Incense has been with mankind since the beginning of time. One of the oldest sources we have regarding the use of incense is in the Indian Vedas. It is found with reference to Ayurveda. Incense artifacts, thousands of years old, have been found throughout the world and appear to be part of virtually every culture.

Incense sticks or joss sticks, also known as Agarbathies in India, has an interesting history. Agarbathies are scented sticks that emanate fragrant odour when burnt. Fragrance is a divine attribute and incense sticks are prominent in religious rituals. It is said that it manifests the presence of Gods. Hence it is widely used as an oblation. The use of aromatic substances such as the leaves, twigs, roots and seeds has been recorded in every civilization since time immemorial. Among the Hindus it has been in use right from the time of the rishis and the Vedas.

Incense or Agarbathies are used during meditation and prayer. It cleanses the atmosphere, creates a serene and tranquil environment, alleviates anxiety and helps you to experience the Divine presence. The stick that glows incessantly and purifies the atmosphere by its soothing fragrance is a hand- made product. Agarbathi is made out of bamboo sticks being evenly cut into desired length and thickness by hand. A fine paste consisting of natural ingredients like resins, gums aromatic roots, herbs and adhesives is prepared with care.

The paste is gently rolled on to the bamboo stick by skilled hands. Then they are sun-dried for a minimum of three days. Adding the fragrance to the Agarbathies is an expert job. The blending of perfumes is a top business secret of the company. Artistically created and well-blended perfume is applied to the Agarbathies to give it a unique character. Once ready, the Agarbathies are packed in aroma-retaining packaging, which are also cosmetically very attractive.

Incense comes in various forms. It comes in sticks, cones, powder form and dhoop (thick sticks of incense). The most commonly used form of incense is incense stick. The Scented or perfumed sticks are the more common type of sticks used. The sticks are first made and the perfume is blended into the sticks, allowing a wider range of scents to be applied to the sticks. The Masala sticks are a more expensive variety of sticks. The scent is premixed in the incense paste before rolling along with other natural ingredients to give various unique scents not normally found in the regular sticks. Indian Agarbathies are normally 9” inches in length. One kilogram of Agarbathies contains 900 to 1000 sticks.


The Agarbathi (incense stick) is a very versatile product having a variety of uses. Some natural fragrances used in the making of Agarbathies act as a natural disinfectant, keeps away mosquitoes and also acts as a natural air freshener. It is used for all occasions.


This is the secret of any brand and all the companies. Blending of perfumes from various chemicals, essential oils and aromatic substances is an absolute art. The success of any brands rests in the hands of the perfumer who actually understands the common liking of the consumers.

It remains true, nevertheless, that in reproducing natural perfumes synthetically a “nose” is indispensable if the imitation is to be as nearly perfect as possible, and we very much doubt whether, in spite of progress in the fields of chemistry and cybernetics, the “nose” can ever be replaced by a computer.

The sticks can be used as room fresheners, with the advantages of not having alcohol & CFCs as carriers of the incense making it a very environment friendly product. Burning incense is a form of aromatherapy, which tends to reduce stress and enhance health. Since aromatherapy is involved in smelling fragrances, incense is known to be one of the main dispersers of fragrances.

Incense Industry in India - Present scenario

Incense industry is purely a cottage industry dominated by large joint-family based entrepreneurs in India since ages. The incense manufacturing rested with a handful of people in south Karnataka till early 90’s. In the late 90’s all the multinational companies started entering the industry trying to take over through strong branding and network concepts. Big multinational companies like HLL, P&G, ITC, Nirma, Jyothi Laboratories, etc has entered this 1500 crore industry. They have adopted strong branding concepts in selling, which was unlikely followed till late 90s. The industry employs lakhs of people in the villages and towns, where women play an important role for the manufacture of incense sticks. The industry which is flourishing through its new creations, concepts of aromatherapy, and through exports to many countries looks very promising in this 21st century, cottage and small scale industrial sectors.

In conclusion the industrial turn around through exports and the innovative concepts like aromatherapy is proving that the incense is not only being used as a traditional cultural requirement but is also used for its therapeutic values. The aromatherapy has given a different perspective in usage of incense sticks. People use this for calming their senses, mood lifters, soothing effects and to relax from day to day stress and strain. We conclude by saying that the industry, which was believed for only traditional usage, is gone beyond to the extent of therapeutic usages.