Sandalwood and Carrion: Smell in Indian Religion and Culture
McHugh describes sophisticated arts of perfumery, developed in temples, monasteries, and courts, which resulted in worldwide ocean trade. He shows that various religious discourses on the purpose of life emphasized the pleasures of the senses, including olfactory experience, as a valid end in themselves. Fragrances and stenches were analogous to certain values, aesthetic or ethical, and in a system where karmic results often had a sensory impact-where evil literally stank-the ethical and aesthetic became difficult to distinguish.
Sandalwood and Carrion explores smell in pre-modern India from many perspectives, covering such topics as philosophical accounts of smell perception, odors in literature, the history of perfumery in India, the significance of sandalwood in Buddhism, and the divine offering of perfume to the gods.
a book that will long stand out for bringing the text back in after the embodied turn in the history of religion, and doing so with the utmost erudition and nuance, like a fine perfume. (David Howes, Journal of the American Academyof Religion)
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