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Sandalwood: A Highly Fragrant Wood

Sandalwood is one of the members of the class of fragrant woods. It has been placed in the genus Santalum and also yields an essential oil of high economic value. The wood is heavy, yellow coloured with fine granular structure. Unlike other aromatic woods it is known to retain its fragrance lasting for decades. The sandalwood fragrance is very appealing and has got a number of applications. It has been valued and treasured since times immemorial. It is in demand for its fragrance, carving, medical, and religious qualities.

They are medium-sized hemiparasitic trees. The most important members of the genus Santalum are the Indian and Australian sandalwood trees. Several other members of the genus are also cultivated all across India, Australia, Indonesia, and the Pacific Islands. For the commercial production of this highly valuable wood with essential oils requires a mature tree which must be of about 8 years of age. Generally trees more than 14 years of age are most preferred. At present Australia is the largest producer of these woods where the trees are grown around Kununurra, Western Australia. Sandalwood is extracted by toppling the whole tree. The valuable wood from the stump and root can be sold or processed for the extraction of essential oil. The essential oil provides the perfumes a strong wood base note. When used in small amount it acts as a strong fixative enhancing the value of the perfume.

The essential oil is widely used in commercial production of a wide variety of cosmetics. Since the tree is a fully protected species its demand is very high and cannot be met in pure form. Sandalwood paste is largely used in a number of rituals and ceremonies in Hinduism. It is also offered to the devotees to put on the forehead as well as on neck after the rituals. The paste is prepared by the priests only. The paste is prepared by grinding wood pieces with hand on granite slabs and little water and saffron is also added later on.