History of Bidies
Bidi is a leaf-rolled cigarette made of course, uncured tobacco, tied with a sting at one end. For every cigarette twenty four bidies are smoked. The word Bidi is originated from the Marwari word ‘beeda’ which is a betel leaf-wrapped offering of betel nuts, herbs and condiments. The beeda (which is better known as “PAAN” in India) is a symbol of esteem, and display of respect and reverence across the India subcontinent and the bidi gradually started being equated with it. The India medicinal systems, especially Ayurveda also prescribe inhalation of the fumes of evedicined herbs, rolled in leaves the myth of tobacco’s medicinal properties along with parallels in Ayurvedas, led to easy acceptance of the bidi in sub-cultures.
There is no historical record of the exact period during which the practice of smoking tobacco rolled in leaves started in India. The cultivation of tobacco started in southern Gujarat in the late 17th century. Hookah smoking was popular among local people but because the Hookah was tedious to carry around, a cheaper and portable from of the Hookah was developed called the chillum. Initially communities in Gujarat made bidies only for their own consumption but their increasing popularity inspired some to make it into a home grown business soon bidies made locally became more popular than hookahs, largely because bidies over came the obstacle of sharing the hookah as individuals could smoke without hurting caste and religious sentiments and also because they were portable and did not require assembling and extensive preparation to light up.
Today bidies dominate the smoking market of India. Affluent people in Rajasthan Gujarat & in Marathwada region of Maharashtra still consider smoking as a prestige.