Banaras, the Eternal City, is the abode of Lord Shiva, who is always in a state of bliss. It is not surprising then, that the culture of intoxication flourishes here, especially the culture of bhang, which is part o the ritual worship of Lord Shiva.

Bhang, a traditional intoxicant, is made by grinding the leaves and stems of the Indian hemp (Cannabis indica). It can be consumed either as a pellet, or stirred into a lassi or thandai. There are bhang pakoras, and other diverse creations but Banarasi Thandai is a unique affair altogether. On any given evening at Gaudaulia Chowk, the Mishrambu Thandai stall attracts large crowds. People flock in large numbers to feast on this delicious cooler, made using an assortment of dry fruits, fruit juices and milk. Added to the drink is a lump or two of bhang, that transforms it into a delightfully murky green mixture.(For the squeamish non-bhang thandais are readily available). For connoisseurs there is Baba Thandai a very little shop further deep in the city. Inspite of its melodramatically orange walls and seats, the shop offers more subtle and authentic flavoured milks, catering definitely to the more discerning customer.

The price of thandai is the same, whether with bhang or without. It’s just added, however much you want for free.