We use different types of fragrances in cosmetics, soaps, oils, air fresheners, body lotions or different types of smoke. No matter how we use them, these fragrances have their source in nature. All these natural fragrances are created by mixing different ingredients through different processes. Bangladesh has a variety of sources for different types of fragrances, such as different varieties of fragrant flowers, cinnamon, sandalwood, nutmeg and musk or mrignavi etc. On the other hand, fragrance is also available from the wood of agar tree. Agarbatis are very familiar to us. We have been familiar with it since childhood. Agarbatis are used in various religious ceremonies at home, mahallas, mosques or temples. Where does this incense come from? There is a type of plant called agar. The agarbatti we use is prepared from that agar plant. Various types of fragrances and perfumes are made from this plant. Agar-Atar is made by processing the agar plant.
Agar plant is widely cultivated in our country and there is a lot of potential for agar cultivation in this country. Agar tree has been cultivated for a long time in different regions of Greater Sylhet district of Bangladesh. Cultivation of this agar plant is approximately five to six hundred years old. The word Agar means fragrant wood. The name Agar is derived from a combination of different languages. The English name of this wood is Aloe wood or Wagle wood. The exact history of which country and when the first cultivation of agarwood started is not known. However, it is assumed that the original habitat of the agar plant is in the rain forest of Southeast Asia. In some parts of the agar plant, a special type of black colored wood can be seen. This black colored wood is called agar wood. Commonly cultivated species of agar plant in Bangladesh are Aquilaria agallucha and Aquilaria malaccenesis. The agar plant is a member of the Thymelaeaceae family.
Agar is a tall tree without branches, although it looks like a palm tree. The leaves of this plant look a bit like litchi leaves. The flowers are white in color and the fruits are capsule like. The tree is about 15 meters to 40 meters tall. The fragrance is extracted from the wood of this tree. Agar is produced commercially from agar plants mainly artificially i.e. by nailing the plant. Agar is also produced naturally from agar plants. However, it takes a long time to produce agar naturally. It usually takes 25 to 30 years for a plant to produce agar naturally. When the tree is 5 to 10 years old, agar naturally accumulates in the tree. The wood of the tree has a black color in various places and takes about 4 to 6 years to mature. This black part of agar plant is called agar wood. This agar wood is locally known as mal.
In nature, a type of insect usually creates wounds by piercing the agar plant. Fungus attacks these wounds. The plant produces a dark brown or black coating around the wound to protect itself. The lining around the plant’s wound is the main source of fragrance. *****From this idea that agar is produced from artificial wounds, people started to create wounds by sticking stars or nails into the plants. Commercially, when the plant is old enough to produce agar, the plant is artificially scarred by piercing the star. Agar accumulates at the wound site. Perfume is produced at this wound site. Thus it is possible to produce fragrance from agar plant in relatively short time by artificial means. 10 to 12 years old, 10 to 12 inch diameter agar plants are planted with star in a row. In this method, the star is embedded at 4 to 5 inch intervals starting from the bottom of the tree to the top. Each tree trunk has numerous stars killed. It seems that the agar trees are standing with the pain of the star.
When applying the star to the tree, half of the star, i.e. one and a half to two inches of the star, is inserted into the trunk of the tree. About 8 to 10 kg of star is embedded in each agar plant. As the plant grows, the outer part of the nail penetrates into the trunk. Fungal attack occurs in the star cluster. In 5 to 6 years, the wood around the star develops a black coating. Star formation depends on the age, girth and size of the tree.
A full-grown agar tree is cut and first the upper white covering is removed and the inner black and white wood is collected. It is then cut into pieces and sliced. The slits are called Dhum in the local language. The asterisks are carefully removed from the slices so as not to spoil the agar. The cuttings are carefully and neatly bottled to gradually separate the white wood adhering to the black (agar) wood so that the agars remain intact. This is actually known as agar wood. Agarwood produces a special black colored wood known as agar wood. In the local language that is called Mal. Locally those who identify agarwood are called Gurgals. This wood is sold directly in the Middle East. This agar wood is very popular in Arab countries. Put agar wood in a bowl and light the fire. Surroundings are filled with aroma but this wood does not emit smoke like normal wood.
After cutting the tree into pieces, the black and white parts are separated. The black wood parts are separated and soaked in drums. After soaking in this way, the fragrance gets mixed in the water. After soaking for 15 to 25 days it is burnt. Then the black part is soaked again. The agar oil (fragrance) accumulated at the bottom of the vessel is collected by a process of evaporation and cooling by straining the soaking water and burning the water. This oil is exported abroad which has been used as a raw material for various perfumes for a long time. A type of aroma is also obtained from white wood and bark. After burning, black wood, white wood and bark are dried and crushed and then this powder is rolled into balls and dried and marketed. This ball is also called Agarbati. They emit the same smoke and aroma when burned like tall incense sticks. Agarwood powder is used to prepare long agarbattis which we get in stores.
Agar aroma and agar oil are used to prepare various medicines, perfumes, soaps, shampoos, etc. Agar-attar and agarbati are used as fragrances in various religious and social events. Agarwood powder is also used as a fragrance like incense. People of different religions use agar-attar and agarwood powder or agarbatis.
Agarwood can be planted in almost all types of land. But agar tree grows well in hilly or hilly land. Besides, agar trees can be planted in house yards, roadsides, fallow land, hill slopes, hills and abandoned places. The seeds are collected from the fruit which looks like a capsule. The germination capacity of seeds is very short. The best time to sow seeds is March-April. First, the seeds are sprinkled on the bed of sand and then covered with sand again. About 20 to 25 days after the seeds germinate, the seedlings are transferred to polybags. Temporary sheds are required for growing seedlings. Regular watering is required. Monsoon season is the best time to plant agar plant. Bio-compost and chemical fertilizers can be applied to each hole at the time of planting. At the time of planting, it is better to maintain a distance of 5 to 6 feet from one row to another and 3 to 4 feet from plant to plant. Usually one to two year old agar seedlings are planted to become trees. It is better to make holes 16 inches deep and apply rotted cow dung and manure before planting. Irrigation should be done during dry season and weed control should be done as necessary.
Natural agar is more expensive. The cost of agar made from nailing to trees is relatively low. Production of agar perfume is a very profitable business. It is possible to get more profit by investing less capital in this business. However, agar is not widely used in our country. Bangladeshi agar wood demand is high in Middle East countries. Exporting this wood abroad earns a lot of foreign exchange every year. A kg of agar wood is sold from a minimum of two thousand to a maximum of two lakh rupees. The price of an agarwood tree can range from 5 to 10 lakhs. Various research studies have shown that investing in agar afforestation can yield huge returns. Many families are involved in the agar industry in Bangladesh. Many men and women are employed. Agar products are exporting foreign currency to Dubai and other countries. Due to the plantation of agar trees, the balance of the environment is being protected and at the same time soil erosion is being prevented. In Bangladesh, agar is not being cultivated in the amount of arable land that has the potential to be cultivated. Agar cultivation is limited in and around Baralekha Upazila of Moulvibazar district of Bangladesh due to lack of proper nutrition and management. However, it is said that its cultivation has started in Muktagachha Upazila of Mymensingh district. Large-scale cultivation requires massive public and private initiatives. Agar industry has the potential to take the future of Bangladesh much further.