Ancient History of Incense

incense = Hanoi Temple

Incense is fragrant biotic material that releases aromatic smoke when burned. The term is applied for either the material or the aroma.. Incense is used for meditation, aesthetic reasons, ceremony, and aromatherapy. It may also be used as an insect repellent or simple deodorant.

Incense is made of aromatic plant elements, often mixed with essential oils. The forms taken by fragrance differ with different cultures and have evolved with an increasing number of uses and advances in technology.

Incense can be segregated into two major types: “indirect-burning” and “direct-burning.” Indirect-burning incense (also called “non-combustible incense”) cannot burn independently and needs a separate heat source. Direct-burning incense (also known as “combustible incense”) is lit straight by a flame and then blown out or fanned, leaving a glowing ember that smolders and issues a smoky fragrance. Direct-burning incense is both a paste formed around a bamboo stick and a paste that is extruded into a stick or conical shape.

History of Incense

Combustible bouquets were utilized by the old Egyptians, who used incense in both mystical and pragmatic capacities. The purpose of using incense stick differs; some human beings use it for the duration of rituals and meditation, even as some use it to remove insects. Incense was burnt to obscure or counteract malodorous human habitation products but was widely perceived also to deter malevolent demons and soothe the gods with its refreshing aroma. Resin balls were discovered in many prehistoric Egyptian tombs located in El Mahasna, giving proof of the influence of incense and similar compounds in Egyptian history.

One of the earliest surviving incense burners dawns from the 5th dynasty. The Temple of Deir-el-Bahari in Egypt comprises a group of carvings that depict an incense expedition.

The Babylonians employed incense while offering prayers to divining oracles. Incense spread from there to Rome and Greece.

Incense burners have been discovered in the Indus Civilization (3300–1300 BCE). Evidence suggests essential oils were used mainly for their aroma. India also adopted East Asia techniques, adapting the formulation to include aromatic roots and other natural flora. This was the first recorded usage of subterranean plant parts in incense. Hindus used new herbs like Sarsaparilla seeds, cypress, and frankincense. Incense sticks, also known as agarbatti and joss sticks in Ancient India, in which an incense paste is folded or rolled around a bamboo stick, are the primary incense forms from Ancient India. The bamboo method was introduced for the first time in India by Hindu Rishis and is distinct from the Tibetan/Nepali and Japanese ways of stick making without bamboo cores. Though the process is also used in the west, it is heavily associated with Indian history.

At about 2000 BCE, Ancient China began using incense for religious reasons, namely for worship. Incense was used by Chinese customs from Neolithic times and became more popular in the Shang, Xia, and Zhou dynasties. The oldest recorded use of incense arises from the classical Chinese, who employed fragrance composed of herbs and plant products (such as cinnamon, cassia, sandalwood, and styrax) as a component of various formalized ceremonial rites. Incense usage reached its zenith during the Song dynasty, with numerous buildings constructed specifically for incense traditions.

Brought to imperial Japan in the 6th century by Ancient Korean Buddhist monks, who used the aroma in their sanctification rites, Koh’s fragile scents (high-quality Japanese incense) became a source of entertainment and amusement with nobles in the Imperial Court during the Heian Era around 200 years later. During the latter half of the 14th-century Ashikaga shogunate, a samurai warrior might cover his armor and helmet with incense to attain an aura of invincibility (as well as to make a noble gesture to whoever might cut his head in battle). It wasn’t until the Muromachi Era during the 15th and 16th centuries that incense recognition (kōdō) spread to Japanese society’s upper and middle classes.

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