Monday 1 January 2024

HEAVENLY FRAGRANCE OF GODS WAS FROM INDIA!!

Happy new year to all my readers .... worldwide! Let me kick off the new edition of the new year with a hardly known historical fact about India.

It is a fact that in spite of our resources and local demand, India doesn't make a lot of consumer goods of Indian origin.Most of the FMCG items we manufacture and use are international brands though made in India. But steadily the scenario is getting changed I notice, but next ten years India could change the current speed of it,I am sure.

In the field of cosmetics and perfumes now we are nowhere though the consumption rate has gone high.Parisian brands are the most sought after here too for those who can afford it.I have read somewhere that the famous Indian brand in that field 'Lakme' was started by Tata's Unilever at the request of our first Prime Minister Nehru to JRD Tata to go for an Indian brand which our women could afford.JRD earnestly took the request, ending up in the creation of the brand 'Lakme'.But many of us may not be aware that 'Lakme' is a French rendition of the Sanskrit word 'Lakshmi'  who is the Goddess of wealth and beauty in Hinduism. Though Lakme created in 1952 has become a premier brand in India and even exported to 70 countries or so, now House of Tatas represent and just distribute a lot of imported international brands in India through their enterprise Tata Luxury even online! May be good for the organization  for profits but definitely not for the country. Just an observation and nothing more since, I am not an expert in the field. It is comparable to our computer hardware field where our own brands are much less, though we claim ourselves to be software giants!

But here I am to share a hardly known information among us that India has  one of the richest history in own fragrances and perfumes which is yet to be commercially tapped.Here I am writing about Agarwood or Aloes or Oud, a fragrance of Indian origin that mastered the fragrance world since 1400 BC about which shamefully I came to know first from Arabs only, while in Qatar.

Oud shops of Mumbai....
It was Mr. Sherida Al Kaabi, Chairman of the business group 'Al Balagh' where I had been working in Qatar, who told me first that among the Oud wood the best and costliest comes from India! I specifically remember that he told me so while we were strolling Mumbai Fort area looking for some specific shops selling them! We were on a business trip .To be very honest and frank, when I had landed in Qatar in 1984, I was so ignorant about perfumes and fragrances that I did not know the difference between an eau de cologne, eau de toilette and eau de parfum! I didn't know about Oud wood chips either. I think many of the educated Indians could  still  be in that state even now.

But let us be awake fellow Indians...We have introduced the first most popular fragrance to the  rest  of the world centuries back. Let it be in ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, Middle East or else where...India has done it historically making it the 'favourite fragrance of the Gods' whether it is Hinduism,Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism or Islam as it is mentioned in seminal texts!

As spiritual history rolls out....
Agarwood of Assam, India and its mystifying fragrance was first mentioned in the Sanskrit epic 'Mahabharata' in 1500 BC. There it is mentioned as a welcome aroma as 'Agaru'.The earliest recorded use of this plant aromatics is found in the four vedas of ancient India written between 1500-1000 BC . So also in Arthasastra of 320 BC it is clearly mentioned that the aromatics originates from resin infused infected wood in the stem of the Agar tree or even artificially done so!Agarwood was in use as an ingredient of perfumery in India along with sandalwood,musk, camphor from olden times.From time immemorial Hindus burn incense stick in puja rooms and elsewhere. It is known as 'Agarbatti' which is derived from 'Agar bathi' in Hindi- incense stick made from Agarwood!

In the Old Testament of the Bible, Aloe (Agaru) is specifically mentioned many times may be because it was in use in Jewish traditions.Even in the New Testament as per the Gospel of John 19:39-40 it is stated that Jesus's body was anointed with a mixture of Myrrh and Aloes following His crucifixion!

In 'Nirvana Sutra Buddhism' when Buddha was about to enter the state of Nirvana, about Aloe aromatics there is a mention.Buddhist text 'Jataka Tales' of 4th century BC also mentions about Aloe categorically!

Pre Islamic Arabian tribes were trading in Aloeswood/Agarwood of India.In the Quran there is a mention of many fragrant plants. In several Hadiths, Oud (Agarwood) is referred to as an Indian Incense for rituals as burning of incense wood, which is being practiced in many Islamic  countries to this day.

As I am not an expert on holy books all as these references are made from  historical records available and any wrong interpretations be taken in that spirit.

Black Gold.....


Botanically when an Agar tree - Aquilaria Malaccensis- becomes infected by a mould -Phialophora Parasitica- the tree produces a dark, dense and fragrant resin to protect itself.It is this resin which becomes embedded in the tree which is the source of Oud! As in the case of pearl, artificially also such a resin can be produced.Originally discovered in India in  Assam locally known as Xasi,the ' info and technique' of Agarwood was later passed on to Tibet (a-ga-ru), China (Chen Xiang),Thailand (Mai Krishna), South East Asia and Middle East where it was known as Oud.

As the neo rich of the Arabian Gulf states likes the fragrances and perfumes, the area became a big market for this costly oil-- more than $ 12000 per kg! International brands of perfumes of Paris and London fight with each other for their market share with neo fragrances in neo bottles with neo prices each season- the highest ever perfume created for a human nose so far !From Tom Ford, to Christian Dior to Armani or Yves Saint Laurent ......But this fragrance is not popular among westerners is another fact. 

It all started with India centuries back...It is high time that Indians take a note of it! Not only we have to teach others but we have to learn also from others- what we don't know or not good at...It is difficult to believe that now India makes one of the best whiskies in the world out beating even renowned scotch brands - 'Amrut' single malt.And the best cheese in the world out classing all the best European brands-'Eleftheria Brunost' is from Bombay!I am sure that among perfumes also we are capable of competing Paris- just a matter of time.

Tailpiece
I don't find any mention of this history in Indian textbooks!I wish that I am wrong!!

                        _______________________________

Dr.Rajan Varghese, Ex Principal UC College has shared the following postal stamps of India on the subject.His comments are given in appropriate column.          
                                         

_______________________________________________




MASTER SHIPBUILDERS OF INDIA:CRAFTED WORLD CLASS WARSHIPS FOR ROYAL BRITISH NAVY!

WHAT IS THE HISTORICAL RELATIONSHIP OF NATIONAL ANTHEM OF AMERICA AND INDIA? WHICH IS THE OLDEST SHIP STILL AFLOAT IN THE WORLD?AND WHO BUIL...