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Sandalwood an Introduction and History

A fragrant wood which originates from India and Australia. It is harvested from Santalum trees. The essential oil which is extracted from sandalwood has a bright, fresh smell with a wooden base note. It is often used in the manufacture of perfumes as it is excellent as a base from which the perfumer can begin to create a new perfume. When other fragrances are added; the sandalwood acts in a fixative capacity to complement and enhance other ingredients very well.

Sandalwood unlike several other fragrant woods retains its fragrance for many years. It can often last for several decades if correctly stored. As well as the extraction of essential oils, the wood itself can also be used; the shavings have the same distinctive and pleasing aroma which is released when burnt as incense. The process of burning sandalwood acts to release a very strong, pleasant aroma; this property makes sandalwood the ideal wood for incense. Sandalwood has been used in this manner for thousands of years. Its value has long been recognized by many cultures, usually for use in religious ceremonies. In Hinduism, sandalwood was ground into as incense paste and burnt both as an offering to deities and to cleanse the air and atmosphere to felicitate a meditative atmosphere.
The sandalwood chips are prepared by grinding by hand against specially shaped granite slabs. Water is slowly added to make a paste. Saffron is then added to make Chandan incense.

The Hindus were not the only culture to recognize the properties of sandalwood and use it in incense; it is also very popular in Buddhist rituals. The Buddhists’ burn sandalwood incense to transform desires and promote human mindfulness. It is used in a similar way in Hinduism as both an offering to the Buddha and to prepare the atmosphere for meditation. Sandalwood is one of the most popular incenses used in India, China and Japan. Today it is used all over the world while still remaining vitally important to these areas where it is still used as part of modern religious ceremonies.

In western culture the incense is used for relaxation and to create a pleasant aroma throughout the home. While this use often does not carry the same specific religious importance of sandalwood's use in eastern countries, it does serve a very similar purpose, often allowing a person to relax and unwind. Sandalwood incense has become a major export of India and an important part of the economy. Its usefulness as a perfume also means that the essential oils are often used in aromatherapy oils and heavily in the cosmetic industry. Sandalwood remains highly valued all over the world and is still used in the same way as it has been for thousands of years, as one of the very best and most popular available fragrant aromas for incense.