Agarbattis and dhoops are offered to deities
during all rituals and religious festivals. They also
fragrance Hindu households as members of the
family light one or more sticks around the home
(they walk around the home with the incense sticks
as they recite prayers and then place them before
the deity alongside oil lamps), often reciting prayers
and then placing them before the idols or images
of the deities alongside oil lamps. Agarbatti purifies
the atmosphere dispelling negative energy, enlivens the home with blissful aromas and, as many
believe, symbolizes prayers rising up to God with the
rising smoke. Incense forms an indispensible part
of various religious ceremonies, temples and even
Flowers are also the worshipper’s best friends.
Apart from roses, a large variety of indigenous
flowers including those from the jasmine family are
offered individually, in bunches or as garlands of
various sizes to idols of deities. They reflect the love
and admiration of the devotee and create a perfectly
spiritual atmosphere in the home or the temple.
Women in many parts of India even wear smaller
jasmine garlands in their hair buns.
Perfuming The Spirit
The tradition of non-alcoholic pure perfume
concentrates was pioneered in India. Commonly
recognized by the Arabic name ‘attar,’ these concentrates have been a part of religious ritual since time
immemorial, especially in northern India.
‘Pooja’ is basically an adoration ceremony of
deities, for which various essentials include fragrance. ‘Sugandh’ (cent), ‘dhoop’ (incense), ‘deep’ (oil
lamps), ‘naivedhyam’ (sacred food offering), ‘pungi
falam’ (betel leaf and betel nut offering) to name
few, constitute the elaborate ceremony of ‘avahan’ or
welcoming the deities.
“Various attars are offered to different deities.
During the ‘nava griha pooja’ when all nine planets
are worshiped, or during the worship of different deities at one time, each is offered a different
fragrance or ‘sugandhi tailam’ (fragrant liquid),”
Gundhi explains. His rose and jasmine attars are
widely chosen to be smeared on the clothes of the
deities or on cotton buds placed at the deity’s feet
and then distributed among worshippers as ‘bhog’ or
While many offer his deep, dark and evocative ‘madan mast’, a labdanum blend to the deity
Shankar. Shankar contains Pure rose extract or ‘ruh
gulab,’ a favorite of worshippers of ‘Shyam Baba,’ a
local deity in the north-western state of Rajasthan.
Rose water is also a part of many auspicious ceremonies. A few other Indic faiths also are said to
incorporate the practice of employing attars and
incense for religious rituals.
There is no worship without the charm of scent,
faith and fragrance being partners in salvation for
the Indian soul! Like sun and light, worship and fragrance are unspoken synonyms in the Indic spiritual
thought process. Be it praying before grand sacred
fires or daily household ‘pooja’ rituals, fragrance is
the soul of spiritual expression, silently transporting
the worshipper to the realm of divine grace!.
Krishnaraj Iyengar is a musician, composer,
international lifestyle and culture writer and multi-linguist from Mumbai-India. His keen interest in
cultures, mystic poetry and traveling has led him to
discover fascinating colors of the world. Krishnaraj
has a fierce passion for fragrances which he calls
‘angels of spiritual connection’ and apart from
learning about diverse fragrance traditions, he even
blends his own unique scents that are symbols of his
personality and soul.