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What is a Chillum?

Written by Joseph Mcqueen

The history of cannabis consumption spreads over centuries and, consequently, the creativity of innovation has come with that. Thousands of years has led to some incredible weed smoking devices and the chillum is yet another beautiful and somewhat spiritual contraption that allows for smokers to enjoy that perfect hit. If you’ve ever been in Asia or the Americas, you may have been offered the experience to try a chillum.

It’s somewhat similar to a bong but also looks a bit like a large cigar. Nonetheless, overall it has its own incredible individual personality. But what is the history of this device? How do you use one? Why bother? We’re going to delve into the world of the chillum and find out everything there is to know. 

The Chillum

If you’ve ever found yourself in India or in parts of South America then you will have done well to avoid seeing a chillum. In essence, they are everywhere. They are sold in shops, they are handed around at parties, they are part of the culture. But what are they? A chillum has the cylindrical look of a cigar, with the intense effects of a bong. Usually made from brown clay or soft stone, this handheld pipe has three main parts: the mouthpiece, the tunnel and the bowl. 


The Mouthpiece is where you inhale the good stuff. Due to the shape of the chillum, you often need to create a specific shape with your hands in order to inhale from this device. The fact that it’s one long cylindrical shape means that you cannot inhale it like a cigarette or a cigar. If you did, the majority of the cannabis or hash would simply fall out of the end. Instead, you need to create a vacuum with your two hands, leaving a small gap to inhale from, slot the chillum into the top, and away you go. It’s like your hands are the base of a bong, and the chillum is the neck. It’s also common to use a cloth or something similar to cover the mouthpiece with, this acts as a filter. 

The Tunnel

The tunnel can vary from device to device, but the main purpose remains the same. This is where the smoke builds up from the burning cannabis and the inhalation process begins. The question you may be thinking is: what stops the weed from simply falling through the chillum and landing directly into my mouth? Well, that is an absolutely sensical question. Some chillums are designed in one piece, with a tight end or mesh in order to place the cannabis on top. However, others are made out of two pieces – the main contraption and the inner chillum stopper. This is a small, hollow stick that goes through the middle of the chillum and stops the cannabis from falling through. These are usually the more retro types. Whichever model you prefer, the main aim of the tunnel is to avoid getting clogged up with weed and to allow spacious inhalation.  

The Bowl

Then you have the bowl of the chillum. Whilst they come in many shapes and sizes, yet again, the purpose is always the same. The bowl has to offer a safe space for the cannabis to sit and for it to be burned. Without this, the weed will be falling into your contraption and not lighting at all. The bowl on a chillum is exactly the same as any bong or pipe. 

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The History of the Chillum

When you see a chillum it doesn’t look like anything special. In fact, it sort of looks familiar. That is because it is – the device’s shape and purpose is nothing new and has a similar design to many other cannabis accessories. However, the simplicity of a chillum is what makes it appealing. Plus, the history of the device gives it an extra edge of spirituality. Some of the earliest sightings of the chillum were in South America and India. There is evidence of the device being used in Asia as far back as the 18th century in Asia, but there are also similar sightings in Africa around the same time.

Back then, they would have been made from animal horns. Nowadays, stone, clay or even glass if you’re feeling extra classy will suffice. Whilst the pipe was popularized in the western world, the chillum seemed to stay firmly in Asia, most commonly being used by Sadhus in India. These religious folk believe that Lord Shiva – also known as the destroyer – was a big fan of using a chillum and smoking cannabis. For her, the weed plant was one of the most important in the world. In response, many sadhus now follow her lead during religious ceremonies. It’s important to note that, despite India’s love for chillums, there is no doubt that the device has origins in all four corners of the globe. Cannaconnection writes:

“The chillum is generally associated with smoking hash, but it wasn’t always just used for that. During the 60’s there was a mass flux of American and European visitor-explorers to the lower East Asian regions, where they would bring chillums back as souvenirs. These hippie tourists freely experimented with all sorts of substances… In Arabian countries back then, chillums were used more for smoking opium than hashies.”

As the hippie trail began, more travellers became aware of the chillum and started using it in their homes when they returned. In the present day, these contraptions can be found everywhere. However, if you’re looking to purchase one, you may want to try asking a friend who’s visiting a country outside of Europe. A chillum in India or South America will probably be 10 times less the price. In the US, you’re looking at anywhere from 20-40 dollars. But is it actually worth it? 

The Pros & Cons 

The chillum is part of a large range of cannabis accessories that essentially do the exact same thing. All of them take the substance and turn it into an inhalable smoke or vapour. When it comes to consuming weed there is tough competition. Do you use a bong? Do you smoke joints? Do you use a vape? Do you use a pipe? The possibilities seem endless. Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of the chillum. 


A chillum probably has one of the simplest designs of any cannabis accessory. Unlike a bong, there is no carb. There is no separate place to put your weed, instead it’s all in one line. This makes it very easy to use – without many complications. However, due to its design, the inhalation process can take some time getting used to. Having to create the vacuum with your hands and covering the mouthpiece with a piece of material can be laborious. Although, it’s fine once you get the hang of it. 

The Hit

The hit from a chillum feels different to other devices. There is no water or separate parts to get in the way, it feels extra pure. If you’ve ever been given a blow back by a friend, it isn’t too dissimilar to that. The Consumer writes:

“The fact that the pipe is straight in shape can create some issues. Firstly, you don’t want the herb to drop out if you hold it too straight, so angling it upwards at least 40 degrees when you bring it to and hold it in your lips is best. Secondly, knowing how to pack a one hitter properly will definitely help. You want to press it into the bowl pretty firmly”

Another issue is that the hit can also be a little too intense for people, which might make it less appealing than a comforting joint. 


There is something about a chillum that just feels good. The device has a lustrous history and, due to this, you can almost taste the spirituality when you use it. This aesthetic will definitely be increased if you’ve bought the product in an origin country and have seen locals use it. There’s nothing quite like being taught how to use a chillum by someone who has used it as part of their culture for generations. 

Is It Worth It?

When it comes to cannabis accessories, a chillum is definitely not the most popular. The bongs or pipes of the world certainly have more air time than these devices. However, just because they may have commercially taken off does not mean that their usefulness should be ignored. The chillum is certainly worth the purchase, if only for its simplicity. But if you have the time and the money, going abroad and seeing the chillum in its natural habitat is definitely worth it.

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About the author

Joseph Mcqueen

Joseph is a cannabis journalist in the UK. His search and love for the truth in the cannabis industry is what drives him to write.