Sandalwood paste is an integral part of Indian culture. Sandalwood paste is called Chandanam or Gandham in India. Indian women from time immemorial used sandalwood paste to beautify their skin. They decorate their face with smearing of sandalwood paste on their face either as a dot in the forehead of a strip on the cheeks. Priests use sandalwood paste to decorate the utensils used for ritual puja. In some temples, Gods are given ceremonial bath in sandalwood paste mixed in water known as chandanaabhishekam. For particular idols of Gods sandalwood paste is given a layer of coating called chandanampoota and the dried chandanam, after scaling it from the deity, is distributed to the devotees as a sacred prasadam.
For marriages or religious functions, guests are traditionally welcomed by smearing sandalwood paste on the either sides of the cheeks, for ladies and on the wrist for gents. There will be a traditional welcome plate in which, silver items like rose water sprinkler called panneer buddy, gandhamginni, scent bottle and few flowers are placed. When guests come to the function few ladies stand at the entrance and first sprinkle rose water, then they smear chandanam paste, apply few drops of perfume and give them flowers.This is a traditional way of welcoming the guests. The Sandalwood paste is stored in a vessel called Gandhamginni in Telugu and Chandanamkinnam in Tamil. These lovely chandanam pots come in different designs, shapes and materials. I happened to collect two such vintage chandanam pots and with great pleasure I introduce them to you.
Gandhamginni in White metal
This Sandalwood paste bowl is hand made with White metal. It has a beautiful shape with a round base and a conical cup, both connected with a vertical handle. There are vertical ribbed embossed lines with graceful flow on the entire surface of the cup. These vertical lines add to the aesthetics of the body apart from serving as a grip for holding the cup by the middle of the cup. There is also lovely design around the upper portion of the cup. There is a ring like rim on the top of the cup. This strong rim serves the purpose of not only giving sturdiness to the cup but also keeps the cup in shape. The rim also helps in preventing the slippage of the cup when held from the top side.There is also an embossed cute design on the base of the cup.There is a nice vertical grip holder between the base and the cup long enough to allow two fingers to have a tight grip of the holder. I have purchased this cup from an antique shop in Chennai in 1973, approximately 40 years back.The antique dealer told me that it was in their shop for a long time and he could not tell me how old it is. I guess that it must be 50 years old at the time of my purchase thus working out to be around 90 years old. The cup is relatively big in size for a sandalwood paste container indicating that this cup is used in a temple, where the chandanam usage is high compared to domestic usage.
GandhamGinni in Silver
This silver chandanam pot is having similar shape as that of the white metal Gandhamginni. In fact this is a typical shape of a sandalwood paste container, with a base, a conical shape of cup with wide mouth at the end of the cup to facilitate easy picking up the paste with two fingers usually with the second and the middle finger joined together. The base and the cup are joined by a vertical holder. There are beautiful carvings on the base and on the cup. The rim is wider with a lotus petals design. This silver chandanam pot is used in the homes only for special occasions. This wonderful silver cup is presented to me and my wife by our family friend Shri. Vasireddy Suryanarayana garu in the year 1967, meaning it is 45 years old.
What is white metal
White metal is an alloy of metals like tin, cadmium, antimony, lead, zinc and bismuth. It is not necessary that all these metal should be there for formation of white metal. Basing on the purpose and usage the metals can be selectively chosen to get the desired effect. For example the base white metal used for making jewelry should have good flow characteristics, castable, ability to cast fine details and polish able. One can easily see all the characteristics in the white metal used for making the sandalwood paste bowl.
How Sandalwood paste is made:
The sandalwood paste is made by rubbing the sandalwood on a stone. Granite stones are available in market in various sizes and shapes. For making the paste sandalwood piece of handy size is used. First water is sprinkled on the stone and the sandalwood piece is rubbed on the stone with mild pressure. Little drops of water are added to the rubbing process to maintain the consistency of the paste.Once required quantity of paste is obtained it is drained into a bowl called Gandhamginni in Telugu, Chandanamkinnam in Tamil. These vessels are available in decorative designs made with variety of metals like brass, white metal, silver and gold.
Benefits of sandalwood paste
There are two types of Sandalwood trees. One type is red sandalwood and the other type is white sandalwood. Red sandalwood is famous for its medicinal properties. The white sandalwood is known for its skin care properties. White sandalwood is enriched with anti-inflammatory, astringent, antiseptic, disinfectant and emollient properties. This sandalwood is used to treat skin rashes, dark spots, blackheads, skin blemishes and to get a spot-less fair complexion. To get the excellent benefits of sandalwood ,one can use pure sandalwood paste or with the combination of other skin care items like rose water, turmeric, black gram and honey to enhance the skin health and tonal quality.
Sandalwood is also used for incense material like incense sticks and powder cones. Sandalwood has been in use since 4,000 years in India, China and Japan in the temples and houses as incense material. Its oil is used in perfume industry.
The botanical name of the Sandal tree is Santalum Albumand belongs to the family of Santalaceae. It is a medium sized tree that grows to a height ranging 10 to 15 meters. It will take 60 to 80 years for the tree to reach its maturity. The richest oil content is available from the sandal tree when the center of the slender trunk (the heart wood) reaches the maturity. The essential oil develops in the roots and in the heart wood as the tree grows at least to an age of 20 years. Since the roots are also precious due to availability of oil in them, the sandal tree is not cut but is uprooted to save the roots in the rainy season, when the soil is soft and the oil is at its best in the roots.The sandal trees in the forests of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu produce the best quality of the oil.