One of the most widely heralded woods in the world comes from the sandalwood tree. It’s bark and fragrance has been symbolic of spirituality for thousand of years in countries such as India, Nepal, the Middle East, and Tibet.
Latin Name: Santalum album, S. spicatum, S. paniculatum, Pterocarpus santalinus
Other Names: Chandan
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Physical Properties of Sandalwood
The sandalwood tree grows to about 20 to 30 feet. It also has blooms of flowers, in a variety of colors, including white, red, and purple.
The Scent of Sandalwood
The scent of sandalwood is of course, mostly woody in nature, but it’s much more then that. It’s sweet. It’s creamy. It’s buttery. Some people would even consider it musky, with scents of balsamic.
It is one of the most popular fragrances in the world and is used in a wide array of products including incense, soaps, cosmetics, and perfumes, as well as other goods such as beads and sculptures.
Sandalwood in Spiritual Traditions
Indian sandalwood is mentioned in many ancient scriptures. The oldest text it is mentioned in is probably the Vedic Hindu scripture known as the Nirukta. It is mentioned that sandalwood was used in both carvings, as well as the construction of temples, statues, and ritualistic tools.
Many Hindus also use sandalwood as a paste upon their forehead to symbolize the ‘third eye’ during religious practice. It is said that sandalwood promotes clarity, calmness, and inner peace.
It is also a popular fragrance to use during meditation. Many believe that using sandalwood helps connect the practitioner with the divine.
The Sufis, of Islam, use sandalwood to mark the graves of their deceased.
They believe that sandalwood helps guide their soul into the next life.
Sufi Islam is not the only culture with this belief.
Sustainability of Sandalwood
Unfortunately, due to their intense cultivation, some species of sandalwood are at risk of facing extinction. These species are ‘antalum album’ of India, and ‘S. paniculatum’ of Hawaii. There is a lot of demand for these plants and their derivatives.
If you’re concerned about the sustainability of sandalwood, you could always simply burn a variety which is not being over-harvested. One example is ‘S. Spicatum’, a variant of sandalwood which is grown in Australia. However, keep in mind, one day these may start to become over-harvested as well.