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The Essence of the Indian Home: 10 home-grown ingredients for scenting your space

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Bombay Perfumery’s Manan Gandhi knows a thing or two about the importance of giving your home a memorable aroma. He distils down the 10 essential scents that define India’s olfactory palette and work wonders in the house

You’ve got the decor down to an art, the furniture pieces dotting the house-scape are just about perfect, the upholstery and furnishings are top of the line—and everything is exactly in its place. So what could possibly be missing? To know what that essential must-have for a great home is, you only have to follow your nose. Because, a great-looking home is just not complete without a great-smelling scent. In fact, Indian homes, without having given this much thought (in all probability), have a rich tradition of seamlessly adding in heady scents—generally during festive occasions, and always in the form of floral torans and incense sticks.
We asked Manan Gandhi, the founder of Bombay Perfumery, to identify 10 scents that are quintessentially Indian, and to share his expert opinion on how, when and where these could be used. From the extensive list here, sniff out the scents that you think are just so you.

Origin: Mysuru
Form it is available in: Oil (the typical form of a fragrance used in perfumery)
Scent notes: A complex blend of notes from oriental to milky to fresh
How to use: As candles or incense sticks
When to use: A timeless scent that can be used through the year; preferably in the mornings.
Where to use: Living, dining room
Tip: It makes for a great natural scent if you have a balcony or a terrace. It can also be used in the bathroom for a bit of freshness.

Origin: Madurai
Form it is available in: Fresh flowers, oil
Scent notes: Floral
How to use: Enhance your nooks with an urn of fresh jasmine, or as a floral arrangement for the dining table.
When to use: Any time of the day, through the year.
Where to use: Bedroom, common areas

Origin: Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Odisha, Kerala, Karnataka
Form it is available in: Oil
Scent notes: Earthy, oriental
How to use: As candles or incense oil
When to use: A warm scent, it is best to use it during colder months and in the evenings.
Where to use: Living room, study

Origin: Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh
Form it is available in: Oil
Scent notes: Fruity, sweet
How to use: As candles
When to use: The fresh fruity scent is tailor-made for summer mornings.
Where to use: Bedroom, bathroom
Tip: The scent is also great for the kitchen.

Black Pepper
Origin: Kerala
Form it is available in: Oil
Scent notes: Spicy
How to use: As candles
When to use: The unusual spicy scent is perfect when entertaining guests in the living and dining rooms.
Where to use: Study, living, dining rooms

Origin: Assam, Karnataka, Gujarat
Form it is available in: Oil
Scent notes: Fresh
How to use: As candles or incense sticks
When to use: Throughout the year
Where to use: Citronella is also a plant-based insect repellent, making it perfect to use wherever you’ve placed your plants.

Origin: Tamil Nadu|
Form it is available in: Fresh flowers, oil
Scent notes: Floral
How to use: It is great to use in its natural state. Alternatively, candles and incense oil infused with tuberose oil work well too.
When to use: A heady scent, it’s better to use it in the evenings and during winters and monsoons.
Where to use: Bedroom, common areas

Origin: Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, West Bengal, Maharashtra
Form it is available in: Oil
Scent notes: Tropical, sweet
How to use: As candles or incense oil
When to use: The intensely tropical scent is lovely during the summer, throughout the day.
Where to use: Living room, bathroom

Origin: Kerala
Form it is available in: Oil
Scent notes: Spicy, sweet
How to use: As candles|
When to use: Though spicy and distinctive, nutmeg is more subtle than other spices such as cinnamon and cardamom. Use it throughout the year in the evenings or early mornings.
Where to use: Bedrooms, living areas

Origin: Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh
Form it is available in: Oil
Scent notes: Fresh
How to use: As a candle or incense oil
When to use: Throughout the year
Where to use: Kitchen, bathroom



1.    Place your candles strategically. The smaller the room, the better it will get diffused.
2.    Do your research about what burns cleanly: soy wax does not produce petro soot, which paraffin wax does. Moreover, if you have pets, ensure
       that the fragrance you choose will not be harmful to them.
3.    When it comes to diffusers, choose the number of sticks based on the size of the room.
4.    Use a blend of naturals, candles and diffusers. Each has its own level of intensity that can be amped up or brought down.
5.    Apart from candles and diffusers, infuse natural scents in by cleaning your textiles regularly. Carpets and dhurries often capture scents; the
       best way to clean them is with a bit of baking soda.

1.    If the room is small, don’t load too many diffusers into the oil as it will then be too strong, and vice versa.
2.    Don’t use strong scents for the kitchen and dining room as it would interfere with the aroma of food.

Illustrations By

Ayesha Kapadia

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