Mandala Art & Incense / Guru Padmakara, Kalachakra, Mahakala, Medicine Buddha, Vajrakilla (Phurpa Dorjee), Yellow Jambala

I’ve covered one other line from Nepalese company Mandala Art & Incense in the past, basically a six incense series of very thick and close-to-smokeless incenses sticks that were mostly very similar in style and aroma, only varying with one main ingredient. These were wrapped in paper with a Boudha leaf and an attached tag describing the incense. The company also has a second line whose six incenses can be found in both stick and powder form. I’ll be covering the stick versions here with the assumption being made that the powder versions are probably a bit more pure due to the lack of binder ingredients.

Like the paper wrapped line, these incenses are all very similar, with bases that seem quite common from scent to scent. Even with a list of, usually three, ingredients the commonality of the scents is increased. The thing about this company is that their incenses are relatively modest, affordable, decent quality but relatively unspectacular. That is, you get what you pay for and for the most part you’re not paying for a lot off off notes, but you are paying for a great deal of common evergreen wood that is very common to Nepali incenses in this price range.

Guru Padmakara lists its main ingredients as cedarwood, spikenard and ambergriss, although given the line’s claim that are no animal extracts used and the low price, we’re assuming this is an herbal ambergris approximation rather than the real thing. Like all the incenses in this line, we have some basic cedarwood and juniper wood making up the lion’s share of the scent and while these scents are generally quality enough that the harsh rubbery scents that come along with evergreen mixtures are subsumed, the large quantity of these woods along with the binder relegate the other ingredients to slight notes. Fortunately they’re quite nice in this one and the spikenard gives the scent enough of its attractive aroma to make this one of the most friendly incenses in the group. It even approaches real ambergris in scent due to a slight saltiness in the mix. Again, the base prevents this from being astonishing but at a few dollars a roll it’s a very fair price for what is a standard Nepali scent.

Kalachakra lists agaru, ghanten khampa and juniper berry, the latter two ingredients also common to another couple of incenses in the same line, starting a series of scents that are perhaps too close to truly differentiate. This seems to have the same very low quality agarwood common to most affordable Tibetans, basically unresinous and slightly musty, but the lesser qualities are balanced by a nice cherry-like flavor from the juniper berry and a tangy herbal quality from the ghanten kampa (assumed because this quality is present in all the incenses here that use it). Although unspecified, the middle has a bit of cinnamon-like spiciness to it which helps to bring this to the same level as the Guru Padmakara, a decently tinged but ultimately average Nepali scent.

Mahakala contains anthopogon (which I believe is a species of rhododendron), ghanten khampa and titepati. As previously mentioned, the herbal tang from the ghanten kampa is also in this one, however the rest of the ingredients don’t give this scent a great deal of its own character with the evergreen base and binder material coming through in a much more generic fashion. There appears to be a bit of sweetness to it, which I’d assume is the titepati (a scent that can really make an incense shine in certain cases) , and a slight touch of anise or licorice, but overall this is a very mediocre scent even for the line.

Medicine Buddha differs very little from the previous two scents or perhaps it strikes a medium with its sandalwood, juniper and ghanten khampa. Only the sandalwood presence, which almost seems slightly toasted, sets Medicine Buddha apart and there also seems to, perhaps, be a very small presence of agarwood in the mix, which is fairly common for this style of incense. The overall effect is kind of tea-like, but despite a little spice and tanginess, like Mahakala, its basic presence is still closely definitely by the common woods and binders, leaving the whole fairly undistinguished.

Vajrakilla (aka Phurpa Dorjee) contains juniper berry, red sandalwood and gurgum, and like most incenses with a decent amount of red sandalwood comes off fairly dull and somewhat middle-less. Overall it’s a very basic incense with very little personality, and the lack of spice or tanginess renders it all fairly boring.

The best of the line is Yellow Jambala, possibly because it was the first one I tried, but over time I think it’s because it’s the most potent beyond each incense’s basic woods and base. This one contains juniper, beddellium, nagi and ambergriss, although like I mentioned before we must assume the latter two ingredients are herbal clones. Needless to say pehaps the slightly larger list of ingredients helps to give the basics a bit more character and this incense has an almost banana-like scent with a great deal of spice and tangy qualities in the mix. For some reason it just seems a bit richer than the others with a slight kick to it. Of all six scents this would be the one to start with.

Perhaps the powdered versions of these have quite a bit more presence and less filler material, as this line suffers a bit of monotony while at the same time not sinking to the worst of Nepalis incenses and staying quite affordable at over $3 a roll. Yellow Jambala is the best and certainly well worth trying at its price, but it’s hard to recommend the others unless one is starting from scratch with Nepalis and needs some basic every day incense that’s quite inexpensive. Overall they’re tough to call because while not being unpleasant, they’re so basic they’re almost hard to describe with the woody characteristics and filler material being a bit too dominant for them to excel. But their lack of true harsh notes is certain a plus for the whole line.


  1. glennjf said,

    August 1, 2010 at 3:03 am

    Maybe Taraxacum tibeticum ? Common name Khenpa-karpo


  2. Dave said,

    July 29, 2010 at 2:16 pm


    Would you know the scientific name for Ganden Khempa herb? I have heard it is a kind of mugwort. I have also heard it called a sage. I woud like to confirm this.

    Thanks if you can offer any illumination.

    Kind Regards

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