Even some seasoned cannabis users have never heard of charas. Among those who have, there are still plenty who have never had the chance to consume charas. All would love to experience the creamy deliciousness of India’s most sought-after cannabis export. So what is charas, and how is it made?
Researching the history of charas (sometimes spelled ‘charras’) is complicated slightly by the fact that when it first began to be written about, the word charas was used synonymously with the word ‘hashish’.
It is only more recently that the basic differentiation of hashish being made from harvested, and therefore dead, cannabis plants, and charas being made from living ones, has become widely known and accepted. However it is still common for ‘hash’ to be used to define any type of solid cannabis resin rather than the flowers of cannabis plants.
Charas comes from living cannabis plants, hashish comes from harvested ones
For modern purists, the geographical origins of the final product also have an important role to play, as they will argue that true charas comes only from the Himalayan region of India.
Hashish made in other countries, for example Jamaica, using the same methods, would not be considered ‘true’ charas in the same way that sparking white wine produced using Champagne methods still would not be considered Champagne unless it was made using grapes grown in that region. The terroir of charas grants its defining, delicious characteristics.
For the purposes of clarity, the definition of charas that this article will explore is that charas is handmade Indian hashish.
The area where charas is most commonly made is the Himachal Pradesh, including the Parvati Valley and Kashmir. Charas can be found all over India and a small quantity reaches Europe and beyond, where it is highly prized as a delicacy.
Charas even has its own standard unit, the tola, which is 11.7 grams. It is also a part of a prayer ritual, being smoked in straight clay pipes called chillums to honour and communicate with Hindu god Shiva.
Charas in history
One of the earliest mentions of charas in scientific literature is from ‘Pharmacographia’, a detailed reference book cataloguing plants and plant derivatives used in Victorian medicine. First published in 1874, it covers materia medica from Britain but also India, which is why cannabis is included.
The section titled ‘Charas’ begins “No account of hemp as a drug would be complete without some notice of this substance, which is regarded as of great importance by Asiatic nations.”
Interestingly, in light of the geographical definition above, it goes on to specify that “it is not obtainable from hemp grown indiscriminately in any situation even in India, but is only to be got from plants produced at a certain elevation on the hills”.
How charas is made
However, authors Daniel Hanbury and Friedrich August Flückiger did not regard charas as a theraputic substance, describing it thus: “…charas is of necessity a foul and crude drug, the use of which is properly excluded from civilized medicine.”
Despite their condemnation of what is some of the world’s finest hashish, they are kind enough to share with us how charas is made: “…by rubbing the tops of the plants in the hands when the seeds are ripe, and scraping from the fingers the adhering resin”. This method is still used to this day.
A second method for making charas, also described in ‘Pharmacographica’, involves men dressed in leather walking about among the cannabis plants so that the resin sticks to their garments “whence it is from time to time scraped off”. (There are some who might think this sounds like a typical day in Amsterdam!)
Making charas by hand is a time-consuming process. It takes roughly eight hours to produce between seven and eight grams. However, the slower the rubbing, the higher the quality of the charas. It is a simple process: buds are chosen from the living plants and the large feeder leaves are stripped off.
Then the buds are rubbed gently between the palms to get the trichomes to stick to the skin. Once a thick, dark, shiny layer of trichomes covers the palms, the fingers are scraped briskly across it to make it form curls, which can then be rolled into balls or finger shapes.
Contemporary explorers have discovered that the mountainsides where charas was first made are still inhabited by plants and people that are the practically unchanged direct descendants of those which were there hundreds, if not thousands, of years ago.
Malana Cream – charas mix of strains
The epicentre of charas culture is Malana. Over three thousand metres up a mountainside of the Parvati Valley, this small, ancient town is inhabited by people who deliberately keep themselves separated from the outside world. It has been said that the only things they need that they cannot get from the mountains are salt and oil. Previously, they would trade wool for anything they could not produce themselves, but now they trade charas of a very special kind, known as Malana Cream.
One of the things that makes charas so special, especially this particular type, is that it is made from numerous different phenotypes, if not strains, of cannabis.
In much the same way that fruit salad is much more delicious and exciting than any of the individual fruits in it, charas contains layers of flavour and effect that vary from tola to tola but are always exceptional. Anyone who consumes it can easily understand why it is the favoured drug of Shiva!
Have you ever consumed charas? Or maybe you’ve been lucky enough to visit India and try making your own? Let us know in the comments!
- Disclaimer:Laws and regulations regarding cannabis use differ from country to country. Sensi Seeds therefore strongly advises you to check your local laws and regulations. Do not act in conflict with the law.
13 thoughts on “What is Charas, and How is it Made?”
I tried to make it myself from plants grown myself in Europe . It just doesn’t work. I visited mountain villages in the India Himalaya. The Charas from the old lady where so amazing … As stated « it’s not like the weed slowmo high. It does feel like God is Hugging your heart 🙂 and life is perfect.
Good morning Nico,
Thanks for sharing your experiences with Charas,
Sorry to hear your were unsuccessful with your project,
Most Charas in Himachal Pradesh will be made from landrace strains native to that region, these strains will be indica dominant. For modern purists, the geographical origins of the final product also have an important role to play, as they will argue that true charas comes only from the Himalayan region of India.
This article on Hash: types of hash and how it is made might also be of interest to you,
Have a great day,
I lived in the mountains for to 2years the more time you put into making your charas ie cleaning the small bits of leaf left after every bud you rub the quality will blow you away time and love equals top stuff black on outside white inside pure resin the locals haven’t got time for this quality as they have fields of plants to rub so if you get the chance do it yourself and blown your mind boom Shiva.
Good afternoon Nick,
Thanks for your comment and your feedback.
Sounds like you had a great time in the mountains!
Thanks again, and I hope you continue to enjoy the blog.
With best wishes,
Can u guide me in himachal pradesh to smoke some good stuff and enjoy the atmosphere , i want to spent some days in hill side ( parvati valley) . I am waiting fr ur response
I’m thinking it was 40 years for me. Things have changed!!!
I live in India . I was lucky enough to taste some good quality additive free Charas when I visited himachal pradesh..
And it completely blew my mind.
It really wasn’t the overwhelming heady high that I associated with cannabis at the time….
I felt happy and good.. Like god was hugging my heart ,a sense of wellbeing that I can’t really describe….
Thanks for your comment, and sharing your experience. ‘Like god was hugging my heart’ is a wonderful way to describe it!
I hope you continue to enjoy the blog 🙂
With best wishes,
A lot of times. It’s really hard to come by authentic malana cream these days as it can often be spiked with other psychedelic ingredients.
Hello! I det årstal 1982~83.sad min kammerat og mig og plukkede frø fra høstede planter frøene sad fastklisteret til vores hænder så vi ikke kunne plukke mere de blev helt gylnesorte vi kunne skrabe dette fede sorte af ud af det fik vi 4~5gram. Det smagte helt anderledes i forhold til hash. Det var noget af det bedste jeg har prøvet men troede det var hash.(Det var nogen af de bedste af det bedste planter). Som jeg nok ikke kommer til at opleve eller dyrke igen meget høje og kunne dufte på 3~4m. afstand super.mvh. Robert.
Thank you for your comment and for sharing your story 🙂 I have run it through google translate so that it can be shared with more people:
Hello! In the year 1982 ~ 83. saw my buddy and me picked seeds from harvested plants the seeds were glued to our hands so we could not pick more they became completely golden we could scratch this fat black out of it we got 4 ~ 5grams. It tasted completely different to the hash. It was some of the best I’ve tried but thought it was hash. (It was one of the best of the best plants). As I probably will not experience or grow again very high and could smell at 3 ~ 4m. distance super.mvh. Robert.
with best wishes,
Everytime I harvest, I experience charas.
We call that rub but it sure don’t taste like the imported “black hash” we used to buy here in Vancouver bc Canada about 20 years ago and these days is extinct!!
It was an import ?? Way back before the mega bc bud craze…