The Perfumed History of Dhup, Nepal’s Traditional Hand-Rolled Rope Incense
In Nepal, where I lived in the early aughts, cultural treasures abound, including seven groups of historic Buddhist and Hindu monuments, palaces, temples, and stupas dappled across the Kathmandu Valley that together form a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was within these intricately carved buildings that I first smelled the ambrosial aromas emitted by the traditional Nepalese rope incense called dhup (sometimes spelled “dhoop”). Found in nearly every home in the South Asian country, dhup is most closely associated with the Newar people, historical inhabitants of the Kathmandu Valley who are renowned across the Himalayan foothills for their artisanal craftsmanship, which they used to build many of Nepal’s temples. In addition to religious ceremonies, people in Nepal use the incense to calm the soul during meditation, to aid in Shamanic healing processes, and as a natural air freshener.