It joins heaven and earth.
The oldest source on incense is the Vedas, specifically, the Atharva-veda and the Rigveda. Incense-burning was used both to create pleasing aromas and as a medicinal tool. Its use in medicine is considered the first phase of Ayurveda, which uses incense as an approach to healing. Incense-making was thus almost exclusively done by monks.
The specific knowledge of incense as a healing tool was assimilated into the religious practices of the Hindus. The Buddhist monks introduced incense-making to China. Indian incense-making involves a wide variety of ingredients. In accordance with Ayurvedic principles, all the ingredients that go into incense-making are categorized into five classes:
- Ether (fruits) examples: Star anise
- Water (stems and branches) examples: Sandalwood, Aloewood, Cedarwood, Cassia, Frankincense, Myrrh, Borneol
- Earth (roots) examples: Turmeric, Vetiver, Ginger, Costus, Valerian, Indian Spikenard
- Fire (flowers) examples: Clove
- Air (leaves) examples: Patchouli
It’s generous. It connects you to the elements. It sparks appreciation. It is healthy. It brings you back. It joins heaven and earth. It offers a lesson. It makes you prepare.
Those who never or rarely use incense often think of it as merely an air freshener or an odour eater and are unaware of the many benefits of incense to the mind and body. Even many incense fans who use it regularly, may not fully appreciate all its physical and psychological benefits.