Shiva and Parvati prepare bhang (cannabis) – Sikh woodcut, Lahore – c. 1870
Produced by Sikh artisans for Hindu pilgrims and collected at a local fair or bazaar by John Lockwood Kipling while he was director from 1875 to 1893 of the Mayo School of Art in Lahore.
Presented to the V&A in 1917 by his famous son, Rudyard, who while living in Lahore is known to have experimented with cannabis, including a pharmaceutical preparation of cannabis, opium, and chloroform which resulted in his experiencing intense visionary dream states much like those recorded by De Quincey.
Sikhs themselves have a rich tradition of sacramental and martial cannabis use, and a Sikh clan, the Bhangi Misl, who once ruled the western Punjab, earned their name from the prolific consumption of cannabis by their founder Chhajja Singh and his warriors.
Kipling’s greatest novel opens in Lahore with its vagabond street urchin hero, Kim, sat astride the city’s famous cannon, the Zam-Zammah, drumming his heels:
‘He sat, in defiance of municipal orders, astride the gun Zam Zammah on her brick platform opposite the old Ajaib-Gher—the Wonder House, as the natives call the Lahore Museum. Who hold Zam-Zammah, that “fire-breathing dragon”, hold the Punjab, for the great green-bronze piece is always first of the conqueror’s loot.’
The cannon once belonged to the Bhangi Misl and so still goes by its other name, the Bhangianwali Toap.