Almost everyone has had the experience of smelling something in the air and being vividly reminded of another time or place where that particular odor was present. This “associative” or evocative nature of fragrance has its roots in the structure of the human body itself. The sense of smell differs from the other major senses in that it is more primitive, working more directly with that part of the brain, which is “older” in an evolutionary sense, than the rest of the brain.
The odor of bread rising – a heady, yeasty smell – may bring back moments spent in the kitchen during childhood, together with intense recollections of how the place looked or what people said or did many years ago. In exactly the same manner, the fragrance of incense – carried lightly through the air – may inspire thoughts or feelings, setting the mind at rest and into receptiveness for images of all kinds. It is for this reason that incense had been used for thousands of years in conjunction with meditation and prayer. And, needless to say, for the same reason, incense had been used to eliminate or camouflage other odors which are offensive, and my evoke unpleasant associations.
Incense is unlike other kinds of perfumes because it is designed to spread fragrance to its target immediately, creating an atmosphere or setting a tranquil pace for whatever activity is intended. It is also infinitely more versatile than other perfumes, because it goes far beyond being just a perfume: good incense makes use of substances (tree barks and saps, roots, flowers, and other botanical products), which cannot be liquefied or isolated into a perfume or cologne. And, in the burning, ingredients of extremely differing forms combine into a single, unique bouquet containing subtle tones or shadings. Incense is a kind of “mental stimulant” which can transform the ordinary into the very special, and do so easily and at no great expense. Fine incense burning is a plain room with gentle lighting and a few special mementoes can produce a setting that subtly call the psyche to relax, lighten and flow with the moment. Whether the space is a temple or a bedroom, the effect is the same. A mood is set, and the moment takes on a heightened, special meaning. We hope that it will do the same for you as it does for us. Try new products and scents, discover INCENSE FROM AROUND THE WORLD.
INCENSE FROM INDIA is a very diverse product that falls into several distinct categories. We have described below five processes which encompass all varieties of stick incense from India. Each listing is prefaced with a word that denotes the nature of each incense (see our catagory Incense from India). While some incenses don't fall exactly into any one category, we think you'll find these descriptions helpful, particularly once you have tried a given type.
MASALA is the India word for a blend of spices and/or herbs, such as those used in making curries or other food dishes. Masala incenses are made by blending a number of solid ingredients into a paste which is then rolled onto a bamboo core stick. Masalas usually do not contain liquid perfumes which can evaporate.
CHARCOAL is integral in the manufacturing of an unscented blank (non-perfumed stick) which is then dipped into a mixture of perfumes and/or oils. These blanks usually contain "spent" sandalwood powder, a binding sticky resin that hold the sticks coating together, wood charcoal and sometimes other substances. Most charcoal incenses are black or near black in color, and are distinctive because they are rich in aromatic perfumes. Indian charcoal sticks contrast from the "punks" in that they are dipped in superior perfumes, and burn smoothly without producing irritating smokey by-products.
DURBARS (and Champas) are wet-process incenses which frequently contain ingredients entirely unfamiliar in the West. They are usually very slow burning and quite sweet and spicy in bouquet. They can amalgamate solid and liquid perfumes in a gummy base which usually never quite dries, making the sticks themselves soft to the touch. Some durbars need to be dry to burn, but not usually. All are rich and highly fragranced.
COMBINATION incenses are those which we have found to have the qualities of both the Masala and the Charcoal. It is possible to make a masala incense and then dip it into liquid perfumes, producing a very colorful and rich bouquet. Or, semi-liquid substances such as resinoids can be added to the masala along with essential oils or liquid aromatics. These incenses usually have a great deal of depth, and once burned, leave a lingering after fragrance.
WOODBASE incenses, including sandalwoods and some ambers, contain little more than powdered or shaved wood plus a resinous or solid perfume. They are really masalas, but since the woodiness is so distinct in most cases, we have put them into a separate category.