Ajmer Perfume Newsletter
Last newsletter I shared a recipe for Amrit (Nectar) perfume which endeavors to capture the wonderful feeling of the aromatic evening air that I well remember from living on a small farm in South India form 1971-1976. I have been sending out small samples of the solid perfume version of it to those of you who have placed orders in recent months.
This month's perfume is called Ajmer and celebrates the state of Rajasthan where I have lived and traveled many times in the past 30 years. In that dry, desert landscape many aromatic plants thrive, such as Vetiveria ziazaniodes/Vetiver, Rosa bourbonia/Edward Rose, Boswellia serrata/Indian frankincense, Anthocephalus cadamba/Kadam, Nelumbo nucifera/Pink lotus, and Lawsonia inermis/Henna/Hina Flower. The essences of these and other botanical treasures have been combined in Ajmer perfume to capture the cherished feelings I have in my heart for the Land of the Kings as the word "Rajasthan" connotes.
Ajmer is the city in Rajasthan famed for the dargah (court) of Muninudin Chisti, a famous Sufi mystic of the 12th century. On a lane outside the dargah precincts many flower venders have artistically decorated trays of freshly harvested Edward Rose prepared for pilgrims to purchase and offer at the tomb of this great mystic who is revered by Hindus and Muslims alike. The Rose is the symbol of perfection amongst the Sufis and the rich warm roseaceous aroma of Edward Rose with its distinctive green, honey, precious woods notes pervades the atmosphere of this sacred place. Many small farms near Ajmer and Pushkar grow Rosa bourbonia for making attar, rose water, a ayurvedic rose petal jam known as Gulkand, as well as for the fresh flower market.
Traveling through Rajasthan one year just prior to the monsoon, we saw the agricultural community busily plowing the fields with their oxen teams and camels so that when the life giving rains came the earth could easily receive the precious drops. We were fortunate to see the rains arrive and to smell the intoxicating aroma arising from the contact of earth and water. Perfumers in Kannauj long ago perfected the technique of capturing this smell by distilling baked earth collected from rivers and ponds into sandalwood to make Mitti Attar.
One evening while strolling in the vicinity at the historical site of a palace in Jodhpur, a wonderful fine sweet, delicate, tea like aroma surrounded us . We eventually traced it to the tiny white flowers of the Lawsonia inermis shrub, the same plant from which the leaves are gathered to make the Henna paste which is used widely in the East for decorating in intricate patterns the hands and feet of women.
In the sacred city of Nathdwara we encountered clay pots that had a type of rope wound about them composed of vetiver roots. As the water gently evaporated through the clay during the day it came in was absorbed by the vetiver roots which in turn perfumed the air with its deep rich, earthy, mossy bouquet. One then sees how its oil is aptly christened, "the oil of tranquility" as the aroma creates a fine natural coolness wherever it is present.
Outside of Jodhpur we visited an small temple in a rocky ravine that was now little used. All around it were to be found ancient Kadam trees who produce their golden globed blossoms in the monsoon season and our visit coincided with its bloom season. As we wandered about enjoying the serenity of the area, a group of children came up and where delighted to scramble up in the trees to collect some blossoms for us. Their innocence and purity added immeasurably to the beauty of that time. When the children gave us the kadam blossoms, we wrapped them in a handkerchief and took them with us on our onward journey. Each morning we would sprinkle them with water and they would radiate into the atmosphere a rich sweet jasmin/neroli aroma layered with a buttery precious woods note with a hint of golden champa. For three days we enjoyed its divine odor.
On another aromatic expedition we visited an abandoned summer palace sitting on the edge of a large pink lotus pond. Thousands of blossoms were unfolding their petals in the early morning light releasing their ethereal fragrance into the warm air. The living aromatic aura of the unplucked blossoms has a fine ethereal soft powdery floral note that is very elegant, penetrating and pristine. We wandered beside the pond, enveloped in a quiet enchantment, absorbing the ancient beauty of India undisturbed by the modern world.
In the desert regions bordering the Thar desert where I have had the opportunity to stay on small farms on numerous occasions, the roads are often bordered with a type of Acacia tree which, when in bloom perfumes the air with a delicious sweet, delicate, intensely floral fragrance. The tree thrives in the severe heat and dry conditions existing there yet gives off a perfume as rare and precious as any exotic plant.
Perhaps the most precious memory of all is the simple beauty of the small rural farms themselves. In the days spent there, life took on a measured pace in harmony with the seasons, the time of day, the weather, etc. Without the constant bombardment of external impressions which permeates life in the modern world, one felt a quiet joy emerging. The delicate textures of this quiet life helped one feel a part of something very grand and sublime. This pristine feeling too went into the creation Ajmer.