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Aroma Magic
Swagat - 14 Oct 2003

Sonya Mazumdar

In a culture where incense is a part of the daily ritual, be it prayer or creating an ambience, ITC has launched Spriha, a premium brand of agarbattis to commemorate the 125th birth anniversary of The Mother. These natural incense sticks are manufactured by Cottage Industries, a unit of Sri Aurobindo Ashram Udyog Trust, Pondicherry.

The origin of agarbattis can be traced back to the time when traditional yajnas were performed. As part of the ritual, a sacred fire using herbs, sandalwood and ghee was lit. The fragrant smoke that was emitted symbolised the rising of the human spirit. This lingering fragrance created a feeling of peace and tranquility. Lately, however, agarbattis have replaced this elaborate ritual and become a means of purifying the mind as well as the atmosphere.

Ashram’s line of incense sticks are made from essential oils, fragrant herbs and resins. The aromas range from floral to woody and herbal. Cottage Industries manufactures eight classic brands of agarbattis, five of which are about 40 years old. Its expertise lies in making enduring fragrances like sandal, rose, lemon grass, ketakai and Indian musk.

Spriha is available in two rare fragrances: Sambrani and Nagchampa. It blends traditional incenses to create an aroma that is neither sweet nor strong. Apart from Spriha, ITC has two other brands: Nivedan, available in sandal and bouquet fragrances and Ashageet, which comes in rose and jasmine.

V. M. Rajasekharan, the CEO of ITC Ltd’s agarbatti business, has dynamic plans for the incense sticks and cones as well as an aromatherapy range. Incense is arguably one of the oldest forms of aromatherapy, using fragrance to maintain harmony in the body, and consequently, the mind.

There are two methods of making the agarbattis – the dipped and the masala method. In the former, a basic paste is rolled onto sticks, dipped into fragrance and then dried. The masala method involves the preparation of the paste in the ancient method. Here, the aromas are incorporated using fragrant herbs, oils, traditional powders and resins, charcoal, extracts from flowers, and a binding agent from the jiggit tree. The paste is hand-rolled on bamboo sticks or into cones. These are then left to dry naturally to ensure that the masala dries without cracking.

Spriha agarbattis are specially packaged with high quality material, with The Mother’s quotes printed on the packets. Special attention is paid to ensure that a uniform quality is maintained.

The Incense Division of the Ashram started in 1949. Within a few years, the unit started supplying incense sticks all over India and abroad. Today, Cottage Industries enjoys goodwill of its customers for its quality products, the use of natural and herbal ingredients and commitment towards a harmonious society that can co-exist in diversity. The company also manufactures herbal and natural toiletries, hand-made paper and terracotta products.