Mother’s India Fragrances / Nagchampa / Ananda, Ganesh, Laxmi, Shanti, Vishnu

In nearly every article reviewing Indian durbars or champa incenses it’s virtually impossible not to mention that the style has undergone changes over the last decade or so due to the shorter supply of the resin halmaddi in these incenses. Nearly every company in existence has adjusted their recipes to some extent, although we’re largely left to guess over how it is they’ve done so. What we can generally tell is the soft, semi-wet durbars of yore have gotten drier over the years, the scents have often gotten just a little bit harsher and our expectations over reliving the old scents have diminished.

While Mother’s India Fragrances seem to have been around for a while (I remember the small packs of masala incenses they do which I found in stores years back), it’s only somewhat recently they’ve started exporting this five incense series of Nagchampa incenses. I’m unaware of whether they’ve undergone a change in formula or if they are completely new incenses, but they seem to use an ingredient either unheralded in Indian incense or just not included in the recipes, a tree resin known as mattipal. And in doing so they’ve created what is perhaps the finest short line in all of Indian incense today, making me wonder just what it is about mattipal that makes it so uncommon in durbars when it seems like the use of it might enhance the durbar industry in general and at least push it back in the direction that made it one of the most attractive and accessible styles of incense on the market.

Mother’s India Fragrances’ (Mother’s for short) five incenses are really variations on a theme. Although it’s difficult to confirm, the “standard” Nagchampa appears to be the Shanti, and the Laxmi is a mild version of the same formula. The Vishnu is similar and adds saffron to the mix, where both Ananda and Ganesh are a little more distinct in their differences, the former a blend, the latter using French Lavender oil. All five of these incenses are breathtakingly good, long burning and very high quality durbars. They’re perhaps slightly different than what you’ll remember from the halmaddi days, but at the same time they’re a lot closer in style to the originals than most other current durbar reformulations.

Ananda Nagchampa is  described as a blend of sweet floral and herbal fragrances. The base on this one as it is in all five of these combines the typical vanilla and sweet notes of most durbars with a slightly piney or evergreen note that is likely to come from the mattipal. The combination gives it a soft and mellow tone and in this case, the ingredients add up to a fairly intricate mix. Like the Vishnu Nagchampa, Ananda seems to strike a middle between the deluxe, sweet and perfumed concotion found in the Ganesh blend and the dry spicy and more typically standard nagchampa scent found in the Shanti blend. Like most of the incenses here there’s a very strong cassia or cinnamon aroma in the middle, but here there are fruitier hints such as strawberry and orange, mixed with what seem to be greener herbal notes. It’s possibly the most unusual incense of the five, the most complex, and the fragrance that takes one’s nose the longest to adjust to.

Ganesh Nagchamp is virtually one of the finest durbars to have been created by human hand, it’s a triumph of the incense making art. One has certain expectations going into an incense that is supposedly “crowned with French lavender oil,” but here the combination is far more than the sum of its parts. While one easily notices the lavender oil as part of the mix, it doesn’t seem typical either bearing witness to a finer quality or just the fact that its marriage with the mattipal base is one of alchemical genius. Although it, like the others in the line, has a strong note of cinnamon as well, the lavender moves it to the sweeter end of the line. It’s so rich, decadent and astonishingly good that even one stick will have one reeling in amazement that one could hit such a perfect match of ingredients. Every incense lover owes themselves a treat such as this.

Laxmi Nagchampa, as I mentioned above, is the line’s mild nagchampa and in many ways is somewhat redundant to the Shanti. For one thing, the line in itself (apart from, perhaps, the Ganesh) is fairly mild as it is, so the muting of the Shanti scents is rather soft, perhaps taking out more of the base and leaving the oils to do more of the work. The spices are quite a bit mellower here, but overall it’s difficult to guess what reformulation caused this one to be so gentle. In many ways you only need Laxmi or Shanti and I think more incense lovers will move to and approve of the latter’s richer scent.

Shanti Nagchampa itself is indeed the incense that smells the most like classic nag champa, although fortunately in this case something more like Bam Champa or the original halmaddi formulations of a decade ago. Perhaps this is the one that lets the mattipal speak the loudest as it seems to not only have the greater evergreen note but is redolent of cassia spice, adding up to a certain dryness that’s quite attractive. It certainly has me fairly nostalgic for the champa scents of old, that wet and intensely aromatic smell I remember from opening the old Satya blue box when it useds to be good.

Vishnu Nagchampa is described as “accented with saffron and based on oriental notes.” The saffron note is quite light overall and gives the incense a slightly spicier scent. Like the Ananda it kind of sits between the Ganesh and Shanti in terms of sweetness and dryness although it’s probably a bit closer to the Shanti. It’s almost liquor like in a way, with hints of cognac, whisky or fine rum at times, probably due to the nature of the oil. Like Ananda it has a bit more of a learning curve but is ultimately no less fine than the rest of the incenses in the line.

The Ganesh is an absolute must try, and I’d probably suggest giving the Shanti a go around as a second pick, before moving on to the Ananda and Vishnu. Those that do love the line by this point should have no problem with Laxmi either and may indeed prefer its milder qualities. One does wonder however, with such a powerful incense line if Mother’s intends to expand and concoct more fragrances as they appear to be onto a good thing where mattipal is concerned. Hopefully this is just the beginning of a new durbar renaissance.

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28 Comments

  1. Carolyn said,

    January 25, 2016 at 2:30 pm

    I read your review at the mercie website. I totally agree with your assessment of the ganesha…I’ve tried every nag champa under the sun and this one will send you to heaven. But it is getting hard to find! I ordered some directly from mercie and then got a full Paypal refund with no explanation. Have you any knowledge of a reliable source?

    • Mike said,

      January 25, 2016 at 2:37 pm

      Hi Carolyn. Dan Andrews who I believe was the owner of Mere Cie passed away and so I think business has been interrupted in the mean time. I believe he and the company will have a successor eventually, based on some posts on the Mother’s Facebook page.

      • Laura said,

        April 4, 2016 at 8:34 am

        The same thing happened to me just this week. I have worn their Patchouli Blend oil (it is my signature scent) for over 20 years and tried to order and pay pal refunded my money. Since they mixed it themselves, I won’t be able to get it anywhere. That is so sad about the owner. I send my condolences. He ran a great business. I ordered from him for years. Bless his heart. Thank you for the information on this site. I was frantic.

  2. Julia said,

    March 19, 2012 at 10:24 am

    I ordered some Ganesh after hearing so much about it here. I love it! In fact, I had almost completely written off Indian incenses, and especially champas, as not my thing until I burned Ganesh. Somehow, it served as a gateway drug that allowed me to appreciate nag champa again and Indian incenses in general. Pretty amazing. I’m slowly working my way through the rest of the Mother’s champa line now.

  3. divine adventure said,

    December 15, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    I recently tried some Mothers India Fragrances Nag Champa …ananda, ganesh, lakshmi. Lakshmi gives me strong headaches and ananda less so and ganesh seems ok so far. What ingredients are most likely the cause so I can avoid it in future purchases. Which nag champas might be be safer for me?

  4. August 19, 2010 at 4:06 pm

    […] Clove Nutmeg etc.), Tuberose, Vetivert / Khus) After being introduced to and living with Mother’s India Fragrances’ original five Nagchampas, I can’t imagine anyone wouldn’t have asked the question “How come there […]

  5. koinu7 said,

    August 5, 2010 at 9:06 pm

    So, I have been a huge fan of Japanese incense for several years now. I have never liked Indian incense – it’s just too spicy for me and I really dislike floral/perfumed scents. Beth at EoTA had a promotion for rope incenses last month. I decided to give it a try. Tibetan incense is also not my taste. Most of the ropes are Nepali; they are somewhat similar to the Tibetan stuff, but with enough differences that I figured it won’t hurt to try. One of the ropes I tried was nag champa. I could not believe I didn’t like this stuff before! This set me on a quest to get a hold of some really good champas. After a lot of reading this blog, I ordered Mother’s Shanti (along with Bam, Schroff C., and Nitiraj Original). This was the first one I burned. Shanti actually disrupted my nightly meditation routine. Just a rich, sweet, soothing incense that I couldn’t concentrate on my breathing. All of these wonderful, intoxicating smells had me focusing too much on enjoying and analyzing my new-found love of Indian champas. On the back of the package, it says that honey is also one of the ingredients. That was one of the first things I picked up, along with the standard vanilla. Another thing that blew me away was how cheap it is. Japanese incense is expensive, even on the lower end aloes. I’m ordering the rest of the Mother’s champas and can’t wait to get my paws on them. Beth also posted on the page that she will have 13 new champas at the end of August. Can’t wait!

  6. Bert said,

    June 23, 2010 at 5:06 pm

    Hello everyone,

    I just wanted to let you know that they have expanded The Mother’s India Fragrances with lots of new fragrances!

    The following three new fragrances last year:
    Arjava, Sattva, and Lavanya; unfortunately without descriptions.

    And then ten new fragrances this year:
    * Agni (base note Musk Gold)
    * Amrita (base note CInnamon Gold)
    * Bhakti (base note Lavender Gold)
    * Hansa (base note Myrrh Gold)
    * Lila (base note Patchouli Gold)
    * Jyoti (base note Spice wood Gold)
    * Moksha (base note “Le Perfume”)
    * OM (base note Amber Gold)
    * Perusha (base note English Lavender)
    * Yajna (base note Wood-Lavender)

    They used the base notes from the line of The Mother’s Golden Fragrances to create these new Nag Champa fragrances, although I don’t know whether they sell them in countries other than the Netherlands.

    I haven’t tried them out yet, so I can’t say whether I like them.

    • Mike said,

      June 24, 2010 at 7:10 am

      Hi Bert, thanks for the heads up. I’ve got the second group of ten in hand for a review forthcoming. I’ve given a first sweep through them and like them all (no surprise there!), but it’s a bit early to tell them all apart, except that there were a couple spicy ones in there I really liked that seemed like variations on the Shanti. Anyway I got some good information from the distributor in the Netherlands, including the claim that these incenses may be one of the only champa lines that’s nitro-musk compound free. Anyway it’s great news and cheers to those who convinced Mother’s to expand such a fine line.

  7. Margaret said,

    October 16, 2009 at 11:00 am

    I am hoping that you can answer a question for me. Does the above information concerning nag champa incense also apply to the fragrance oils?? I am desperately seeking ‘my’ Nag Champa I have worn for 6 years now. The lady whom I purchase from has lost her supplier and what she has now neither one of us are happy with. “My” Nag was very deep and warm and had what my Western nose called a spicy hot cinnamon-y scent. I think there may also have been Amber. Ganesh and Shanti both sound like what I may have had maybe Ganesh more so.
    If I use this information here what on earth do I ask for in an oil?
    I am so addicted to this stuff that I have anxiety problems when it looks as though I am running out.

    Help!

    btw My preference in sacred smoke is Nag Champa and I didn’t realize there were differences. Thank you for a wonderful little education! And for Mermade! I used to buy Faery Call and haven’t been able to find this particular brand in years.

    • Mike said,

      October 20, 2009 at 7:48 am

      Hi Margaret, That’s a tough call between fragrance oils and incenses in the Nag Champa style, I’ve never used the fragrance oils, so I have no idea if the recipes have also changed. The Shrinivas Nag Champa oil, like the incense I think, probably comes in a blue box. But other companies do their own Nag Champa oils so I’m not sure. But if you do have the bottle still, check for the company on it as that should help lead you to the right one if it’s still being made – feel free to post it here if you need further assistance. You also might have better luck asking the same question at some of the perfume sites. http://spraysofblossoms.wordpress.com/ has a nice list of these on the left of the home page under Fragrance Blogs.

      • Margaret said,

        October 20, 2009 at 9:15 am

        Hi Mike Thanks so much for replying to my whinging. lol. The Nag I get is ‘mixed’ by an Aromatherapist here and it is her supplier that lost everything in one of the big storms in the South of the U.S, about 3 years ago. Apparently she didn’t start up again as no one can find her anymore. I hope it is only that she cut her losses and not something worse. 😐 Anyway my lady hasn’t been able to find the same thing since. I will try the link you posted and thank you so much for your time and help.
        Peace

        Oh and I have used the ‘blue box’ Nag. It may be as close as I will ever get again…

  8. Dan Hilliker said,

    October 9, 2009 at 11:04 am

    Shanti Nagchampa
    Ganesh Nagchamp

    How do I purchase the above incense?

    Thanks!
    Dan

    • Mike said,

      October 9, 2009 at 1:54 pm

      Dan, there’s a link at the beginning of the second paragraph of the article that will take you to a vendor to purchase these. Or you can probably find them by searching through our Incense Suppliers link on the left (you may have to go to the home page to see these).

  9. Maharani said,

    August 19, 2009 at 7:48 am

    The Ganesh is really lovely, but I cannot pick out the lavender note at all! I probably need to burn more of it, though.

    • Mike said,

      August 19, 2009 at 9:47 am

      Honestly I wouldn’t have picked out lavender had it not said so in the description. It really is quite different from the usual French lavender oil that’s so familiar.

    • Caviglia said,

      August 19, 2009 at 6:34 pm

      That’s true, the lavender is unique in the Ganesh. I think if you’ve got the Shanti or even another quality nag champa, and compare Ganesh with the other, it really helps with picking out the lavender note.

    • Rej said,

      August 24, 2010 at 10:23 am

      The Lavender note is almost identical to, in modern commercial fragrance terms, the Lavender top note in Burberry’s ‘Burberry Brit’ for Men (in the brown bottle). It is such a deep, sweet and musky scent that is instantly recognisable were you to sample the above-mentioned scent at a large Department Store. It should be available in America (I gather this is a US site and I am a born and bred Londoner).

  10. anonymous said,

    April 8, 2009 at 9:20 pm

    I found this blog from Google. While I am interested in things that smell, like wine and cologne, my choice of incense has usually been good ol’ Nag Champa.

    After reading this blog, the first thing I bought was a Mother of India sampler. I burned each of them, and then came back to see if I agreed with the reviewer. Almost exactly! All of them are wonderful–far, far better quality than I am used to…and I think I ended up paying only $3 or $4 per 20 sticks–Shanti and Ganesh are by far the two standouts. My own feeling is that Ganesh is so powerful that I would prefer it in the morning or during the day, whereas Shanti is more relaxed, and is a great interpretation of what I think of as “traditional incense.”

    Anyway, awesome blog, thanks for all the time you put into it! My nose will be much happier from here on out 🙂

    • Mike said,

      April 9, 2009 at 8:15 am

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts and glad you liked the Mothers’. I know I can barely keep my hands off of them they’re so good. Ganesh is indeed powerful. Definitely check out the Shroff line when you get a chance if you want some more really great Indian incense.

  11. Mike said,

    March 16, 2009 at 12:47 pm

    I wonder what it would be like on a heater? I often forget that you can pretty much put anything on a heater, even if it’s got a stick through it. And yeah some Indians, you can actually stick in a holder and they’ll still fragrance about a five foot circle. This Mystic Temple Green Floral Champa which I’ll be reviewing soon is one good example of how potent they can be even without a light.

    • Laurie said,

      March 16, 2009 at 2:19 pm

      I keep meaning to try it on the heater but somehow haven’t actually remembered to do so yet, lol. Actually, I’ll do it right now! (I’ve found Japanese sticks smell absolutely nasty to me on the heater for some reason, but the couple of dhoop sticks I have and the Mermade samples of Earth Church and Pan’s Earth I have all smell quite lovely on it.)

      • Mike said,

        March 16, 2009 at 2:27 pm

        Let us know how it goes. I think Mermade goods smell incredible no matter what the method is. Katlyn just sent me the latest blends (thanks!!) and they’re great right across the spectrum. Her imported hougary frankincense is to die for too. Honestly that Earth Church could teach a lot of people how to do an evergreen dhoop without the harshness, really sublime. Quite the incense adept!

        • Laurie said,

          March 16, 2009 at 2:37 pm

          Hmm, it smells good on the heater, with less spice and more sweetness, but perhaps it’s a little too sweet. There’s a curious tart and musky note that comes out too; I think it’s in there when burned normally but a bit more subtle.

          Mermade’s stuff is way too smokey for me burning normally – especially Earth Church, that one sent my sinuses shriveling in self defense after only about 30 seconds. Pan’s Earth was a bit better, I could probably tolerate it burning at a good distance. They are really excellent blends though! I was surprised, most of the small-business new-agey type incenses I’ve come across seemed to be just throwing ingredients together based on their traditional associations without any real art to it, but Katlyn seems to really know what she’s doing. I think I’m going to order a few samples of those Nature Spirits blends soon.

          • Mike said,

            March 16, 2009 at 3:55 pm

            Thanks for the report. It’s funny how heating and burning both volatize the aromatics at different speeds, it really does lead to some different impressions. When I do powders now I almost always do heater and charcoal reports now, they’re both often very different. Kind of the nice thing about a heater, it doubles your incense variety with a purchase.

            I came across Mermade almost a decade ago when they did a series of powdered incenses that I thought (and still think) were among the best ever invented. In fact she’s redone one called Dream Snake. So yeah, there’s years and years of practice there and it definitely comes out compared to the ones you mention. And I think her new work could be even better than the old series, as there seems to be just incredible attention not only on the blends, but each ingredient in a blend. You mention the smokiness of Earth Church (and nearly everything with that many evergreens will be smoky), but if you compared it (and given what you said you probably shouldn’t lol) to some of the Tibetan blends in the same realm like Dhoop Factory Alpine or a few others I’m too lazy to relook up, it seems quite mild in comparison. I think it might be the Sal powder in it compared to smokier binders found in Tibetan incense but that’s just a guess. But I meander…

          • Laurie said,

            March 16, 2009 at 7:39 pm

            Oh, Dream Snake! I bought some of that. It smells absolutely mind-blowing, I don’t even know how to describe it. Although I’ve found I don’t want to breathe in the smoke too directly, as it really… messes with my head. I didn’t think it was possible to get enough of any substance in smoke that’s just dispersing in the air like that, but I guess I was wrong. On the upside, unlike every other heavy-smoke incense I have tried, it seems to act as a decongestant. Datura must be some really strange stuff.

            • Mike said,

              March 17, 2009 at 9:12 am

              The old blends, at least some of them, did indeed have some mild psychoactive effects to them, particularly Dream Snake, Shamanic Circle and one or two others. Good to hear the new Dream Snake hasn’t lost it’s erm charm.

  12. Laurie said,

    March 16, 2009 at 12:31 pm

    Your posts about Mother’s India made me madly curious, so I just had to get a pack. I picked Vishnu. You’re right, these are absolutely amazing. I’m going to buy a pack of Ganesh next.

    Sadly, it seems I still can’t really burn Indian incense – I love the scent, but it’s too smokey for my madly sensitive nose. (I think the Japanese would be my favorite incense tradition even if I wasn’t so sensitive, but the low amount of smoke they put out compared to almost everything else is a big factor in my one-track obsession.) I can light one up and walk around the house with it and then put it out, though, and it leaves a lovely fragrance in the air for a good 20 or 30 minutes – plus they’re so strong just the packet puts out a fairly strong scent even through the plastic bag I have it in.


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