Early Incense Traditions of India

In India, the incense stick is popularly known as “Agarbathi”. A country like India takes religion and rituals to a high level and burning of an incense stick is vital to every Indian. Since decades, incense sticks have been burned during spiritual ceremonies like pujas or rituals. It represents devotion and faith to a particular god by believing it gives more positive energy. In Hindu customs, it is believed that the rising smoke carries a prayer to the gods and incense burning could be traced way back to the Vedic period. However, the Vedic text tells about incenses used only to remove odors and creating an aromatic smell.

Agarbathi was important to Ayurveda, the ayurvedic principles of choosing the ingredients for incense making was instrumental. Roots, stems, branches, flowers, leaves, clove, turmeric, sandalwood, etc were some ingredients crucial in the ayurvedic incense making principles. It was considered as the first phase of Ayurveda that gives healing by having a spiritual attainment. It is an integral part of pujas and is lighted to remove unpleasant odors, further giving a pleasant smell to the meditation process. It is also believed that India influenced the idea of burning incense sticks to other Asian countries, now India is the leading incense producing country.

Sanskrit Texts

There is evidence from ancient Sanskrit texts about the use of incenses on festive occasions and the aroma filling the streets and temples. Incenses and dhoop are regarded as the fundamental offerings during rituals. Dhoops are high concentrated incenses, known to give more smoke than other incenses. In the earlier times jasmine, rose, sandalwood, cedar, etc were the popular well-known scents in incenses though it’s still popular today. It is crucial for fragrances to play an important role in a Hindu ritual while offerings or oblations.

Incenses are known to bring the presence of God as well as satisfying them. Reason to why these scented sticks are crucial in a ritual is its ability to lift a person’s mood further allowing one to concentrate on meditation. It is believed to ward off evil spirits by creating an aura of harmony, removing anxiety and experiencing the presence of a divine being. Another reason why incenses are burned in a Hindu funeral is to remove the foul smell and alleviate the mood. Incenses are made from bamboo sticks, sawdust, charcoal dust, perfumes, joss, and essential oils.

The oldest source of making incenses in India is the Vedic era that encouraged uniform incense making. The idea of making incenses from bamboo sticks originated in India during the 19 century. As Buddhism was born in India, the practice of using incense stick in a ceremony became popular. With the spread of Buddhism to countries like Japan, Korea, China, and Tibet the use of incenses popularized.

In India, the medicinal practitioners were the ones that encouraged the making of incense making due to its aiding ways in treatments during the bygone era. The importance of aromatherapy to having a peaceful mind, attain spiritual salvation and boosting up concentration on meditation. The Vedic age did introduce a crucial element for spiritual as well as for psychological health benefits.

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