Incense is aromatic biotic material which releases fragrant smoke when burned. The term refers to the material itself, rather than to the aroma that it produces. Incense is used for aesthetic reasons, and in therapy, meditation, and ceremony. It may also be used as a simple deodorant or insectifuge.
Incense is composed of aromatic plant materials, often combined with essential oils. The forms taken by incense differ with the underlying culture, and have changed with advances in technology and increasing diversity in the reasons for burning it. Incense can generally be separated into two main types: "indirect-burning" and "direct-burning". Indirect-burning incense (or "non-combustible incense") is not capable of burning on its own, and requires a separate heat source. Direct-burning incense (or "combustible incense") is lit directly by a flame and then fanned or blown out, leaving a glowing ember that smoulders and releases fragrance. Direct-burning incense is either a paste formed around a bamboo stick, or a paste that is extruded into a stick or cone shape.
Incense sticks also called agarbattis are fragranced sticks used from ancient period by people all over the world. The evolution of incense stick could be from the burning of aromatic woods in the primitive period. As mankind gained civilization and became more religious, these fragranced agarbattis played important role in daily rituals.
India is largest incense stick maker and currently the export market for the sector is about Rs 450 crore. With the demand for branded agarbatti (incense sticks) growing at nearly 15 per cent every year.
Kolkata has the largest market for sale of incense sticks or agarbattis by volume in the country at Rs. 150 crore or so, in the Rs. 1,000 crore national agarbatti market. As a large portion of the market was still unorganised but conservative estimates complied for last fiscal indicated that incense stick sales were growing at 7-8 per cent per annum.