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Indian Incense an Introduction

Referred to as the ‘Agarbatti’ in Hindi, incense has been used for medicinal purposes and for gracing religious rituals for thousands of years. Indian Incense has a very long history, finding a mention as early as 5,000 BCE, where the Vedic literature has brought the significance of incense to light. Indian incense is known for the rich tradition, and Indian incense has also been a frontrunner to establish the value of incense at a very early age.

Indian incense takes pride in being held as the first organized and uniform system of the incense making procedure the world over. Initially, was used to mask odors and create pleasurable smells, as mentioned by the Vedic texts. It was the medicinal priests of the bygone era who were instrumental in practicing an organized incense-making procedure in India, as that is now looked upon as the modern system of incense making process.

In effect, it was the Ayurvedic medical system that provided the base on which the modern and the most organized way of incense-making was built, and that is still in practice as of today. Tracing the history of Agarbatti the oldest and the most dependent source that throws light on this fine incense takes the form of Vedas. The Rig Veda and the Atharva-veda are held as special sources to glean details regarding the history. Incense-burning, the first registered way of using incense, was put to use to serve medicinal purposes and to create pleasing smells. The first phase belonging to Ayurveda deals with the use in medicines, where it was utilized as a medicinal tool for healing purposes. Monks were the first practitioners, who took to the task of incense-making in the early stages.

From serving as a healing tool it gathered momentum and was used for other purposes, as in the case of religious Hindu practices. As early Hinduism realized the significance and made full use of incense, it gradually found its way to become a part of Buddhism that took roots in India. Indian incense holds a privileged position in the history of incense, and it was the Agarbatti that gathered grounds to reach China, by way of the Buddhist monks who found their way to China around the time of 200 CE.

The Ayurvedic principles were instrumental in identifying the ingredients that were to be used in the incense-making process. The ingredients, as per the Ayurvedic principles, were placed in five categories, as that took the form of fruits, roots, stems and branches, flowers and leaves. In essence, Star anise, Sandalwood, Turmeric, Clove, and Patchouli served as some of the ingredients for making incense, among the other ingredients that were advocated by the early Ayurvedic principles.

There are two categories that belong to Indian Incense, with the masala meaning “spice mixture” and charcoal infused with essential and absolute oils. Masala incenses are produced by mixing solid scented ingredients to form a paste, as the paste then gets rolled on to the bamboo core sticks, which serve as one of the options to make this incense. Masala incenses unveil different sub-groups, recognized as the champas; this incense is part of a family of Indian scents that reminiscent of the champa flower, also known as plumeria. Many champa incenses also include plumeria utilizing its rich, sweet, scent. Champa also traditionally include a resin extracted from the Ailanthus tree along with Sandalwood and other spices. Champa is usually associated with floral and earthy aromas with lighter notes from the sandalwood. Dhoops are another Masala type they are usually soft pliable incense lacking any core or stick. Many dhoops have very concentrated scents and put out a lot of smoke when burned. When unscented sticks Covered in high quality charcoal powder are dipped in to a mixture comprising of perfumes or that of essential oils, the charcoal incenses are produced. You will have to decide which is right for you.

Written By: Roger Marlow 1-13-2015