INDIA CROSSING THE RIVER GANGES Varanasi sadhus. While sadhus can be divided into a zillion different sects; most follow either the god Vishnu (the preserver) or Shiva (the destroyer; and thus; the rejuvenator). While many followers of Vishnu manage to find reasons to smoke charrus (hash) for enlightenment; it's the latter group that really has a ready excuse. Shiva is generally pictured meditating alone in the Himalayas; his eyes half closed from the effects of his hash habit. As Dolf Hartsuiker puts it in his authoritative book Sadhus; the Holy Men of India; "Mythologically, charas is intimately connected with Shiva: he smokes it, he is perpetually intoxicated by it, he is The Lord of Charas."; Or as one young sadhu less eloquently put it; Shiva is a cooool god!; This perception goes a long way in explaining the Indian government's lax attitude toward marijuana and hash. Thousands of backpackers descend on India each year; some of them lured by easily available cannabis and hash. While the police have cracked down in Goa; where only foreign tourists are partaking; they stay out of the way elsewhere; especially in pilgrimage areas. Dry up the supply of hash and they'll have some very unhappy sadhus to deal with. And since the sadhus are thought to be representatives of the gods… well; no Hindu cop wants to be on the God of Destruction's. So by becoming social outcasts and smoking ganja or charas; the sadhus can claim that they are only trying to emulate Shiva. If even the most devout Hindu man were to sit down to talk with a group of sadhus; he would have no choice but to join in if the chillum came his way. To refuse the pipe would be to pass up the chance; the obligation really; to share a holy experience with the ascetics.