On Baba Ku

Baba Ku 

Meanwhile, across the border from Persia in neighbouring Afghanistan, hashish aficionados have their own version of Sheik Haidar in the shape of a character called Baba Ku. So striking are the similarities between the stories of Sheikh Haidar and Baba Ku that they probably originate from the same source. Like Haidar, Baba Ku is characterised as a devout Sufi. He is celebrated for first bringing hashish to Afghanistan; he and his followers consumed the drug in prodigious quantities, regarding it as both a divine sacrament and a medicine. Baba Ku is generally acknowledged to be the founding father of cannabis culture in Afghanistan, and he is traditionally depicted as puffing on a giant hubble-bubble pipe. Again paralleling the Haidar legend, on the death of Baba Ku his disciples set up a shrine to him in the town of Balk in northern Afghanistan where they continued to cultivate a plot of cannabis in his memory. Pilgrims to the site were encouraged to smoke it up big time. Indeed, to this day in Afghanistan there are still hashish babas who venerate Baba Ku. Like the sadhus of India, they generally shun possessions other than their stash of hash and lead nomadic lives. However, from time to time they will gather together in smoking fraternities – summoned by a single mournful note blown through a giant conch shell – to fire it up in remembrance of the great Baba Ku. These Afghani hashish babas are some of the most serious smokers on earth and have been known to get through as much as an ounce (28g) per head at a single sitting. Another Islamic country strong on cannabis folklore is Morocco. Although a relative infant in terms of hashish production, the Moroccans have long been renowned for their love of kif – a marijuana and tobacco blend traditionally smoked in pipes. And they too have their patron saint of pot in the form of Sidi Hiri. Yet another Sufi Muslim, Sidi Hiri is said to have originally come to Morocco from Algeria bringing the sacred herb with him. Legend has it that he led a nomadic existence, sleeping rough in caves, wandering round the country, reciting the Koran, getting righteously ripped and turning on the locals to the joys of ganga. 

Found in: Spliffs – Celebration of cannabis culture by Nick Jones. 2003. 


Another context where the female sādhus exercise agency and power is their devotional song, bhajan, performances. Most of the female sādhus consider bhajan singing to be a powerful vehicle for receiving sacred knowledge and experiencing the divine directly; it may even catalyse their divine visions. Further, bhajan singing is understood to effect religious power for the female sādhus. Gangagiri often says, ‘My bhajans are my power.’ This statement indicates her perception that bhajans function as a performative medium by which means sādhus express bhakti to God. Gangagiri’s comment suggests that her bhakti is the basis of her own power and authority.
Female agency is explicitly linked to devotional practice by these female sādhus. By comparison, the male sādhus rarely discussed bhajan singing as a means for meeting God and rarely considered nirguṇī bhakti to be the basis of their own power and authority.

Found in ‘My bhajans are my power’: Performing Nirguṇī Bhakti through Devotional Song, from: ‘Crossing Over the Ocean of Existence’: Performing ‘Mysticism’ and Exerting Power by Female Sādhus in Rajasthan, by Antoinette E. DeNapoli.

Source: The Journal of Hindu Studies 2010

Image source: Wikimedia Commons