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The basic ingredients are bamboo sticks, paste (generally made of charcoal dust and joss/jiggit/gum/tabu powder - an adhesive made from the bark of litsea glutinosa and other trees),[3] and the perfume ingredients - which would be a masala (mixed) powder of ground ingredients. The bamboo stick is rolled into the masala, or is sometimes rolled into a perfume liquid consisting of synthetic ingredients. Stick machines are sometimes used, which coat the sticks with paste and perfume, though the bulk of production is done by hand-rolling at home. There are about 5,000 incense companies in India which take raw un-perfumed sticks hand-rolled by approximately 200,000 women working part-time at home, apply their own brand of perfume, and package the sticks for sale.[4] An experienced home-worker can produce 4,000 raw sticks a day.[5] There are about 25 main companies, who together account for up to 30% of the market, and around 500 of the companies, including a significant number of the main companies, are based in Bangalore.


Halmaddi or mattipal is an ingredient which forms the basis of the 'sticky' quality in some hand-rolled incense sticks. It is an earth coloured liquid resin drawn from the Ailanthus triphysa tree; molasses-like when it is fresh and hardens to a brittle resin with a distinctive balsamic smell when it ages. Some incense makers mix it with honey in order to keep it pliable.

Ayurvedic principles

In accordance with Ayurvedic principles, the ingredients that go into incense-making may be categorized into five classes: ether (fruits), for example star anise; water (stems and branches), for example sandalwood, aloeswood, cedar wood, cassia, frankincense, myrrh, and borneol; earth (roots), for example turmeric, vetiver, ginger, costus root, valerian, Indian spikenard; fire (flowers), for example clove; and air (leaves), for example patchouli.