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Aristolochia Cordiflora, c1850-60

Greek, 500–100 BCE, right eye of a statue. Marble, obsidian, glass, and copper. Getty Museum.

A suaga helmet mask from the Mambila people of Cameroon

This sublime image of Lord Shiva, rendered against an opaque background, represents him as engaged in grinding ‘bhang’ – an intoxicating leafy herb popularly associated with Shiva as his most favoured drink. Of all herbal intoxicants in use in India, now or ever, ‘bhang’ is contended to have divine bearing not only because the tradition associates it with gods, specially Shiva, as their popular drink but also for its strange mystic power of dissociating the mind from the worldly things and linking it with the Supreme. Put on the list of narcotic products requiring licensing for their production and sale by the British in pre-independent India, ‘bhang’ was since Vedic days, or perhaps earlier, the herb that ascetics used as the tool of meditating on the deity, wrestlers, for physical might and better concentration, and the elite, the people of courts or classes, for enjoyment. “Bhang’ has been in use for celebrating festivals like Maha Shiva-ratri and Holi among others since times immemorial. Bhang is a preparation from the leaves and flowers (buds) of the female cannabis plant, consumed as a beverage.

Family of Centaurs. 19th.century.  Georg Hiltensperger. German 1806-1890. A Panel from the Mural in the Gallery of the History of Ancient Art. Hermitage Museum. St. Petersburg. Russia.encaustic technique.

Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881-1973), Nus masculins (Les trois âges de l’homme) [Male nudes (The three ages of man)], November 1942. Oil on panel, 53.8 x 64.8 cm.