English | Dzongkha Monday, July 16, 2018

Incense- part and parcel of Bhutanese every day life

By Chimi Dorji, Paro
Apr 22, 2012
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Incense stick or locally known as Poi is an integral part of Bhutanese ritual. It is a must for every home, be it small or big, to have incense burnt while offering water to the altar every day. Besides, no Bhutanese visit a lhakhang without incense sticks.

There are varieties of incense available in the market. Some are locally made while others are imported from the neighboring Indian towns.  In this report, our Paro reporter, Chimi Dorji, looks at what it takes to make incense sticks in a factory located in Paro.

Tshendhen Peyzokhang in Paro,  was established about eleven years ago. Today, it produces varieties of incense sticks. The owner, Aap Chencho, a former monk, said he wanted to open an incense factory while he was still a monk. He added that it would be good for the well-being of all the sentient beings.

He added that burning insence is an integral part of every Bhutanese ritual. According to a retired Lam Neten, Tshering Dorji, it is always good to have incense burnt in any kind of ritual. He added that it is not only used during rituals but also for other purposes. For example, even for the consecration of a new house, the first thing you have to carry is an incense stick. When lams and monks come to our home also we have to burn incense stick and to for purification ceremony too, we require incense stick.

So, what does it take to make an incense stick. The main ingredient is the Tshenden Shing  or the cypress tree, which is mixed with many other ingedrients. According to Aap Chencho, getting ingredients for making the incense stick is the most difficult part as it has to be brought from far away places. ”To make incense stick we need abundant Juniper and Cypress tree“. For that we have to get a permit from the Department of Forests and Park Services, who will also identify the area from where to get it. Other ingredients have to be collected from far off places because of which we cannot get the ingredients on time“.

According to Aap Chencho there are two different kinds of incense stick. It is called Jaju and Cheju. While making Cheju incense, he said they mix a bit of meat and alcohol but for Jaju incense, they don‘t mix it with anything.  The two incense are offered for different purposes. Its smell depends on the ingredients used.

The process, especially making saw dust, is done manually. Now, with the saw dust made by machines, the process according to Aap Chencho, has become much easier. However, they have to depend on the weather. When the weather is bad, the incense cannot be dried properly so it gets spoilt very fast. The well-dried incense gives a good smell. On the business side, so far the going has been good for Aap Chencho. He gets orders not only from within the country but also from places like Taiwan and Hongkong. Sometimes, he cannot meet the demand.

According to Tshering Dorji, the benefits of offering incense are manifold. The former Lam Neten said “as the dirty clothes become clean after washing, similarly, the incense stick can also clean the impurities and act as an offering to Kencho Sum“

Currently, Aap Chencho‘s factory has 13 workers and can produce about four hundred packets of incense every day.

1 Comment for “Incense- part and parcel of Bhutanese every day life”

  1. penjor

    Its gud that the Paro Reporter had come to a light n we are delighted to get some knowledge about the incense..its a ritual ,as well as custom n tradition for Bhutanese to burn incense. so ur kind information is very helpful and it ll help others to reach to the Bhutanese.

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