Knowledge Centre

Did you know ..... that the average human nose can identify 10,000 different odours and that the sense of smell is the most powerful of all our senses? No other sensory input can change human consciousness so quickly and completely.

Research has shown that the olfactory nerve, which senses fragrance, is directly connected to the most primitive component of the brain, the limbic system, which plays an important role in the processing and storage of memories and emotions. This accounts for the direct and immediate experience that smell provides us, as well as the profound effect it has on our mental & emotional states.

The smells that surround us affect our well being throughout our lives.

But we do not have an extensive vocabulary, as with colours and hues, to describe the myriad smells that surround us,nor can we measure odours on any scale such as we use to measure the frequency of sound or the wavelength of light.

How Incense Is Made :

While incense comes in all kinds of shapes & sizes,Sticks,cones, logs, coils, powders, wood chips, resin drops.Its most popular form is the stick or Agarbathi. Here is how it takes that form:

* A bamboo stick is evenly slit and cut to the right length and thickness.

* A fine paste of natural ingredients like aromatic roots, herbs, resins, gums and adhesives, including jigit powder is carefully prepared and gently rolled on to it.

* It is then left out in the sun to bake & dry for no less than three days.

* After this, it is sorted, bundled and packaged attractively in a variety of aroma-retaining packs.

History of Incense

It is interesting to note that the sense of smell is more primitive than the other senses and is directly linked to that part of the brain which is older, in an evolutionary sense, as compared to the rest of the brain. Is it any wonder then, that incense, which has all to do with our sense of smell, dates back to the dawn of history itself and the burning of incense is one of the oldest practices of mankind?

In India...

It is this dhoopa upachara or dhoopa aradhana which has transformed over the ages, for convenience & practical reasons, into the present day Agarbathis. It is also known as joss sticks, incense sticks or prayer sticks, are today used in all temple and domestic offerings by millions across the country.

In Other Civilisations...

Burning of incense has been an integral part of all ancient civilisations. Fortunes were spent for incense and trade routes established with incense in mind. Among the most important ancient fragrances were frankincense (olibanum) and myrrh, but the resins of various other plants have also been collected and traded since approximately the year 3000 B.C.

Gums and resins of aromatic trees were imported from Somalia in the Arabian peninsula to ancient Egypt to be used in religious ceremonies. The tomb of Tutankhamen in the Valley of the Kings at Thebes was found to have huge quantities of perfumes, oils and incense surrounding his mummy. For Egyptians, incense held a direct connection with the dead. Each incense had a specific purpose and effect.

The Babylonians used incense extensively while offering prayers or divining oracles. It was imported into Israel in the 5th century B.C. where special gold altars were erected for it in the ancient Temple of Israel. According to one theory, it spread from there to Greece, Rome and India.

The sophisticated Greeks appreciated aromatic sources such as the turpentine tree, myrrh, frankincense and cinnamon. Enormous amounts of money were spent on these exotic imports. These were burnt as oblation & for protection. More precious perfumes, incenses and spices came as imports through Arabia along well established incense routes, to be eagerly purchased by Mediterranean merchants to satisfy the increasing demands of the European markets.

In Rome it was an important element in public and private rituals, especially in the worship of the emperor. The Old and New Testament refer to the extremely powerful Resin Drop Incense, whose recipes were given through Voice or Vision e.g. Moses was given recipes by the Creator during his encounters on the Mount. It is well known that when Jesus was born, frankincense and myrrh were presented to him along with gold by the three wise men of the East. Today Roman Catholic as well as Protestant and the Eastern Orthodox Church use incense at mass and in many other rituals.

Native American Indians offered tobacco, sage, junipers, cedars and mugworts in their rituals, as documented from their first encounter with Europeans in the 15th and early 16th centuries. Descendants of the Mayas & Aztecs offer copal, an aromatic resin, even today in their worship.

Brought to Japan by Buddhist monks, the delicate scents of Koh (Japanese incense) amused and entertained the nobles in the Imperial court during the Heian Era, was used by samurai warriors during the Shogunate period in the 14th century, and spread to the upper & middle classes of Japanese society in Muromachi Era during the 17th & 18th centuries. Koh-Do or the elegant art of incense appreciation has for long now been the spiritual nourishment of Japanese culture & Koh is a mainstay of Shinto ritual.

The Chinese use it to honour ancestors and household or tutelary deities.

Incense was unknown in early Buddhism, which was opposed to external ritual. But in time, Buddhists began to burn it at festivals, initiations or daily rites. It is used to accompany their meditation, to induce self -awareness and free them of negative states.

It is in Tibetan Buddhism, however, that the use of incense has transcended mere ritualism to gain a respectable medical status. But since Tibetan medicine and Tibetan religion are closely related, the usage of incense in Tibetan medicine is strongly dictated by the rituals of Tibetan Buddhism.

Mystical aspects of incense have withstood the test of time, making it absolutely necessary for any magical or occult practice.

As such, these aromatic substances have been of fundamental relevance to religious and cultural practices and developments throughout history and have been an inspiration for explorers, aristocrats, writers, artists, poets, merchants and priests and the wold trade in these scents of nature has never declined.