is not less than gold for the consumers of charas. The nearby city of Peshawar in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) is the main centre of the charas transported from the Tribal Areas.

Charas was first exported illegally by professional drug dealers like Henry de Monfreid. Today many backpackers support their travels by smuggling some home with them to sell in the West.

There are many sub-varieties of charas available today in India. As the Tarai and the sub-mountainous terrains along the Himalayan range provides the best environment for cannabis plants; the variety of Charas depends on the part of the states where its produced in. Northern states like Himachal Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Tarai region of Uttar Pradesh yield a darker, more dense and strong charas. While north-eastern states like Assam, Nagaland and others yield a strong chili like flavour and have a tan, brownish colour.

Local cultivation

What is considered among connoisseurs the best charas grown in India comes from the mountains, especially those of Kashmir. For this reason India has become very popular with backpackers and those involved in drug smuggling. The best charas is made very high up away from the police and is known as 'cream'.

Cannabis grown at high altitude is known to be particularly strong. Potency can be related to natural selection of wild strains in harsh conditions. At high altitudes the ultraviolet radiation is strong and cannabis exposed to ultraviolet radiation produces substantially more THC (the main psychoactive compound found in cannabis). It has been suggested that THC is produced as a defense against short wavelength ultraviolet light.

Charas is made by rubbing one's hands through the flowers and is long, tedious work. The resin sticks to one's palms and by the end of the day one has harvested perhaps 8 or 9 grams of charas. The faster one works, the lower the quality of charas. Hence, to make 'cream' it is necessary to go very slowly and it is only possible to make a few grams a day. Nowadays production of cannabis in the Himalayas have increased as growing demand for the Manali cream named after the village it has been made. This ancient art is disappearing under the pressure to capitalize on the domestic and international market for charas.


Gardaa is a type of Charas made in Pakistan using dried cannabis of high potency. It is a very pure form of Charas; free from any additive chemicals. It is a very pliable substance which can take any shape. Usually sold in the shape of balls, Gardaa starts dissolving into smaller particles even with the heat of the palm. Gardaa is a word of Urdu Language (official language of Pakistan) which means "Dust". It is named Gardaa due to its similarity in colour to mud or brown thick dust. Charas is mostly consumed after it is heated. After it is heated, the "greenish powder" changes into a smooth "brownish mass". The term gardaa is also some times used to describe the greenish powder-form of charas. Gardaa have two types mainly, one is soft, solid, smooth structure known as pakka garda and the other one is kacha gardaa, kacha gardaa is a soft powder which is green (or lightly green brown sometimes) .

Although gardaa is available throughout Pakistan, but it is made in northern tribal areas of Pakistan and in Afghanistan. it is mainly available in Peshawer but is not sold openly, and with a help of a good guide you can find it. In N-W.F.P., It can mostly be found in those areas which lie on the border with Khyber Agency and Kurram Agency. One such place is Shah Kass which is part of Khyber Agency and borders with the Hayatabad settlement of Peshawar city.40% of the youth which also includes university students consume charas. one "tola" averagely costs 170-210 Pakistani Rupees. Its price has increased due to the tension in the Tribal Areas. Gardaa is smoked, usually mixed with cigarette tobacco and rolled back into the cigarette blank. Cigarettes that burn longer due to cigarette paper/tobacco qualities are preferred for mixing and smoking Gardaa. To smoke Gardaa in a Cigarette, Cigarette tobacco is taken out and refined using hands to make it into smaller particles. Tobacco leaves with less moisture are easier to crush. Gardaa is than heated to make it soft; this is often referred to as 'cooking'. The objective is to dissolve the Gardaa in the tobacco to make a mix while wasting minimum smoke value (meaning heated only enough to make it soft without burning it into smoke). Once mixed with the tobacco using hands it is filled back into the cigarette blank. The cigarette is tightly filled back to ensure maximum smoke in each puff.

Rolling paper is also used to smoke Gardaa. Gardaa with tobacco mixture is filled into the rolling paper to make a cigarette.


Charas is typically smoked through a chillum and although tobacco is also mixed in the effects can be very strong, even occasionally psychedelic. It is much purer than regular hashish in the West and, as such, a steady charas smoker may get through 10 grams a day. This weight is approximately a 'tolla' and at source will cost around 5-10 dollars, depending upon the quality. Malana Cream, which is of higher quality, will cost about 20-30 USD in India.

The effects are similar to regular hash and marijuana available in the West, but the content of the active ingredient THC is generally close to that of high quality sinsemilla. Users report a strong dream-like experience where a feeling of warmth and relaxation is experienced. Users often become very laid back and relaxed. Strong feelings of hunger begin after smoking. A person can be recognised as a 'Charsi' (person who regularly uses Charas, referred to as a 'pot-head' in the West) by their glazed bloodshot eyes with heavy eyelids. In Pakistan Charas is sometimes called 'Gardaa' and is available in large but relatively thin (approx 1 cm) A4 size sheets from herbal shops or local sources. Gardaa has a pungent, spicy scent and is malleable into any shape, most commonly into small balls. It is most commonly smoked in 'joints' created by removing tobacco from a cigarette, mixing the crumbled charas with the tobacco then refilling the cigarette with the mixture. Use of charas is gaining popularity among students in Pakistan.


    This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Charas". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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