HYDERABAD, India—To get to Bandosingh Hazaari’s bhang shop you have to follow the gods.
In the maze of nameless alleys in Dhoolpet, a working-class neighborhood in the southeastern Indian city of Hyderabad, enormous fiberglass figures of Hindu gods and goddesses peek out of temple doors and between buildings. It’s a part of the city that’s known for creating and selling these 30-foot avatars, which are used in festivals and parades.
It’s also known for selling bhang—cannabis leaves that are crushed, mixed into drinks and sweets, and often served during Hindu holidays like Holi, the celebration of color and spring. During the festival, which falls on March 17 this year, crowds gather in Indian cities to throw colored powder and water on friends and strangers, leaving the streets tie-dyed and the air hazy with ribbons of rainbow dust. In a country where possessing and selling cannabis is generally prohibited, and where levels of cannabis use are low relative to other countries, it’s one day of the year when consuming marijuana is socially acceptable. There are even Bollywood songs extolling bhang’s virtues.