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Use Of Perfume – Cosmetics And Scent In Puja And Worship In Hinduism

The use of perfume, cosmetics and scent in India is an age-old tradition. They are an indispensable part of puja and worship in Hinduism. Atharva Veda, Samkhayana as well as Asvalayana Grihya Sutra and the epics Ramayana and Mahabharata refer to the use of scents. Arthashastra of Kautilya presents a vivid account of the elaborate perfumery used especially in the royal court. Kalika Purana states that offering perfumes to the divinity would doubtless enable a devotee to achieve the four-fold values of life – dharma, artha, kama and moksha. Perfumed pastes and fragrant fumes or incenses have been an inseparable part of worship both in Hindu homes and temples. Vishnudharmottara Purana lists as many as 21 aromatic raw materials for preparing special incenses as well as several types of perfumes.

The most popular perfume for offering to the gods and goddesses in Hindu religion was, and continues to be, dhupa (incense), regarded not only as a purifier of the temple ambience but also, according to Skanda Purana, a benefactor and emancipator.

Vamana Purana refers to a kind of blended incense as Bhagwan Vishnu’s favorite incense.

Vishnu Purana also prescribes incenses for various lunar months – incense of saffron in the month of Bhadrapada; of sarja tree in Ashwin; of Srivasa tree in Kartik; of srivriksha in Margashirsha; of madhuka in Paush; of chandana (sandal) in Phalgun;of guggulu mixed with clarified butter in Chaitra; of an aromatic gum in Vaishakh; of silhaka in Ashada; and of aguru in Sravana.

It may be noted that the word agarbatti (incense stick) is derived from aguru (Aquilaria agallocha), a fragrant wood which grows abundantly in the northwestern parts of India. The incense of guggulu (comniphora roxburghii) was specially used on religious occasions.

Agni Purana states that if a devotee burns guggulu in the month of Bhadrapada, he attains heaven after death.