Throughout thousands of years in areas such as Tibet, Nepal, and Bhutan, incense has proven to be quite an influential substance and a definitive representation of Tibetan culture. Traditional Tibetan incense is most often made according to ayurvedic recipes and is thought of as a form of medicine. They used incense both in cleansing rituals or religious offerings, as well as in spiritual practice and meditation. In ancient times, most of the incense in this region was crafted in religious monasteries. Incense recipes were typically well-guarded and hidden away. Some of these monasteries still make incense today, using the same time-honored methods as they did in olden times.
The distinct, earthy and floral aromas of Tibetan incense are thought to calm the mind. It is believed that this helps the body relax and heal. Tibetan incense is most-often made strictly of natural compounds, such as flowers, resins, fruits, spices, and natural oils. Many of the plants used are found naturally alongside the landscape of the Himalayan mountains. In addition to crafting formed sticks, another common way Tibetans crafted incense was to twist aromatic materials into ropes and burn them accordingly. There are quite a few scents available in Tibet and Nepal that cannot be found elsewhere.
Tibetan incense is well-known for it’s deep, earthly, and complex aroma. In part, this is due to them often adding 30, up to 108 ingredients into a single recipe. The scent is much different then the sweet musky scents commonly found in India. The unique flora of plant-life in Tibet, as well as the cold atmosphere typically results in deep and warm scents, which were thought to be warming during the country’s cold winters. Herbs, resins, and woods were more easily available in this region. In comparison, India is a hot country with fragrant, sweet-smelling tropical flowers that can add a seductive quality to it’s range of incense.
Today, Tibetan incense proves to be quite popular among incense enthusiasts, and has definitely beaten the test of time.