DE2 Fragrance Vol. 42 • November 2017 | Perfumer & Flavorist www.PerfumerFlavorist.com
ature’s bounties have
connected the human
spirit to its universal
source and creator since
the very beginning. Known
to be the world’s oldest civili-
zation, modern-day India was
once a vaster region that cradled
humanity’s very first cultures.
The ancient science of Ayurveda, originating in
the Vedas which pillared this ancient civilization,
speaks about the deeper holistic science behind the
exhilaration of senses when individuals come in
contact with fragrances and experience its healing
properties. The comfort of heart, gladdening of the
spirit and rejoicing of the senses that fragrances in
all their incarnations cause us to experience can be
described as spiritual, healing and liberating from
egoic trappings. It is the momentary experience
of ‘nirvana’ or perfect wholeness and the highest
The significance of fragrance in worship, as a
vehicle of spiritual connection has been explained
in classical Indian texts. It is believed that the art of
honing the magic of scent through creating perfumes
and incense was first pioneered in ancient India.
Mainly consisting of four comprehensive scriptural texts, the Sama Veda, Rig Veda, Atharva Veda
and Yajur Veda written in the classical ‘Sanskrit’
language, the Vedas as they are collectively called,
are said to be divinely revealed to Veda Vyas, one
of the earliest prophetic figures in Indic theological
history. Considered an ocean of wisdom, they speak
about both, spiritual and material worlds, love, truth
and compassion as fundamental divine virtues.
Apart from many western scholars including
prominent Germans who have extensively researched
the Vedas, their wisdom even inspired the likes
of legendary Mughal prince and devout Sufi Dara
Shikoh to spend nearly a lifetime studying them in
The Vedas teach us to revere fragrances as
divine gifts and agents of spiritual connection.
The Vedic ‘Maha Mrutyunjaya’ verse speaks of
God as the ‘enhancer of life’s fragrance’ with the
words “Aum, triambakam yajaamahe sugandhim
‘Aum’ the name of the Supreme, the three-eyed one
(he who can see the past, present and future), thee do
we worship, the enhancer of life’s fragrance.
Even later classical texts like the Bruhat Samhita
of sage Varahamihira speak of several fascinating
traditional perfume formulas and recipes.
Navin Gundhi is among the upholders of the 200
year-old Gulab Singh Johrimal, one of India’s most
ancient fragrant traditions, and an acknowledged
scholar of traditional fragrance science. He explains
how eight sublime natural fragrant substances are
part of the Vedic ‘Ashtagandha’ (treasure house of
eight fragrances) with a poetic ‘doha’ verse.
“Agar tagar chandan yugal, kesar aur kapoor
Gaurochan aur mrigmida, ashtagandh bharpoor”
Breaking down each word, he expounds on the
Agar: oud or agarwood; tagar: turmeric-like fragrant root; chandan yugal: sandalwood pair, namely
red and white sandalwood, the latter being more
fragrant; kesar: saffron; kapoor: camphor; gaurochan;
cow spleen; mrigmida: musk; ashtagandha bharpoor: the ashtagandha through all eight materials,
becomes complete and whole.
The ‘Ayurveda’ ancient Indian science of medicine
is also said to speak about the holistic significance
of fragrances and fragrant substances. The sages or
‘Rushis’ of old were known to have highly advanced
knowledge of botany, chemistry and medical science.
Their insights into the qualities and properties of
each natural fragrant substance led them to develop
the holistic and aesthetic science of fragrance thou-
sands of years ago. A Hindu woman offering pure sandalwood incense to the idol of Ganesha during the Ganesha festival.