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Incense & Agarbatti
What is an Incense/Agarbatti?
Incense The word 'incense' is derived from the word 'incendere', a Latin verb, the meaning of which is 'to burn'. In India, incense is more commonly known as 'agarbatti'. An incense is an aromatic gum or a stick that produces a very captivating and sweet odor when burned. It is primarily used at the time of offering prayers or during any religious ceremonies, though there is as such no restriction and can be used for any other purpose as well. The incense is also ideal for lifting the spirits of an individual when he or she is in a very bad mood. The constituents of an incense comprises of combustion products and liberated particulates common to burning organic materials along with solid and liquid organic compounds.

Incense was highly used as an object of trade in ancient times as they had a special importance during religious ceremonies. The fragrance produced by the burning of incense depends upon its specific composition. Over the years, the incense stick and its smoke has been used in medicine and various other application. Its aesthetic appeal has resulted in its wide usage everywhere across the globe. With changing times, incense has also changed its form owing to reasons like advanced technology, diverse underlying culture, and different reasons for burning it.

History of Incense
History of IncenseThe history and tradition of burning incense is goes thousands of years back and has been a part of every civilization. It has been used in prayers, to pay homage to the Gods, purify the air, induce self-awareness and to uplift the emotional state. It's also used to get rid of any kind of negative vibrations. The Roman Catholics still use incense at mass and in many of their rituals as an incense represents the the purity of a person or occasion, as well as their prayer. One can find many references of the use of incense in the Old and New Testament. It is said that when Jesus was born, he was showered with frankincense, myrrh and gold.

For the Ancient Egyptians, incense was not just a stick which they used in rituals and tradition, but meant much more than that; they held a strong faith that it purified both the worshiped and their worshipers. It was believed to cast away evil spirits and at the same time used to attract the gods. The tomb of Tutankhamun, the most famous Egyptian boy king, who died in the Valley of the Kings at Thebes, was discovered after 3300 years with huge quantities of perfumes, oils and incense surrounding his mummy.

Incense Incense particularly holds a special place in the Hindu tradition due to the fact that its fragrance provides a very holy atmosphere for meditation and prayer. In the ancient Sanskrit texts, it has been beautifully described how the incense was burned in homes and on streets during any kind of festivities, making the hearts of the residents bloom with happiness and delight. These aromas left an indelible impression on the hearts and minds of the residents making them want to leap and dance and rejoice in the beauty of life. Even today, during the daily worship at their altars, Indian families offer incense, candles and flowers as a mark of highest devotion and respect. It has been said that just that 'our actions in our lives should give happiness to others, just as the incense stick gives off a beautiful smell'.

In the Buddhist tradition, incense has always taken a central stage during prayers and meditation in order to arouse self-awareness and freedom from negative states. Just as the aroma of an incense gently permeates the atmosphere, in the very same way, in Buddhism, it is expected to spread wisdom and compassion by permeating them in the entire world.

Advantages of Incense or Agarbatti
Varied kinds of fragrances are emitted by the incense each having its own unique vibration. Depending upon the vibrations that it transmits an incense can be used for a wide range of purposes:
  • Selected to lift the moods of a person, to make one feel good
  • Help one relax by reducing one's mental stress which is prevalent everywhere today and to assist with personal development
  • It is also excellent in raising consciousness and purify the atmosphere in which one lives. Therefore, incense contributes significantly in creating a healthy environment for people seeking wisdom and truth.
Forms of Incense
An incense is made available in a variety of forms and degrees. However for easy distinction, an incense can be divided into two categories, namely direct burning incense and indirect burning incense. However, factors like culture, tradition, and personal taste play a pivotal role in deciding which form of incense one should go for.

Direct Burning
Combustible IncenseA direct burning incense is lit by a flame and then fanned out. The smoke emitted by such an incense gives a very soothing fragrance and the ember burns away the rest of the incense without having to encounter any kind of heat or flame from an outside source. Direct burning incense can be either pressed into forms, extruded or coated on a supporting material. In case of pressed incense, little amount of water is mixed with fragrance and incense base mixture and kneaded to make a hard dough. This dough is molded into cone and coil shape or forced through a hydraulic press to make solid sticks. Coating is done with the aim of producing larger coils, the length of which can be up to 1 meter in diameter, or sticks. The supporting material used for coating is either bamboo or wood which is soaked in water or either a thin paste of water/glue mixture for a short period of time. The sticks are evenly separated and put in a tray of damp incense powder usually made of fragrance material and a plant based binder. These sticks are then coated with three to four layers which are usually 2 mm thick and then allowed to dried in open air. Direct burning incense are also known as combustible incense. These are some of the commonly used direct burning incense are:
Cone Incense

Cored Sticks
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Cored sticks have an underlying core supported by a bamboo and an even better quality sticks have cores supported by sandalwood. A thick layer of incense material is used for coating the core and burns away with the core. Cored sticks are very common and widely used in India and China
Cone: This category of incense contains mugwort and are used in traditional Chinese medicines for moxibustion treatments. A cone incense burns comparatively faster than a coil incense

  • Solid Sticks: These incense can be easily broken into pieces as they have no core to support them. They are totally made up of incense material. Japan is very famous for making and using these solid sticks
  • Coil: Appearing in the shape of a coil, this incense has the ability to burn for hours and hours together.
Incense Coil
Indirect Burning
MyrrhIndirect burning incense is also known as non-combustible incense. It is a simple blend of aromatic ingredients which are not prepared in any specific way or any particular form thereby leaving them unsuitable for direct combustion most of the times. Unlike direct burning incense which does not require any external heat source for it to be lit properly, indirect burning incense requires a separate heat source since it does not generally generate a flame or fire capable of burning itself and may not set alight at all under normal conditions. The duration of its burning depends upon the texture of the material being used. Finer ingredients tend to burn more rapidly, while coarsely ground or whole chunks may take more time in burning. The heat to the such incense is imparted by charcoal or glowing embers. This incense starts to burn when it is directly placed on a hot metal plate or on the top of the heat source. The most commonly used material used in making this incense is frankincense or myrrh. The incense material used in making this incense can be used in many forms as enumerated below:
  • Whole Form: In this form, the incense material is burned directly in its raw unprocessed form by placing them on top of coal embers
  • Powdered IncensePowdered or Granulated Form: The incense material is broken down to make it a fine powder. This is done because this facilitates quick burning as well as a short period of intense smells
  • Paste Form: The finely grounded powder is mixed with an adhesive and non combustible binder like a dried fruit, honey or a soft resin and then rolled with hands to make small balls or cakes. Then they are made to dry under controlled environment so that the fragrances can be amalgamated. Bakhoor or Bukhoor, an Arabian incense is made this way.
Ingredients of Incense/Agarbatti
Indirect burning incense are only made up of fragrant materials and therefore are not required to adhere to any specific proportion or recipe. However direct burning incense are required to be prepared using specific quantities of raw materials. All direct burning incense solicit a balance of two things-fragrant materials and combustible base.

Fragrant Materials
These materials are needed to give the desired aroma or fragrance essential to an incense when the incense is burned. Many types of fragrant woods, resins, herbs, and essential oils are used as incense alone or in combination. Fragrant materials can be divided into four broad categories:
Raw Materials
  • Raw Materials: The raw materials used in making direct incense can also be used in making indirect incense and are derived from a variety of sources. These are generally used in religious ceremonies and are considered valuable and auspicious. The raw materials used in the process of direct and indirect incense are available from plants like Agarwood, Cesar, Sandalwood, Clove, Lavender, etc. and also animals like Musk
  • Essential Oil Fragrances: Incense that extract fragrances from essential oils are much more affordable than those extracted from unprocessed raw materials. Some of the major essential oil fragrances are Patchouli, Sandalwood, Cedar, Jasmine, Rose, etc.
  • Artificial Fragrances: Sometimes, it happens that aromas form essential oils are not available. Hence, to add fragrant elements, these artificial forms of aromas are employed which are generally cheaper than the natural aromas. Cannabis, strawberries, opium, etc. are all various forms of artificial fragrances.
Combustible Base
The combustible base of a direct burning incense mixture helps in binding the fragrant material together and also allows the produced incense to burn with a self-sustained ember. It spreads so slowly and evenly through an entire piece of an incense at regular intervals that it can be used to mark time. Generally, the following two types of combustible bases are used:
  • Fuel and Oxidizer Mixtures: These include charcoal, wood powder and oxidizers such as Sodium Nitrate or Potassium Nitrate which are used to sustain the burning of the incense
  • Natural Plant-Based Binders: Mucilaginous material is mixed with fragrant materials and water and can be derived from many botanical source. The thick sticky substance known as mucilage contained in the wet binding powder holds the fragrant materials together and the cellulose in the powder burns to form an ember when it is set alight.
Usage of Incense
Incense Stand by HindusIncense has been used since ages by people from all walks of life and across various cultures. However, depending upon the factors and circumstances, incense is used for a wide range of purposes. Incense has been used for all practical purposes such as warding off bad odors as well as against irritable mosquitoes. Aesthetic use of incense involves soothing of the senses. Many people like to just smell the incense for pleasure. However, the largest use of incense has been in religion. Incense has played a pious role in many religious communities. Major religions like Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity to name a few, have been using incense for centuries.

Incense in India
Indian incense are mainly divided into two groups- Masala and Charcoal. While masala incense are made of dry ingredients, charcoal incense are made of liquid scents.
Masala Incense
  • Masala Incense: Masala incense is made by mixing various solid scented ingredients and making a paste out of it. The paste is then rolled onto a bamboo core stick. These incense usually contain little or no liquid scents and the smoke emitted out of it can evaporate or diminish over time. Different forms of masalas are used to make the incense such as Dhoops, Dubars, Champas, etc.
  • Charcoal Incense: Most of the charcoal incense that are available in India are black in color and are prepared by dipping aroma free "blank" (non-perfume stick) into a mixture of perfumes and/or essential oils. These blanks usually contain a binding resin that hold the ingredients of the sticks together.
Products Related to Incense or Agarbatti
Incense is available in many forms. Following is an exhaustive list of products related to incense or agarbatti


  • Incense Sticks
  • Agarbattis
  • Dhoop
  • Fincense Sticks
  • Herbal Incense Sticks
  • Incense Cones
  • Nag Champa incense
  • Jasmine Incense
Lavender Sticks Sandalwood
Flower Incense

 

  • Sandalwood Incense
  • Lavender Incense
  • Flower Incense
  • Perfume Sticks
  • Joss Sticks
  • Flora Sticks
 

  • Cannabis Incense
  • Incense Pastes
  • Incense Holders
  • Rose Incense Sticks
  • Fancy Incense Sticks
  • Essential Oils.
Incense Paste Essential Oil