Ganja: A Brief History
The truth is that most of the names (with the exception of cannabis) are modern names for the plant that provides us with the recreational drug commonly known as hash or weed. Although mostly referred to as cannabis that is its scientific name, cultures over the years have renamed the plant different things for different reasons, and according to native languages. There is a huge popular misconception that Ganja is a Rastafarian word when the the word is in fact Sanskrit, an Old Indo-Aryan language from the Indian subcontinent.
It originated as an Indian word for the common strain of the plant, cannabis sativa, but as we know that, it was also used as an intoxicant. When the term ‘ganja’ is used, the first thing that comes to someone's mind might be Rastafarianism. Rastafarianism is a religion. It began in Jamaica in the 1930s, and played an important role in combining the Protestant Christianity with mysticism and a pan-African political consciousness. Ganja (cannabis) is used as part of a spiritual, meditative practice. However, as it has already been mentioned, the word ‘ganja’ does not originate in the Caribbean.
Some people believe that the Indians named the Ganges after their sacred Goddess Ganja, because of all the beautiful herb that grows right on the riverbanks. In reality the word in Sanskrit refers to a very potent preparation of the cannabis sativa strain, and not the regular herbal mix. Cannabis is an important part of the Hindu society and can also be seen in local religious practices throughout the Indian subcontinent. In several cities and regions, deities are offered cannabis as part of religious ceremonies.
According to Indian culture, the dried buds of the cannabis plant, ganja makes you feel relaxed, pleasant and used in exploration of music. Basically, it's weed. It's called many different names, cannabis, pot, mean green, but in the end it's all really the same thing - ganja, and it's been in Indian culture and tradition for centuries. Food or drink infused with the ground cannabis paste is called bhang. An edible preparation of marijuana made from the leaves and stems of the plant is also used. It is made by grounding the cannabis into a paste and then adding the necessary ingredients, such as ghee, sweets and spices. It's a staple of the Holi festival in India.
The infusion of the word thus happened when Britain looked to the Indian subcontinent for labor. Indians were taken abroad to plantations in a variety of locations, including Jamaica. Between 1845 and 1917, nearly 40,000 Indian people crossed the seas as indentured laborers to Jamaica, with the help of the British.
The interweaving of Indian and Jamaican cultures that followed brought the word ‘ganja’ to Jamaica. By the early 20th century, smoking ganja had become common practice among young, black Jamaican field workers. The black-power, pan-African message of Rastafarianism found fertile ground among this population. As many of these workers were displaced and moved to poor, urban areas, the message of the spiritual ganja-use, pan-Africanism, and black liberation grew stronger. Then in 1948, ganja was made illegal. Thus, by the mid 20th century, ganja had become an integral part of the anti-establishment movement that is Rastafarianism.