Breath of life.

It will be a while before the travelogue is complete, if ever; something breaks inside of me each time I try to continue. Anyway, I’m itching to write about thoughts as they happen, instead of rewinding to months ago. Today, I simply want to ramble.


Diya light and havan fire and lamp light are flames no matter the fuel, kumkum always the same brilliant blood-crimson regardless of the source. I don’t cook well, and I chant with the voice of a donkey. But scent, scent I know, and incense is my favourite gift of offering, perhaps because it’s a surrender of my skill and a deliberate, delicate choice.

When confronted with the sort of substandard chemical-bitter-acrid nostril-assaults that are widely sold on sticks, I cannot imagine wafting a scent up to the Devas that would send me into coughing fits. There are still artists who create the sort of exquisite, complex, handmade incense that embody the whisper of a fragile flower, the dream of otherworldly spice, or the primal sanctity of flowing resin. They are not as expensive as I had expected to find, and even if they are, well, as long as I remain fed and sheltered, I can’t care about cost.

I order incenses online, since taking the scent of offering-sticks is forbidden anyway; from websites I can read names and descriptions, notes, sense the idea behind each fragrance. It’s the search for a pearl in a pile of shells, the sound of the Beloved’s name in a quiet wisp of smoke. There isn’t a blend in existence that is the perfect offering. But I look. I know fragrance. I think on Him, keep thinking and wondering, what may I give You, what will be best.

Tonight I opened a new variety from my last order, a small golden box like a chest of riches. From the name, the words, I could almost taste it before even touching it – dappled-light feral masala, regal and unique, whose scent would be to incense, the way a smirk intrigues beyond a smile, how an orchid holds a mystery that garden flowers shrug away. I feel its rightness and then let the anticipation fall away. I pray, and light, and waft the fragrance softly, and there is nothing but the One who is to receive it.

The room is brighter and happier; the scent diffuses everywhere, the path of smoke flows straight and high. It feels right. Still lingering is the sort of musk that carries your face to your hands for hours after touching it.

That is the breath I send to Him, silence, and scent, and reverence. These words are only their shadow.

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© Arjunī and ridiculously reverent. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Arjunī and ridiculously reverent with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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6 thoughts on “Breath of life.

  1. Haven’t read entire post yet but I would just like to say its not really forbidden to smell the incense first if you are purchasing it with the intent to offer it to God. If you buy a packet and find it repulsive then you are not going to burn it and it cannot attract God.

    You would not offer God something you couldn’t stand so having a smell to make sure both enjoy it is always prudent.

    • A story behind this: in Pondicherry I was so excited to find a hand-rolled pārijāta incense, such a beautiful fragrance and never available in Western shops. As I waited to check out at the cash register, I smelled the hand that held the packet, and the scent was true, strong, lovely. So I bought the incense, brought it back, offered a stick…As it burned, it smelled little of pārijāta, and far more of something sour-bitter and weird that completely clashed with the flower. I burned a few other varieties from the same shop, and realised: whatever base they used for the incense, was the source of that awful smell. I gave away all of the remaining sticks, in hopes that others would enjoy them better.

      So I stick strictly to the rule of not smelling incense, because it doesn’t help all that much anyway; it’s in burning that the incense reveals its true depth and character. :) Instead, I read reviews (the Olfactory Rescue Service is wonderful for this), and choose from words and intuition.

    • I looked up these incenses on my favourite incense review blog (Olfactory Rescue Service on WordPress), and found this sentence regarding the Shanthimalai: “And of course the bonus is that purchase of the incense directly benefits a public charitable organization…of Tamil Nadu.” Lovely. I have not tried any of these, but have made a note to add them to my next incense order.

      I love nag champa fragrances too. My last order had a sample of Happy Hari brand “Nag Champa Gold” incense that is just sublime, highly recommended! Another that I love is a Tibetan nag champa.

      This particular gold box, though, is Shroff Channabasappa’s “Jungle Prince.” Enough good things cannot be said about this incense. Really a masterpiece. :)
      (I also discovered, after finishing last night’s post, that the scent is strong while the incense burns, but it fades gracefully, and does not keep the house smoky or chokingly heavy with fragrance.)

  2. Yes, we also do the same here. The incense we purchase is made by hand by the widows who are desperately in need of the income. When i take out each one and see the finger print of a Beloved Portion, a world away….i place my finger in the groove of hers, and pray that those Beloved hands be Blessed with such Love.

    I will have to check out this Jungle Prince, it sounds wonderful.

    • I wanted to tell you that I’ve become a regular purchaser/burner of the Shanthimalai red champa. Thank you so much for telling me about it; it is so gentle, a beautiful and loving offering. :)

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