Besides gaining unanimous acceptance by all faiths, agarbathi is, in a sense, considered a symbol of India’s national fragrance. They are not only used for spiritual purposes or pujas, but also in wellness and meditation.
By Arjun Ranga,
Agarbathi is an intrinsic part of Indian culture and spirituality and enjoys a sacred place in Indian households. It is, therefore, no surprise that India is currently one of the world’s largest agarbathi producers, also catering to the consistently rising demand for incense sticks from the western countries.
Besides gaining unanimous acceptance by all faiths, agarbathi is, in a sense, considered a symbol of India’s national fragrance. They are not only used for spiritual purposes or pujas, but also in wellness and meditation. They are considered a natural catalyst of calm and are popularized for encouraging relaxation, aiding sleep, promoting concentration, stimulating creativity and enhancing motivation. The inherently soothing fragrance of agarbathi makes it extremely conducive for meditation, yoga and anything to do with personal wellness. The growing awareness of these factors has led to an increased consumption of incense sticks in yoga studios and wellness and meditation centres in India and across the globe. Moreover, the varieties of fragrances now available such as oriental, florals, fruity, aqua, lavender, oudh, mogra, champa, lavender, lemon, etc., make incense an ideal choice for freshening and energising one’s mind and space.
As the West demonstrates a growing interest in Ayurveda, Yoga, various forms of meditation and Eastern philosophies on wellness, the humble Indian Agarbathi, too, has witnessed a growing popularity in these countries. It is also worth mentioning that the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown made people pay more attention to their personal wellness and spirituality. The focus has shifted to products that create a peaceful environment and help reduce anxiety. Moreover, the exceptional quality, attractive packaging and the comforting nature of fragrances have played a vital role in triggering the demand for agarbathi overseas. The United States of America, the United Kingdom, Malaysia and Nigeria, currently rank as the top 4 countries importing and consuming agarbathi.
By manufacturing consistently high-quality incense sticks, India has managed to dominate the agarbathi industry over the decades. Among other reasons, this can also be attributed to the Indian government lending constant support to the industry by introducing favourable policies that aid the local manufacturers and further boost commerce and export. The Indian agarbathi industry is currently one of the most export-oriented industries in the country, with incense sticks being exported to over 150 countries as of today. In keeping with this demand-supply chain, the agarbathi sector in India is currently valued at ₹8,500 crores, of which over ₹1,000 crores can be attributed to exports alone.
(The author is President of All India Agarbathi Manufacturers Association (AIAMA). Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)