Thandai: A Time-Honored Cannabis Beverage for Holi Festivities


Thandai: A Time-Honored Beverage to Celebrate Holi

For centuries, India has celebrated the Festival of Colours with thandai, a refreshing milk drink infused with dry nuts, aromatic spices, and often, cannabis.

Holi, falling on March 25th, is a joyous Hindu festival marking the end of winter and the arrival of spring, symbolizing new beginnings. Over two days, festivities include vibrant colors, water guns, and spirited dancing, epitomizing the jubilant spirit of the occasion.

Central to Holi celebrations across India is thandai, a creamy milk-based concoction enriched with dry fruits and aromatic spices. “Thandai adds a delightful touch to the festivities, enhancing the sense of joy and embodying the carefree essence of Holi,” says Vicky Ratnani, a renowned chef and author.

Linked to various Hindu deities, Holi commemorates the triumph of good over evil and celebrates divine love. Amidst the revelry, traditional delicacies like dahi vada, chaat, and gujiya abound, but thandai remains a cherished preparation. The word “thandai” itself, derived from “thanda” meaning cool in Hindi, reflects its role in providing relief from the transitioning seasons.

Crafted with a blend of nuts and spices including almonds, poppy seeds, fennel, and saffron, thandai offers not just refreshment but also potential health benefits. “Its ingredients boast a plethora of healthful properties, from the nutritional value of nuts and seeds to the immunity-boosting qualities of spices,” explains Ratnani.

Moreover, thandai often incorporates cannabis, locally known as bhang, adding an intoxicating element to the festivities. This tradition traces back to Hindu mythology, with legends associating cannabis with Lord Shiva and his divine pursuits.

While cannabis remains illegal in India, bhang-laced thandai circumvents legal restrictions due to a legal loophole. Ratnani notes, “On Holi, thandai infused with bhang sets the stage for revelry, fostering a festive atmosphere.”

With its rich history and cultural significance, thandai continues to evolve, inspiring new recipes and culinary innovations. “Thandai lends itself to a myriad of preparations, from desserts like kheer and barfi to refreshing beverages and even cocktails,” Ratnani adds.

Yet amidst the variety, the classic thandai remains unrivaled – a quintessential flavor of Holi, cherished for its cool, creamy texture and aromatic blend of spices. As Holi approaches, thandai serves as a delicious reminder of the vibrant traditions and festive spirit that define the occasion.

Thandai Recipe

Serves 4


  • 10-12 almonds
  • 10-12 cashew nuts
  • 10-15 black peppercorns
  • 10-12 raisins
  • 10-12 green cardamom pods
  • 1 tsp white poppy seeds
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp melon seeds
  • 1 pinch saffron (optional)
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar (or to taste)
  • ½ tsp rose water
  • Rose petals and slivered dried nuts for garnish


  1. Soak almonds, cashews, peppercorns, raisins, cardamom, poppy seeds, fennel seeds, melon seeds, and saffron in ½ cup water for 5-6 hours or overnight.
  2. Blend soaked ingredients into a fine paste, adding milk if needed. Set aside.
  3. Heat milk in a pan, then add the paste, sugar, and rose water. Cook for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Let the mixture cool, then refrigerate for 3-4 hours to blend flavors.
  5. Strain the mixture, discard pulp, and pour thandai into serving glasses.
  6. Garnish with rose petals and slivered nuts, and serve chilled. Enjoy the refreshing taste of thandai!


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