If rituals and traditions were ornaments adorning a person, then fragrance would be the fabric covering the skin. I can hardly recollect a ritual that does not have smell associated with it, in fact the more I think of it, the less I am able to come up with good examples of scentless rituals. Rituals are often accompanied by some form of emancipation of scent, it could be a burning incense, burning ember, oil, flowers, fruits, or garlands. Many cultures considered perfumes as sacrosanct, an offering by humans to the Gods. The Vedic texts provide evidence for this, in one such example, in Atharvaveda it is shown a man becomes eligible for priesthood only after furnishing himself with proper anointments and ornaments. Further, it mentions the names of substances used in the preparation of different items of cosmetics and perfumery like Anjana, Madugha, Kustha, Nalada etc. In Exodus 30, the LORD said to Moses, “Take fragrant spices—gum resin, onycha and galbanum—and pure frankincense, all in equal amounts, and make a fragrant blend of incense, the work of a perfumer. It is to be salted and pure and sacred. Grind some of it to powder and place it in front of the ark of the covenant law in the tent of meeting, where I will meet with you. It shall be most holy to you. Do not make any incense with this formula for yourselves; consider it holy to the LORD.”
While perfumes may transform as the quintessence connecting humans to divine power, the real transformation of perfumes happens when it transforms livelihoods of ordinary people. I was touched to know the existence of the college of fragrance for the visually impaired in Mumbai where education is provided to under privileged visually impaired people and aid them in finding employment in the fragrance, flavour and FMCG companies. Several national and international corporate houses have partnered with them and hired their students, one such being CPL Aromas, a world leading fragrance house headquartered in UK. It will be good to see more companies coming forward to support under privileged visually impaired people and spread the joy of fragrance by transforming their livelihoods.