Monsoon Rain Newsletter
Monsoon Rain Perfume
One of the most enchanting experiences of living in the East is to participate in the Monsoon Season. Over the year I have had many opportunities to share in that delightful experience from the time spent farming in a small community in South India, to the advent of the rainy season in Rajasthan, to awaiting the dark storm clouds in the sweltering cities of Bombay and Delhi, etc. Wherever one might be in the vast Indian subcontinent, the feeling of anticipation of the coming rain is one which cannot be forgotten because it is shared with millions of people who have been dependent on the life giving rains for thousands of years. And when the rains finally arrive after anxious watching of the skies-the feeling of exuberant relief is very intoxicating.
When I was in my early twenties I had the opportunity to live and farm in South India near Bangalore during the monsoon season. It was a very simple lifestyle that brought ones body, heart and mind close to nature because everything one did was in a rhythm with the seasons. During the day we would often have various crops drying on open patios like corn, ragi(a type of grain) and peanuts and we would watch the skies very carefully for the first sign of the great thunderheads that proceeded the monsoon rains. As soon as we saw them on the horizon we would come running to the patios to consolidate the grains into larger piles to be covered by tarps to prevent the rains from soaking them. A whole community of people would work together as one body to protect these precious crops which provided nourishment to both man and animal. It was an electrifying experience to participate in and often we would complete our works within minutes before the rain came.
Then we could sit back on the covered verandah to watch as the rains swept across the landscape bringing a fresh cooling breeze upon which rode a host of intoxicating aromas-from the smell of the dry earth absorbing the rain to the many exotic subtropical plants whose roots found their home in the rich red colored soil of the area in which I lived and who bestowed on the air their sweet life breath.
At other times I found myself in big cities like Bombay during the monsoon season where the climate was much hotter and more him than Bangalore. The days would be muggy, uncomfortable and warm-with the only escape being sitting beneath the ceiling fans that moved the hot air around a bit, but often towards evening while sitting amongst hundreds of simple factory workers and blue collar office workers singing timeless devotional songs, the rains would come thundering down bringing a feeling of deep delight and comfort for all the doors surrounding where we sat were wide open and the accompanying breeze would wash over us and bring life and vitality into ones being once again.
Sometimes the rains would delay until late in the night and while lying on a thin mattress on the open verandah one would wait for the first sounds of the rain falling upon the roof. When it came it was like a symphony harmonizing all the discordant noisy of the teeming metropolis. Then early in the morning I would walk through the streets which had been cleaned by the night rains. The softness and sweetness of the air during those early morning strolls transformed the city into a magical world pervaded by a mystic atmosphere of ancient land.
Further monsoon adventures awaited when I traveled through Rajasthan with Ramakant Harlalka just prior to the advent of the rains.
"The road to Jaipur was incredibly smooth, a nice change from some of the previous roads we had traveled on in rural India. Jaipur, Agra, and Delhi are part of the Golden Triangle which forms one of the most popular tourist destinations to India, so apparently government officials have seen the wisdom of keeping the roads in good repair. As we moved deeper into the countryside one could feel how the earth was calling for the rain to come and fill the land with life and vitality. The farmers had been plowing their fields so that when the first life giving rains came, the rain could easily penetrate into the soil. This is a very exciting time of year as the farming community waits with great anxiety for the coming of the monsoon. Great improvements have been made in India with regards to water supplies from irrigation canals and tube wells but still, much of the country depends on natural rainfall for growing the many crops that provide the necessities of life.
The sky has become filled with clouds that herald the coming of the monsoon rains. The village people start placing bets as to when the first rain will come and whether it will be light or heavy.The betting becomes more intense as the cloud cover develops. The filtered rays of the sun cause an even dispersion of light throughout the land. This softer light, permits one to observe all the beautiful details of people and animals at work. Bullocks and camels pulling wooden plows to upturn the earth, men, women, and children carefully weeding their crops, tube wells pumping up cool water to quench the thirst of plant and animal life, beautifully constructed homes made of thatch, stone, and earth, old people relaxing on charpais in the shade looking toward the sky and wondering when the rains are going to come. Each part is perfectly woven into a tapestry of unequaled beauty."
As my interest in India's aromatic traditions deepened and I began visiting India with the specific purpose of understanding the botanicals that played such an important role in their evolution, I came in contact with several special plants that are deeply associated with the Monsoon season; Kadam/Anthocephalus cadamba in both Rajasthan and Karnatika, White Lotus in Tamil Nadu, Jasmin sambac in Tamil Nadu, Jasmin auriculatum in Maharastra, Kewda/Pandanus odoratissimus in Karnatika(although the Kewda of Orissa is the one that is distilled for Attar and Ruh), Mitti/Baked Earth, and Rosa bourbonia in Tamil Nadu. I have written extensively in past newsletters about each one of these exquisite botanicals and one can access information concerning through the following links:
The thought had been with me for a number of years to create a Monsoon Perfume but until one of my colleagues in India shared the basic formula for a classic Indian perfume, Majmua, I did not have the key to working out a recipe that would help capture the feeling of the monsoon season. Majmua is composed of 60-70% Ruh Khus(wild vetiver of North India) 25-30% of a combination of the attars of Mitti, Kadam, Rose and Kewda and a small percentage of patchouli, valarian and ambrette seed. I felt that to this basic arrangement one could add essences of White Lotus absolute, Jasmin sambac absolute and Rosa bourbonia absolute to complement the other components of Majmua. Intensity was added to the composition by including the Labdanum Absolute "Incense Note". After letting this new composition sit for a week, I felt that its intensity needed just a bit of softening so a small amount of Fir Balsam absolute was added. This is such a lovely soft sweet grounding and harmonizing material with incredible tenacity, radiance and elegant fruity-sweetness enlivened with its refined pineaceous bouquet and it seemed to fit well with the concept of the Monsoon Perfume.
In creating the feeling of the Monsoon one is working with an aromatic palette that hopefully can capture some of the intense anticipation that arises in the heart when awaiting the first rains, along with the feeling of relief, coolness and relaxation that comes when they arrive. It is an intermingling of the earthy aromatic essences of Mitti Attar and Ruh Khus, with the intensity of the powdery resinous essence of Labdanum absolute "Incense Note", with a bouquet of the floral attars each which has its own unique qualities in an attempt to capture the enchanting feeling of the scent-ladened rain. As the monsoon generated wind and rain moves over the earth and through the plants they distill their own unique fragrance which is the essence of the Monsoon.
Ruh Khus-1 1/4 ounces
Summer Rose Attar-1/4 ounce
Mitti Attar-1/4 ounce
Kadam Attar-1/4 ounce
Ambrette C02-1/8 ounce
Patchouli C02-1/4 ounce
Amberi Attar-1/16 ounce
Labdanum "Incense Note" Absolute-1/16 ounce
Rosa bourbonia absolute-1/4 ounce
Jasmin sambac Absolute-1/4 ounce
White Lotus Absolute-1/8 ounce
Fir Balsam Absolute-1/8th ounce