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October 29, 2019 3 min read

Traditional Indian Incense

 

India is the land of Incense. Everywhere you go home, temple, marketplace, you will find incense burning. From the myriad types of exotic Indian incense, we've collected a number of the most traditional but difficult to search out varieties. Scents ranging from earthy and spicy to sweet and resin, from traditional temple and ashram scents to obscure and hard-to-find varieties, there's a fragrance here for everybody.

 

India is the world's main incense manufacturing country and is a healthy exporter to different countries (though export sales are troubled by increasing prices of the raw materials, and by different factors, like Western countries shopping for unperfumed sticks, and by Indian firms manufacturing fakes or imitations). Incense burning has taken place in India for thousands of years, and India exported the thought to China and Japan and other Asian countries.

 

The main method of burning incense in India is the incense stick or agarbathi. the basic ingredients of an incense stick are bamboo sticks, paste (generally made of charcoal dust or sawdust and joss/jiggit/gum/tabu powder – an adhesive made from the bark of litsea glutinosa and other trees), and the fragrance ingredients – which traditionally would be a masala (powder of ground ingredients), though more normally is a solvent of perfumes and/or essential oils. after the base paste has been applied to the bamboo stick, it's either, in the traditional method, while still moist, immediately rolled into the masala, or, more commonly, left for many days to dry, and then dipped into the scented solvent. various resins, like amber, myrrh, frankincense, and halmaddi (the resin of a tree) are used in traditional masala incense, sometimes as an aromatic binding ingredient, and these will add their distinctive fragrance to the finished incense. Some resins, like gum arabic, may be used where it's desirable for the binding agent to have no fragrance of its own. Halmaddi has a particular interest in Western shoppers, possibly through its association with the popular Satya Nag Champa. it's an earth-colored liquid resin drawn from the ailanthus triphysa tree; like other resins, it's a vicious semi-liquid when fresh, it hardens to a brittle solid as it evaporates and ages. Some incense manufacturers combine it with honey in order to keep it pliable. due to crude extraction methods which resulted in trees dying, by the 1990s the Forest Department in India had banned resin extraction; this forced up the price of halmaddi, so its usage in incense making declined. In 2011, extraction was allowed underneath leasing agreements, which increased in 2013, though production is still sufficiently limited for the resin to sometimes be purloined via improper extraction to be sold on the black market.

 

The oldest source on incense is the Vedas, specifically, the Atharva-Veda and also the Rigveda, that started out and encouraged a uniform technique of making incense. though religious text texts mention the utilization of incense for masking odors and making a pleasurable smell, the fashionable system of organized incense-making was likely created by the medicinal priests of the time. Thus, modern, organized incense-making is as such connected to the Ayurvedic medical system in which it's rooted. the tactic of incense creating with a bamboo stick as a core originated in India at the end of the 19th century, largely replacing the rolled, extruded or formed technique that is still used in India for dhoops and cones, and for most shapes of incense in Nepal/Tibet and Japan. different main sorts of incense are cones and logs and benzoin resin (or sambrani), that are incense paste formed into pyramid shapes or log shapes, and then dried.


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