The origin of Nag Champa in the US probably begins in the 1960’s. It was during this time that the exotic fragrances of the Indian subcontinent began to invade and become established in the west. Patchouli and other mystical fragrances of the east began to help define the atmosphere of the “Summer of Love”, head shops, the flower child movement and cultural events like rock concerts and peaceful protests.
Nag Champa blends several rich scents including sandalwood and halmaddi, a resin native to the Indian subcontinent. The combination of scents gives the area where Nag Champa is burned a scent instantly recognizable to incense fans, one redolent of the gardens and markets of India. When people wish to cover another, less desirable odor, such as sweat, it provides a more exotic alternative to the commercial air freshening products of western origin. The scent lingers longer than many other incenses, continuing to perfume the air hours after the last stick or cone has expired.
Many people who practice yoga may be familiar with this scent as it has become quite popular in the practicing yoga community, and like yoga, it also has it’s origins in India. The two have been synonymous in India for some time.
The scent is neither masculine or feminine, so any gender can take pleasure in using it. While highly fragrant, it doesn’t have an inherent tendency to induce dizziness or light headedness, in fact, the scent has a tendency to sooth or calm an individual who is using it in one of it’s many applications.
It is primarily used in incense, although it also appears in soaps, lotions, perfumed oils, bath salts, and candles, among other things. Many people think of it when they think of incense, since the scent is so ubiquitous, and it is quite popular among many people and cultures all over the world. This incense is part of a family of Indian scents known as champa incenses, because they are all reminiscent of the champa flower, better known to Westerners as plumeria. Many of these incenses also include plumeria as an ingredient, harnessing its rich, sweet, heavy scent. Nag champa also traditionally includes a resin extracted from the Ailanthus tree, an Asian native, along with sandalwood.
In India, nag champa is commonly utilized in many temples as a joss stick, or agarbatti, as joss sticks are known in India. Joss sticks are traditionally burned as offerings in front of statues of gods, and they tend to create a very distinctive atmosphere in temples. Along with burning joss sticks, worshipers typically leave offerings of food, crafts, and flowers when they pray, to further cultivate the goodwill of the gods. Joss sticks are also burned on home altars.
Because Nag Champa is such a well known type of incense, it is typically very readily available. Health food stores, and other establishments which cater to the counterculture typically carry nag champa, and it is also available from Indian and Asian markets. You will recognize good quality nag champa but its grayish color and strong earthy scent, which is evident even before the incense is burned.
Some manufacturers make their own version of this incense, but they do not usually follow the original recipe using the champa flower and halmaddi because it is expensive. There are many imitations now in the market so to be sure that what you are buying is of high quality incense, ask whether it is done in the traditional way and uses high quality ingredients.
For connoisseurs of incense, Nag Champa is the standard by which other scents are judged.
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