All About Indian Incense

There’s no better way to fill your home with magical, mystic aromas than burning incense. And anyone who walks into our store can attest to that. Incense is an aromatic material that produces fragrant smoke when burned. Made of plant materials and essential oils, incense is used for ambiance, therapy, mediation, and many other uses.

The term incense actually comes from the Latin worn incendere, meaning ‘to burn’ and is synonymous with ritualism and spirituality. Its use can be traced back to ancient Egypt where it was used by priests for fumigating ceremonies and tombs. Egyptian graves have been discovered to contain traces of fragrant resins such as frankincense and myrrh. It is widely believed that Egyptians would have used incense to hinder the presence of demons and likewise as an offering to their gods during worship and ritual.

It’s believed to have been used in India and other parts southern Asia as early as 3300 BC, with the use of incense spreading to ancient China around 2000 BC where it was used for worship and prayer. India is now the world’s main producer of incense and the burning of incense has been a fundamental part of Hinduism for thousands of years.

The earliest documented evidence of the use of incense is in fact in ancient China, where it was made from blends of herbs and plants such as cinnamon and sandalwood, two fragrances that are still widely used in modern incense. It is even documented that buildings were designed and built specifically for the burning of incense in late 12th-century China.

Incense generally comes in two forms, indirect burning and direct burning.

Indirect burning incense is a loose resin that requires a constant separate heat source to keep the substance burning, while direct burning incense is lit and fanned out shortly after to create a glowing ember that will slowly burn down the piece of incense, releasing aromatic smoke.

Direct burning incenses are usually pressed into a shape such as a cone or a block, or formed around another supporting material such as a stick of bamboo.

Indian incense features unique scents that are not found in any other part of the globe and can be divided into two main categories, masala and charcoal. Incenses of the masala group are made from dry ingredients and therefore are unlikely to diminish in quality over time.  They are made by blending several solid, highly scented ingredients into a paste which is then rolled onto a bamboo core stick.  They usually contain very little in the way of liquid scents, which is why they last for a long time.

Masala incense is further divided into Durbars, Champas, and Dhoops. Durbars are normally sweet and spicy in scent.  The sticks burn very slowly and produce very complex, exotic scents.  Durbars contain both solid and liquid perfumes mixed in a binder which doesn't quite dry, making the incense rather soft to the touch.

Champas, themselves a subgroup of Durbars, contain "halmaddi," which is a resin of the Ailanthus Malabarica tree that is indigenous to India.  It smells very much like flowers of the plumeria tree. 

Nag Champa incense is probably the most famous of this Champa group.  Nag Champa incense is made from high grade resins and natural Mysore Sandalwood oil, and produces a sweet and earthy fragrance that is perfect for creating a sacred, meditative state and for stimulating spiritual work.

Dhoop incenses normally lack a core bamboo stick and have very concentrated scents.  They are shaped like tiny logs and have a rather gummy consistency.  They burn for a long time, and produce extremely potent scents and a great deal of smoke.

Charcoal incenses, on the other hand, are made by dipping unscented base sticks into a mixture of essential oils and scents.  The sticks usually contain binding resins, such as sandalwood, which hold the ingredients together.  These charcoal incenses are usually black, and generally lose their potency over time due to the high amounts of liquid scent that is used in their creation.

Indian incense is generally very potent, spicy, and sweet in nature, and you will be surprised how quickly it can fill up a room, or an entire house, with its rich and earthy scents.  If you are looking to create a sensual and relaxing environment in which to do spiritual work or to calm the spirit, this sort of incense is sure to do the trick.

If you are not sure what sort of Indian incense you are looking for you, you may want to give one of the most common brands, Nag Champa a try.  This amazing incense is one of the top selling incenses. A small box contains 8-10 sticks per box.

It is important to keep in mind that most Indian incense is very strongly scented and therefore is not for the faint of heart or the sensitive of smell.  If you prefer very mild, light scents in your incense, then it might be better to explore our wide variety of Japanese incense.  If you are looking for scents which are even more powerful, but perhaps not quite as sweet as Indian incense, you may want to explore some of our Tibetan incenses. 

Whatever type of incense experience you're looking for, Radiance Gifts is sure to have just the thing to fit your needs, and we have the experience to answer any  questions you may have. So enjoy exploring the wonderful, exotic world of incense, and don't hesitate to drop us a line with any questions you may have along your journey!

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