According to history, the burning of incense can be dated back to 3700 BC, about 5700 years ago, and owes its origin to India. Records suggest that during the reign of Oink Dynasty, a Buddhist monk traveled to China and introduced the country with the fragrant world of incense , a love which later spread to all neighboring countries and cultures. Across beliefs incense became a symbol of peace, tranquility, spirituality and a medium to connect with the divine form. Though available in several forms like cones, packs and powder, the sticks became the most popular form of incense. Most of the religions deemed burning incense sticks as a mandatory ritual in any religious ceremony. Yet interestingly every religion had a different view on the number of sticks to be burnt.
Fengshui : the ages old belief of Fengshui advocates burning only odd number of incense sticks. The odd number, as per it, are lucky numbers evoking prosperity, luck and happiness. 1 stick or single stick is a symbol of dedication towards God and submission of heart and soul in the feet of the almighty and the ancestors. 3 sticks in Fengshui denotes human, heaven and earth, and are burnt to offer special prayers. Number 5 in Fengshui represents 5 crucial life elements namely, metal, earth, wood, water and fire, and also represent 5 directions of heaven and earth, and 5 directions of God, thus bearing a cluster of 5 incense sticks as holy and spiritual. Number 7 and number 9 are deemed as symbol of people’s spirit when they wish for personal favors.
Hinduism: according to Hinduism the number of incense sticks or agarbattis, to be burnt depends on the ritual to be performed and the deity to be worshipped. While Lord Shiva is appeased with 3 agarbattis, Godess Laxmi and Lord Vishnu are said to favor 1 incense stick to be burnt in front of them. Mother Godess Durga and Lod Ganesha are worshipped by lighting 5 agarbattis and Lord Kartikeya or Muruga is said to be happy with 6 incense sticks burning. The great lord Kaal Bhairava and Goddess Mahakali are worshipped by burning 8 agar battis and also the God of the family, Kul Devta or Family Deity is prayed by burning 8 agarbattis. Even the black magic calls for minimum 8 agarbattis to be burnt in the process.
Budhhism: 1 insence stick in Buddhism denotes unity, a fusion of male and female and an emancipation of ‘incense of the heart’, breaking free of all taboos and achieving mental freedom from all negativities. In an upheaval in life Buddhism suggests to light 3 agar battis to promote a journey from instability to equilibrium and peace. 5 insence sticks are offered to the Mother Goddess of Forest seeking protection. every year on the 15th day of the seventh moon, 7 incense sticks are supposed to be burnt for the harmony of the wandering souls. These sticks are offer in front of any big banyan tree as a symbol of peace to the spirits.
Burning incense sticks is though a small act but is deemed to beckon the blessing of lord, ancestors and evokes prosperity. Across the world incense is a symbol of holiness and peace and all rituals are considered incomplete without lighting these fragrant sticks.