The History, Art and Architecture of the Mughal Empire

Narcotics and Drugs

Jahangir enthroned, holding wine goblet / Radiate sun, surrounded by legends in four compartments (1614-15)

Meena Bhargava’s new article “Narcotics and Drugs: Pleasure, Intoxication or Simply Therapeutic—North India, Sixteenth— Seventeenth Centuries” in the latest issue of The Medieval History Journal

Narcotics,1 in this article, has been used as synonymous with drugs and drug-like products including mild stimulants and intoxicants like opium, tobacco, alcohol and alcoholic preparations. All three commodities, of great commercial significance, were also major items that were chewed and consumed to generate euphoria, stimulation and intoxication. Seen as symbols of power and authority, they were considered to be facilitators of social bonding and social interaction. Consumed by a wide variety of people, it was around narcotics that hierarchies of class and gender were built. Although used as a therapy in some instances, narcotics came to be linked to health hazard, disease and death. With such a diverse trajectory, narcotics become an integral and an interesting medium to discover and study the lives of many in pre-colonial India.

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