The Hindu holy man called “sadhu” seen in this picture seems to be smoking a chillum. A chillum is a smoking device invented in India used to smoke cannabis, charas or hashish. Cannabis (often called the bhang or ganja) is illegal in India however the use of this drug is so ingrained in the culture of India that is difficult to ban it completely. You can read more about Bhang here.
You’ll be surprised to see “bhang goli” or bhang balls (cannabis balls) being sold on the streets. There are government approved shops in the holy city of Banaras (also known as Varanasi) and other holy cities where people are able to drink “Bhang Lassi” (cannabis milkshake). Bhang is particularly consumed during the festival of Holi as a yoghurt and milk based drink called “Thandai”. As far as the smoking marijuana is concerned, I have tried a few puffs of my great-granddad’s (lived 102 years) hookah (water pipe for smoking) – Didn’t like it and realised that it was not for me. I have however eaten the “bhang goli” a few times – made me laugh a lot for no apparent reason.
Coming back to the holy man in the picture, he’s wearing rudraksha beads on his wrists and gold ring with a coral stone (called moonga in Hindi) in his index finger. The rudraksha beads or rosaries are used extensively in Hindu prayers and can be worn for good luck. I have worn them as well. I can’t say it has done miracles but I have heard good things from those who wear them. The coral stone is a popular stone used in Indian astrology, it is supposed to provide strength and willingness to meet challenges during critical situations.
SMOKING BABAS – Sadhus smoking Marijuana at the Kumbh Mela