Ramakrishnanda / Bhagavan, Krishna, Lalita, Radha, Rasa Lila

Ramakrishnanda Part 1
Ramakrishnanda Part 2
Ramakrishnanda Part 3

Since Ramakrishnanda released their first 15 incense blends a few years ago as well as three different sampler packs, they’ve not stopped there, trickling out a few other new blends that as of yet do not have an associated sampler pack. This review covers the five newest blends as of the current date which include one new premium Agarwood stick that costs about a dollar more than the usual 10 stick packages. The rest of the newer incenses follow in the durbar or flora styles used by the company and continue their experimentation with different ingredient combinations. As always the results are always unusual and intriguing, if not always successful.

Bhagavan is a durbar that combines patchouli and vetivert, given the listed concoction, however this is actually a stick that doesn’t particularly evoke either ingredient so much. In many ways this is an alternative to the types of flora incenses found under the name Golden Champa such as Sai Flora itself, Sai Deep, Sai Leela and several others, although in this case the stick isn’t quite as hefty. Any noticeable patchouli qualities seem to be lost in the mix or at least the oilier aspects of the scent are submerged, what’s left is more reminiscent of the brighter, foresty type of scent one might associate with Shrinivas’ Patchouli Forest blend. The Vetivert is less submerged but still floats more as a background note, and it’s difficult not to wish both aspects were cranked up a bit more. As both scents evoke sort of an earthy type of scent, I was surprised to find the earthiness mostly existed as part of the drier finish. However if one just forgets about trying to match up what their smelling with the ingredients on the package, you’ll still find this a very pleasant incense, particularly if you’re fond of any of the flora types mentioned earlier.

Krishna is a champa type incense that’s something of  a variation on Ramakrishnanda’s own Narasingha Dev. The ingredients given are vetivert, cedarwood and halmadi, but the strongest element seems to be the sweet gum like center, the aspect it has most in common with Narasingha Dev which opens the question whether that incense also has halmadi (which could be implicit in the champa part of its ingredients). It certainly has the strong vanilla aroma halmadi tends to bring with it, but again whatever vetivert is being used here doesn’t seem to overwhelm the incense as if it’s just being used as a note. The cedarwood, as well, isn’t as strong as it tends to be in Indian masalas but likely strengthens the forest like gum scents of the incense’s center. The entirety is a bit of a mix up, not as successful as Narasingha Dev, as if there’s just a bit too much going on and too many contrary scents cancelling each other out.

Lalita is a very pleasant sandalwood and musk incense with an incredibly attractive sandalwood oil at the center of the stick. As this is one of the newer Ramakrishnanda blends, it begs the question if some of the older packages are perhaps losing a bit of steam in terms of oil quality, as the scent here is very powerful and terribly attractive. It’s true one can detect a very nice topping of musk as a faint note with the incense, but it’s only a side note on what is a great sandalwood champa incense with an oil that’s pitched about perfect. Not a complex incense, but a very nice one, if there’s any other side notes it would be a touch of vanilla and maybe a bit of spice that reminds me of Indian masalas with chandan in the title.

Radha‘s ingredients are given as patchouli, cardamom and rose and had I not seen cardamom in the list I might have compared the interesting spice note in this incense to anise. The rose I’m not sure I detected at all, and given the track record with patchouli in this line, I’d say the company is using less of the obvious patchouli oil and perhaps more of the herb, because it never strikes you as overt. I’m left with the impression of a champa with quite a bit of sandalwood and benzoin in it with the vanilla touches not blending terribly well with the cardamom. There even appear to be some bitter or sour notes in the mix which are uncommon to Ramakrishnanda incenses which are usually always at least pleasant. One might chalk this up to an experiment that didn’t work so well, or perhaps by the time a packet was in my hand, the oils had faded considerably.

Which brings me to the last and newest of the Ramakrishnanda line, the powerfully scented agarwood incense Rasa Lila. Again one wonders at the level of oil dissipation (particularly when all of these incenses seem to be packaged very well) as in this case the oil levels are eye-stingingly powerful, although with an increased, premium price (as well as a gold sticker on the front setting it apart) perhaps we’re getting a bit more for the money. It’s a  rather thick durbar style whose primary scent is less the wood than the heavy citrus/orange/lemon that gives the aroma an almost furniture polish-like aroma in all the best senses. The agarwood/oud oil then floats as a background note behind this giving it all a nice three dimensional presence, taking the place that sandalwood tends to hold in most of the line’s incenses. It would be too much if it wasn’t for its resounding natural qualities which help to give this a very fresh and cleansing solar quality to it. It’s not at all like, say the Agarwood incenses found in the Mystic Temple line or the Absolute or Connoisseur versions in the Pure-Incense line, it really does have a unique and interesting quality all of its own. I’d probably chalk this one up as one of Ramakrishnanda’s more successful experiments.

Ramakrishnanda then has a total of 20 different blends to date and no doubt we’ll see more in the future. They also have a series of resin blends that I have not yet decided to spring for that may be of some interest to heater or charcoal burner lovers. Overall they’re a quality company with a lot of interesting scents, perhaps not at the apex of the art, but growing closer in that direction (I’d certainly like to see more in the way of premium scents). Perhaps the major downside is that they only seem to commonly retail 10 stick packages which means if you like any particular aroma you’re almost due for a restock as soon as you open a package. And I don’t doubt you’ll find at least one or two new favorites among the 20 scents they carry.

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6 Comments

  1. kimbola said,

    November 5, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    i tried most of their line and i love them, they are very strong and natural i think they are among the top 5 best incense from india.
    i also think they are overall better than the pure incense line, wich is also good.

  2. July 28, 2011 at 8:53 am

    […] Ramakrishnanda Part 1 Ramakrishnanda Part 2 Ramakrishnanda Part 3 Ramakrishnanda Part 4 […]

  3. Ali said,

    December 29, 2009 at 6:53 am

    Just FYI, I recently bought some Rasa Lila at a local shop, and it is unbearably bad. It smells like a rag soaked with harsh household cleaning chemicals being cooked over charcoal, and the smoke made me feel like I was going to get lung cancer in the next five minutes. Hours after the stick was done burning, there was a relatively pleasant “solar” smell hanging in the room, but I am not willing to go through the experience of burning another stick to get that after scent. Maybe there are quality control issues at the company and/or long shelf-sitting times that had dried out the oils, but if so, there’s no point in having to roll the dice with your money.

    Sorry to be so negative, but it really was that bad. Needless to say, I don’t smell any agarwood at all, and I won’t be buying any more of this blend.

    • Mike said,

      January 4, 2010 at 10:37 am

      It doesn’t surprise me Ali, it’s definitely one of those incenses with enough similarity to household products that if they remind you of the wrong ones, it’s certainly going to be unpleasant. For me it reminded me of orange-lemon wood polish, which fortunately for me, isn’t a bad association.

      • Ali said,

        January 12, 2010 at 11:58 pm

        An update on this … I did with these sticks as I’ve done with other incense I’ve found too harsh out of the box, namely let the sticks sit out in the open air for several days. This seems to have taken some of the unpleasant edge off of the Rasa Lila. I still don’t smell any agarwood, and it still doesn’t smell great to me (still smells like synthetic cleaning chemicals), but at least it is not as irritating.

        I’ve noticed this mellowing effect with for example some inexpensive Tibetan incenses I’ve tried before. In particular, the Bosen Blessing Incense smelled to me like a grass fire the first time I lit a stick (which is actually a somewhat pleasant childhood association of burning off brush in the autumn) – not completely objectionable but not a particularly interesting herbal smell. However, after letting the sticks sit in the open air for several weeks, I was able to pick up some more interesting herbal notes with the next stick I burned.

        (Looking forward to trying the Bosen Pythoncidere next, based on the positive reviews here and elsewhere …)

  4. Janet said,

    October 26, 2009 at 3:04 pm

    I’ve had a similar problem to the one you mentioned – I got packages of both Mukunda and Balaram that were pretty rank, not in the realm of something that could be explained by “differences in taste”….maybe these guys sit in a warehouse for a while before making their way over here?
    I really like both the Krishna and the Narasingha Dev, I guess I can pick up the vetiver note in the former, it is a really soft, pleasant fragrance to me, and I like the shared base note you mentioned.
    Sounds like I’ll have to try the Lalita and Rasa Leela, for sure!


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