Incense has been used in India to appease the gods, sanctify a place or an object, display reverence and respect, honor commitments, tie bonds, and seal promises and friendships.
In India, incense is used in both Hindu and Buddhist rituals. In Hindu rites it is offered in temples as an act of homage before the statue of the deity; in the arati-ceremony, for instance, the increase censer or stick is rotated before the image of the deity in order to make an offering and evoke blessings. Fragrant incense was also used to waft prayers to the gods and to drive off foul-smelling demons. It is also used for aromatherapy, meditation, for creating a mood, and for masking bad odors
Incense sticks in India are made in the form of a thin bamboo strip covered with an incense mix, with different kinds of fragrances or combination of fragrances, made of aromatic plant materials, often combined with essential oils. Indian incense is known as agarbatti in Hindi and other Indian languages. Many Indian incenses have a unique scent that is not found in any other part of the world.
The Indian incense industry, supplies nearly 60% of the world incense market. The world's best-selling incense is Nagchampa made in India. Nag Champa is the name of a flower found mainly in India. The Nag Champa species bear pale orange flowers, with the top petal shaped like the hood of a Cobra snake. In India the word for Cobra is "Nag" thus rendering this flower the name Nag-Champa. 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:
1. Ether (fruits): Example: Star anise
2. Water (stems and branches): Examples: Sandalwood, Aloeswood, Cedarwood, Cassia, Frankincense, Myrrh, Borneol
3. Earth (roots): Examples: Turmeric, Vetivert, Ginger, Costus root, Valerian, Indian Spikenard
4. Fire (flowers): Examples: Clove
5. Air (leaves): Examples: Patchouli
Tibetan incense refers to a common style of incense found in Tibet, Nepal, and Bhutan. These incenses have a characteristic "earthy" scent to them. Ingredients vary from cinnamon, clove, and juniper, to kusum flower, ashvagandha, or sahi jeera. Many Tibetan incenses are thought to have medicinal properties.