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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Sandalwood

Sandalwood Miniature Sheet
The Sandalwood tree is currently found in India, Sri Lanka, Australia, China, Taiwan, Hawaii, and some other South Pacific islands. In India the tree grows mainly in the States of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Botanically it is known as "Santalum album" and belongs to the Santalacea family and is a hemi parasite. As the tree grows, the essential oil develops in its roots and heartwood, which is the core of the sandalwood tree, and this can take upto 15 to 20 years. It is interesting to note that the sandalwood tree is not felled. Instead the tree is uprooted in the rainy season, when its roots are rich in the precious oil. It is said that one ton of the heartwood can yield upto 60 Kgs of oil.

Sandalwood tree is also valued for its wood and bark. The powdered bark is the main ingredient for making of "Agarbattis" or incense sticks, and the wood is used for carving. It is not commonly used as a construction material, but used to build temples and its aroma has lingered on through the centuries.

Powder or paste made with sandal wood is a traditional medicine. Along with the oil, it is used to treat a variety of ailments ranging from snakebites, respiratory tract and digestive complications, to skin problems, and also to nourish and beautify the skin. The fragrance of sandalwood is useful in aromatherapy, to relieve stress and depression.
Little wonder then that sandalwood is a very precious commodity. Commerce in sandalwood dates back to the beginnings of trade in India and Indian sandalwood is now quite rare and expensive. In 1792, the ruler of Mysore (part of present day Karnataka) had declared the sandalwood as a royal tree and, even today, no individual in India may own a sandalwood tree. All sandalwood trees in India are owned by the Government, and their harvest is strictly controlled. Nevertheless, it is a sad fact that the illegal felling and export of sandalwood is not uncommon, and this poses a serious threat to the tree and its habitat.
Sandalwood is an integral part of the Indian heritage, which we need to treasure and conserve. This is the first perfumed stamp brought out by India Post.