Scent and the Spirit
gatherings like ‘Hadrah’, bakhoor is burnt to not only
purify the atmosphere, but to create the spiritual
mood. Attars of different types are worn by the
‘mureeds’ or Sufi disciples and even the ‘Sheikh’ or
the master who presides over the ceremony.
In India, there is the tradition of smearing attar
on ‘chaadar’ (sacred cloth sheets) which cover the
graves of Sufi saints at mausoleums. Perfumer Praful
Gundhi explains that while his two classic attars
‘Majmua,’ a unique rose and kewda (pandanus)
blend, and ‘Firdows,’ a warm, fresh green aromatic
Since fragrance has
direct relation with the
spirit, Sufis consider it
to be an expression of
spirituality and spiritual
Traditional Arabic Mabkharah bakhoor incense.
mausoleums, some also use black musk, rose and
jasmine. Incense sticks, or ‘agarbatti’ also finds a
place in Indian Sufism. “Devotees often buy my
musk rose incense and have the dargah priest pray
over it. They feel the pure spiritual energy after they
light it thereafter,” he explains.
‘Loban,’ a resin, is also burnt with charcoal on
special burners. The individual, with head covered,
walks around the mausoleum with the burner so
the smoke spreads evenly throughout, dispelling all
negative energy and inspiring devotion.
Fragrance plays a role in not only beautifying
Sufi practice but also by providing spiritual inspiration through its myriad avatars. Like music, good
food and natural beauty, fragrance can be called
“ni’amah” Arabic for “divine grace,” that liberates
man from the ego’s trappings.
Sufim’s insight into fragrance makes us feel that
there are after all, a few drops of its mystical wisdom
in each great fragrance of the world in the form of
those secret notes that become the soul’s elixir! The
liberating ‘aha’ that fragrances of various kinds cause
their lovers and wearers to experience can be called
‘split-second Sufism!’ It is when the soul suddenly
feels the deep connect with its source for those
few moments of nosing the opening notes, or even
throughout the course of the fragrance’s unfolding
from the top to the heart to the base, like a mystic
ceremony of divine love!