Sunday, June 24, 2007

Oudh (Aquilaria Agallocha)

NTRODUCTION
Agarwood tree is one of the precious gift of nature to the mankind, its sweet fragnance has no parallel in the world. It belongs to the genus Aquilaria of family Thymeleaceae. The genus Aquilaria agallocha, Aquilaria malaccensis and Aquilaria khasiana in the North East India of which Aquilaria agallocha. The agarwood (black resinous wood) or 'agaru' and agar oil (the essential oil) or agar attar are the most exalted perfumery raw materials obtained from the infected wood of this Aquilaria spp. The agar wood oil or aloe wood oil, known in the east as agar attar is obtained by distilling selected parts of the infected wood of Aquilaria spp. The oil is one of the perfumery's oldest materials used in high-class perfumery and as a fixative, imparting a lasting balasamic odour to the product.
HISTORY OF AGARWOOD
The use of 'agaru' is pre-historic. The Aloe wood as in the Bible was the heartwood of Aquilaria ovata and Aquilaria agallocha. The Aloes referred to in the Bible was evidently a very aromatic plant and most probably the agarwood. There are mentions of the use of Aloe wood (Udul-Hind) in Paradise as incense in the famous Ahadith-Sahi Al-Bukhari. There are mentions of 'agaru' of ancient Kamrup in the report of Chinese Pilgrim Hiuen-Tsang, Abhijnanam Sakuntalam of Kalidas, and Arthosasthra of Koutilya. The first historical biographies in Sanskrit the Harshacharita written by Bana in 652 AD states tha tthe presents sent by Bhaskaravarman to Harsha included among other things, voulmes of fine writings in leaves made of aloe bark (bark of agar plant) and black aloe oil. There is mention in the Sabhaparvan of the Mahabharata that in the course of Digvijaya Bhimsena went to Pragjyotish and recevied sandalwood and aloewood (agaru) as presents. The Nowgong grant of Balavarman gives a graphic description of Pragjyotishanagara where arecanut trees were wrapped in leaves of creeper or betel-plants and Krishnaguru (Telegu or Tamil name of Agarwood) or black aloe-wood trees were surrounded with cardamom creepers.
After Conquering the capital of last king Gaur Govind in 1384 A.D. in Sylhet Saint Fakir Shah Jalal (RA) and his followers found agar wood and agar attar along with many other valuables in the Royal store. This indicates that distillation of agar oil was done during thirteen century or even early in India. Abul Fazal Allami in his Ain-I-Akbari (memoir of Emperor Akbar) written in about 1590 AD. gave a vivid description of agarwood and agar oil along with their manufacturing process and uses. It is also said that Mughal invaded Assam mainly for'agaru'.
From Kamrup 'agaru' had been exported to the Middle East from time immemorial may be by the Chinese traders through the Silk road which extended from China to Middle-East through Kamrup and then India. During those days in Kamrup 'Agaru' and Chandan (Santalum album L.) were the main items of cosmetics as there are mentions of these two articles in different old scriptures of Kamrup like Ramayan translated by Madhava Kandali. The 15th century Saint-Reformer and Literary Giant Sri Sankardev used bark of the tree as 'Sanchipat' for writing religious scripts which is still being preserved in many places. In a devotional verse, he described the 'Agaru' and the Chandan plant as divine, capable of fulfulling human desires. In folk songs also there are mentions of 'agaru'.
During 1900 plentiful extraction of the perfumed wood (agaru) was done in various parts of undivided Assam. Assam 'agaru' used to go to Calcutta and from there to Turkey, Arabia, Parsia and Europe. At present Indian 'agaru' is largely exported to Arab countries where it is used as incense and also in the manufacture of joss sticks.
THE TREE
It is a large to medium evergreen tree 15-20 m high, sometimes grow upto 40 m high as is found in Barak Valley, 1.5-2.5 m girth with a moderately straight and often fluted stem. Leaves 5-9 cm long, thinly cariaceous, oblong lanceolate; floweres white or green to dirty yello in terminal, sessile or shortly peduncled umbellate cymes. The tree regenerates freely by seeds. The fungus infected trees furnish the agarwood or eaglewood of commerce which occurs as dark coloured resinous fragrant masses in the center of the bole and branches. The normal (uninfected) wood is soft, light and elastic. It is white to pale yelloish white and has no particular odour.
HOW THE TREE BECOMES SO VALUABLE
The tree becomes valuable only after getting infected by a particular fungus or group of fungi, ceases to grow and become sick in the population stand. The agar oil or 'Agaru' is thus a product of disease caused by certain fungus. The infection occurs when stem is injured or bored by larvae of a particular stem borer (Zeuzera conferta Walker) belonging to the family Lepidoptera. These borers make vertical tunnels (hollow and zigzag) inside the tree trunk and thus the surface of the tunnels become the initial sites for infections. Later on infections spread on all sides slowly and gradually and ultimately a larger wood volume become infected.
Infection may also occur due to mechanical or natural injuries on the stem or branches. Due ot infections oleoresins are accumulated in the infected wood and later become odoriferous. At the inital stage infection appears as brown streaks in the tissue. Accumulation of oleoresin goes on increasing with the increase of infection area, as well as aging of infection. More oleoresin deposits which results increase in the depth of colour of infected wood and finally it become brown to black. Heavy and old age infection may lead to death of the plant. thus, the yield of 'agaru' depends on insect-fungal interaction on the host plant since there is no special cells or glands to synthesize the oil, as found in other essential oil bearing plants.

3 comments:

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Anonymous said...

dear Han,
can you contact me at hongkongyeo@hotmail.com

We need to discuss Agar further.

Balaji said...

Dear Han,

I am a businessman from India having a good base in Singapore and Dubai.

I am very much interested in Agarwood business. You can contact me in my mail id sbccbalaji@gmail.com. will discuss and move forward for mutual benefits.