History of Agarwood in Sylhet

The Sylheti region has long had a history of producing excellent quality Agarwood trees and oils.

Ancient Indian texts refer to the outstanding quality of Agarwood from the Kingdom of Kamarupa (also called Pragjyotisha) – present day Sylhet and west of Assam.

The Arthashastra, a treatise on statecraft, economic policy and military strategy dating from the 4th century BCE also mentions various grades of Agarwood from this region.

In the epic Mahabharata the King of Pragjyotisha is also described as burning Agarwood as an incense.

In the Harshasharita from the 7th Century it is part of the present from the Raja Bhaskara of Kamarupa to the Emperor Harsha of Kanauj:

Volumes of fine writing with leaves made from aloe bark… thick bamboo tubes containing… black aloe oil… bundles contained in sacks of woven silk and consisting of black aloe dark as pounded collyrium.

Even in Hindu texts such as the Vedas, the rivers and mountains of Kamarupa are talked about including precious Agarwood trees.

In the early 14th Century, when Shah Jalal and his 360 companions escape from tyranny of Raja Gaur Vinda, they discover treasure in the form of Agarwood and Agarwood oil.

It is these holy men, highly respected even today, who bring Islam to the region.

From even centuries back the aristocracy and the Hindu and Muslim elite, especially the Mughals, have loved the fragrant aromas from Sylhet.

Due to increased demand in Agarwood new plantations were planted around 400 years ago in the township of Suzanagar.

Today this area is the main production of Agarwood in the Indian subcontinent.

It should also be noted that before the partition of India in 1947, the people of Sylhet had the monopoly of trade in timber and Agarwood oil as well as distillation.

Assamese plantations were first planted in 1921 and after partition many experts from Sylhet were hired to assist Assamese growers to help improve quality.

It is for this reason that most of the wood and Agarwood oil in Assam actually can be traced back to Sylhet.

Ultimately Agarwood and its Oud oil from Sylhet is unparalleled in the entire world and a true natural wealth which we at Jalali Agarwood are custodians of for generations to come.

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