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The disputed civets and the complexion of the god: secretions and history in India.

In 2002 the civet and its odorous secretion hit the news in India. The newspaper The Hindu reported that at the temple of Venkatesvara at Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh the temple authorities (or Tirumala Tirupati Devathanams: TTD) were rearing nine civets in the Sri Venkategvara dairy farm in order to collect their secretions, which are used to anoint the sacred image in the temple every Friday. This article reported that the animal is endangered, and that since captive breeding is not feasible the future of procuring the animals was in danger, as was the ritual of anointing with civet. (1) The story seems to have resurfaced in 2008, when we read again in The Hindu that the civets kept at the temple dairy farm had actually been confiscated, as "rearing them in captivity violated the provisions of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972." The animal apparently smears its secretion on twigs, and this material is collected to be used in the temple. The latter article also notes that in the context of a request by the temple authorities to have the animals returned to the temple, "It was also contended in the representations that the withdrawal of Punugu oil from the ingredients used during the 'abhishekam' as prescribed in the Vaikhanasa Agamas amounted to interference with the age-old religious practices." And, the article continues, "Justifying the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams' case for permission to possess the civet cats as part of the temple paraphernalia such as elephants, horses, oxen etc, and [sic] the representation cited the practice of using fallen peacock feathers in temples for rituals. The same analogy could be applied in this case also, the representation noted." In addition to the force of tradition and scripture, this article also notes that "The civet according to temple priests and wildlife sources has miraculous properties of keeping the stone of the Moolavirat [that is to say, the main stone image] smooth, fresh and free from splits and cankers." (2) Another article from August 2008 notes that it is unlikely that the civet cats will be returned to the temple. This article adds the details that the temple authorities had "pitched a sandalwood pole in its dairy farm (Goshala) where it reared the civet cats to scoop the secretion periodically." And this later article also notes a possible solution to the problem: the temple authorities could fund an enclosure for the civets at the zoo and collect the civet in return. (3)

Anyone who has ever studied the history of perfumery in pre-modern India might be surprised to learn that civet is such a key material in this apparently orthodox context. Scholars of Sanskrit texts are no doubt familiar with references to musk (kasturika) and sandalwood (candana), but it is unlikely that they will ever have come across civet, a material one does not tend to associate with Indian perfumery. Yet here was civet, a stinking cat secretion, in South India, considered a vital part of the weekly adornment of the main image of Venkatesvara in the temple at Tirumala. This is the same weekly process of cleaning and perfuming that involves the replacement of the most famous aromatic adornment of this image, the large white trapezoid mass of molded borneol camphor that adorns the forehead of the image, bisected by a groove filled with a dark-colored paste of musk and sandalwood. As I shall argue in this article, it turns out, on closer examination of a broad range of sources, that civet-like materials, by various names, were one of the more important types of perfume in India during much of the second millennium C.E. Indeed, civet was perhaps one of the most characteristic perfumes of the sixteenth century from Amsterdam to Delhi; yet only centuries previously it was unheard of.

By studying the history of civet in pre-modern India I hope to answer the following questions. First, why is one of the most revered Hindu temple images in India anointed with what nowadays might seem to be a rather strange and possibly unappealing substance?

Civet is not mentioned in our sources until the late first millennium C.E., and within a few centuries this material is all the rage. Yet the animal itself was there all along, being native to many parts of Asia and Africa. How does a substance, and such a peculiar substance, go from complete obscurity to being a royal perfume within such a short time? More abstractly, how does a material gain a use value and an exchange value?

Moreover, how did Indian perfumery practices and olfactory tastes develop over the second millennium C.E., a period when a long-established "Sanskritic" and Indic tradition of (exotic, cosmopolitan) perfumery encountered what we might call Indo-Persian courtly cultures, which added new practices and terminologies to the mix? That is to say, what happens when two cultural practices--two styles of perfumery--that are intrinsically and overtly prone to value the exotic interact? I hope this study will expose certain major gaps in our knowledge concerning the trade and use of some materials during this period, and the article will also highlight the strengths of different types of textual sources for the study of material culture.

Finally, as a methodology, can studying material culture together with textual culture (i.e., representations of materials) tell us anything that studying texts and materials separately cannot, especially in a period when, as the work of Sheldon Pollock has shown, the relations of certain languages to high textual culture were being reconfigured in South Asia? (4)

In exploring these questions I shall primarily focus on Sanskrit texts as they relate to patterns of consumption of civet in India, the manner in which civet is represented, and the practices these texts describe. I will nevertheless frequently gesture towards other sources--such as accounts of European travelers, Indo-Muslim texts, texts in South Indian languages, the contexts of other perfumery traditions, trade, and even the geographical distribution of species. These other, quite diverse, sources will help both enrich our understanding of civet-in-Sanskrit, as well as exposing productive areas for further study.

Perfumes are an illuminating aspect of material culture to study as both their material ingredients and the words used to refer to these aromatics make explicit the fact that in any transfer of cultural materials the materials involved are already mixed and hybrid. (5) But merely to observe the fact of hybridity or syncretism is quite inconsequential. In the case of perfumes we often see what one might call overt, deliberate, and intrinsic hybridity. Not only are blended perfumes layered combinations of aromatic materials and foreign terminologies, but their culturally mixed nature was frequently celebrated, from the writings of Pliny and Indian, Arab, or Chinese sources all the way to the flagrant orientalism one sometimes sees in perfume marketing today. (6) Love of the exotic and the flaunting of the foreign nature of materials celebrate contact and cultural-material admixture, though typically this is represented as a movement of materials from a strange luxurious periphery to the civilized center.

Translation and mixing of names, substances, and practices is a common denominator in perfumery traditions, so here I will consider one case and observe how the style and direction of translation varied, particularly the sites of translation and the precise manner and language in which these developments took place. Although complex, the situation is not impossibly opaque and I hope to be able to unravel at least some of the tangle of interactions in the case of this one substance.

But how are we to go about studying the history of civet? In Objects of Translation, Finbarr Flood (2009: 9) notes that studies of eighth-to thirteenth-century South Asian history often rely on texts, and even when scholars have consulted inscriptions these have been disembodied from their material contexts. Instead he proposes to highlight things as sources, that is to say, material culture. The study of a historical aromatic, however, differs from the study of architecture and art, in that the nature of our sources compels us to think about both texts and things. On the one hand I wish to study the material civet itself, as produced, traded, processed, and consumed. Yet, I also intend to look at transformations and diversity within textual representations of this material--changes in the names given to it, the properties attributed to it, and the contexts in which it was described. It would appear that the same (or a similar) substance is, in an earlier Sanskrit textual inflection, just one aromatic among others. Then, just a few centuries later, under the guise of a Sanskritized Arabic or Persian term, and also in South Indian languages, this perfume is represented as prestigious and regal. It is even explicitly linked to a figure strongly associated with high Sanskrit literary culture, King Bhoja of Dhar. The changes in thinking, classification, and description manifest in the written sources on civet are interrelated to the changes in practice in a manner that is dialectical--textual representations and actual practices reinforced each other. The history of perfumery (like that of food, drink, and materia medica) is particularly well suited to such a history, for with historical perfumes we possess only texts, and no surviving perfumes. Furthermore, these transcultural materials were traded over vast distances and both names and practices associated with them traveled widely.


What exactly do I mean by "civet"? Civet can refer to an animal called the civet cat, of which there are several species. These are not true cats, but rather belong to the family Viverridae. This animal has, in fact, been in the news more than once of late. One type of civet was linked to the crossover to humans of the virus that caused the disease SARS, and occasionally one also hears about something called civet coffee, consisting of the excreted coffee beans eaten by a type of civet that lives in coffee plantations. But in this article I generally refer to the very strong-smelling secretion obtained from a pouch located under the tail of certain species of civet cat. This material is still produced in significant quantities in Ethiopia and used in French perfumery, although a synthetic version is also available. It is a brown greasy material and it is often thought to smell extremely foul. But in dilution it smells far more pleasant and it acts as a fixative to make perfumes linger longer on the skin. English literature is no stranger to civet and its ambiguous allure, and apparently this material was quite well known in Europe from the early fifteenth century, becoming increasingly famous as a result of European expansion and discovery. The civet cat itself was a source of curiosity both in menageries and in textual accounts of other lands. (7) In Shakespeare's As You Like It (III, ii) Corin says "The courtier's hands are perfumed with civet," and Touchstone replies that "civet is of a baser birth than tar, the very uncleanly flux of a cat." The eighteenth-century poet Cowper wrote "I cannot talk with civet in the room, a fine puss gentleman that's all perfume ..." (8) As Alain Corbin explains in his excellent social history of smell in eighteenth/nineteenth-century France, The Foul and the Fragrant, this perfume, along with the better-known animal perfumes musk and ambergris, enjoyed significant popularity in seventeenth-century France, only to be rejected in the mid-eighteenth century in favor of more delicate, less arousing, floral perfumes (1986: 67). In the entry on civette (materia medica) in the Encyclopedie of Diderot and d'Alembert (3.496) we are told that this item of materia medica, the best of which has a violent odor and was at that time apparently even available from captive animals in Amsterdam, can be made into an unguent that, when smeared on the groin and lower back, could excite the venereal act.


What do we actually know about civet in India? As we have seen, the unfortunate civet, with its desirable scent pouch, is now a protected species in India, but in the late nineteenth-century Dictionary of the Economic Products of India George Watt discusses civets and their aromatic secretion--giving us an idea of how these animals fared prior to the modernization of the perfumery industry and the protection of the animal (Watt 1893, vol. 6, pt. 4, "Tectona to Zygophillium"). Watt (p. 53) mentions four species of civet in the section on Tigers, Leopards, Cats and Civets, and among these perhaps the most important for us is the small Indian civet, Viverricula malaccensis, which he states is found throughout India except Sind, Punjab, and parts of Western Rajasthan. (9) This civet is known in Hindi as Mashk-billa, katas, and kasturi, which latter Watt notes is "a name properly belonging to the musk-deer." Such civet/musk confusions are something we shall see repeatedly below and are not without significance for our analysis. Watt states that the animal is known in "Nepal Tarai" as jowadi manjar and in Kannada as punagu pilli, and adds that this type of civet cat "is frequently kept in confinement by Natives, for the purpose of yielding civet and becomes perfectly tame." On the economic product of this cat, Watt notes "Civet, the unctuous, highly odorous secretion from the anal glands of several of the VIVERRIDAE, especially Viverra zibetha, and Viverricula malaccensis, is used to a considerable extent in India, both for perfumery and for medicinal purposes. Valuable stimulant and aphrodisiac properties are ascribed to it, but probably it possesses no special powers in these respects." He continues (pp. 55-56), "Jerdon states that Viverricula malaccensis is frequently kept by Natives for the purpose of yielding the secretion, and Waring, in the Pharmacopoeia of India, mentioned an establishment at one time kept up at the expense of Government in which civets were specially reared."

So much for nineteenth-century colonial India. What do we know about civet in earlier periods in India? Consider first accounts of foreign visitors to India, as collected by Dannenfeldt (1985: 409-10). The earliest foreign reference to civet in India is apparently given by Friar Jordanus in the early fourteenth century, who reported a cat with highly odoriferous sweat, which was collected from a "certain wood" on which the animal rubbed itself. This would seem to establish that the method still used at Tirupati is very old, and it also appears to be distinctively Indian. Ludovico di Varthema apparently reported that the king of the "joghees" had civet cats in the large entourage he took on pilgrimages. Garcia de Orta in Goa observed in 1563 that Indians anointed their bodies with civet, which was "much used because the price is not high." A Dutch traveler noted that there was much civet in India, "that is to say in Bengala," though it was much adulterated and mixed with oil. Other European travelers noted the production of civet in Java and the Philippines.


How was civet represented in Indian sources and how did such representations change along with perfumery practices? In terms of Indic texts, a good place to start is medical and pharmacological literature, which is often a rich source of information on raw materials of various sorts, and here we see that the substance civet starts to be mentioned as of around the ninth or tenth centuries C.E. (10)

Civet-the-animal, called putighasa, is mentioned in the Susrutasamhita, but absent from the Carakasamhita, both texts with complex histories and highly varied estimated dates of composition, though for our purposes what matters is that both texts are dated by almost all authorities prior to the mid-first-millennium c.E. (11) On the subject of the anonymous Astanganighantu, probably from 800-1000 (HIML IIa, 118-19), Meulenbeld states that the scholar Priya Vrat Sharma takes the presence of references to civet (puti) as indicative of the date of this text as later than 800 (HIML IIa, 118). (12) Civet is mentioned as pall ('stinking') and also khattasika ('sour food eater') in a text called the Ratnamala, also called the Paryayaratnamala, of Madhavakara. Meulenbeld again suggests that the references to civet are one of the factors that indicate a date of "later than about 800 ..." for this text (HIML IIa, 129). In the medical text called the Cikitsasamgraha of Cakrapanidatta, composed in the third quarter of the eleventh century C.E. in Bengal (HIML IIa, 93), civet is mentioned as puti (Vatavyadhi 289) and as salija (Vatavyadhi 297) (HIML IIa, 90). This latter text, together with the commentary on it called the Ratnaprabha by Niscalakara from the late twelfth century, contains a description of a procedure for purifying civet (puti), which causes the material to become "the same as musk," an important point that we should bear in mind below (mrganabhisama, see appendix 1, no. 1). (13) A passage from a lost perfumery text, the Gandhatantra, quoted by Niscalakara in his commentary, further informs us that the best civet is produced in watery regions, the worst from arid regions, and a middling quality from regions of a mixed nature--thus civet as an animal product seems to concentrate the humoural quality of its environment, a theory of Indian medicine that has been studied in depth by Francis Zimmermann (1987). Civet is also apparently known to the author of another pharmacological text, the Abhidhanaratnamala or Sadrasanighantu (HIML IIa, 156), dated post 800-100 and before the early fifteenth century (HIML IIa, 157). To conclude, civet, commonly known by the terms pall ('stinking') and saliija ('rice-born'?), starts to be mentioned in these sources in approximately the tenth century, and we have more clearly dated references to it from the eleventh and the twelfth centuries.

Leaving medical texts aside, in earlier Indic texts on perfumery, where civet is mentioned at all it is not for the most part a prominent ingredient, unlike aromatics such as musk and camphor. In the relatively famous chapter on perfumery in the sixth-century (14) text on prognostication, the Great Compendium, the Brhatsamhita, of Varahamihira, there is no mention of civet, nor is there in the glossary of perfumery materials given by the Kashmirian commentator Bhattotpala in his tenth-century commentary (966-69 C.E.) on the Brhatsamhita. (15)

Perhaps the earliest references to civet in a text on perfumery are found in a number of recipes contained in a fascinating and rather difficult text called the Girdle of Hara, the Haramekhala, composed in Prakrit by a certain Mahuka or Madhuka and dating most probably from the ninth or tenth centuries of the Common Era, possibly written in what is modern day Rajasthan (HIML IIa, 134-35). There also exists a Sanskrit gloss (chaya) of variable quality, together with a useful commentary of uncertain date and authorship. In the Haramekhala, civet (Prakrit sali, Sanskrit sali) is mentioned as used in incenses (5.93, 94, 95), incense wicks (5.110, 111), and perfumed water (5.132). Most revealing, however, are the formulae for musk-like perfumes that employ civet (5.134: 'the same as musk', mrganabhisama; 5.135: 'like musk', madasadrsa; 5.136: 'utterly superior to musk', vinirjitadarpa), and also one formula for artificial musk (darpa) that contains civet (5.193). These substitute-musk formulae, together with the purification procedure seen above that renders civet "the same as musk," suggest that one of the reasons for the initial adoption of civet in medicine and perfumery as represented in Sanskrit texts was in its capacity as a musk substitute. If we assume that certain terms in this text do refer to civet (16) then this material appears to have become quite common in South Asian perfumery as described in the ninth or tenth century C.E. in a northwestern region of India, and one major use of the material was in perfumes that were said to resemble musk.

All considered, the evidence from earlier medical, pharmacological, and perfumery texts suggests that civet by any name is first mentioned in Sanskrit texts from around the ninth or tenth century of the Common Era, when it is known as puti (stinking), salija (produced from rice?), and also khattasika (17) (eating sour food?). Civet is just one among many aromatics used in perfumery and medicine at this point and is never given pride of place: the formulae in the Haramekhala, for example, use civet in making perfumes that are "the same as musk," just as in the section on the purification of civet in the Cikitsasamgraha, where purified civet is "the same as musk." Civet in a supporting role is attested in both the Bengal region and what is modern-day Rajasthan. At the very least we can say that civet seems to have become part of Indian perfumery from the ninth to eleventh century C.E. (possibly not everywhere at the same time), and that the world of perfumery in the late first millennium C.E. in South Asia was not quite as stable as one might think if one looked at literary texts alone, where sandalwood, agarwood, musk, camphor, and saffron continue to dominate throughout this period. Indeed, in Sanskrit literary texts, with one late exception, civet is, to my knowledge, never mentioned (see below). Thus, although this material seems to have become part of the palette of the perfumer it was probably not particularly prestigious and it certainly seems to have missed the "cut-off date," approximately the late Gupta period, for being a standard aromatic material mentioned in Sanskrit poetry.

It is a notable fact that the appearance of civet in South Asia seems to coincide more or less with its appearance in the textual record everywhere. It seems that civet appears in Chinese sources from the eighth century, being mentioned in a T'ang Dynasty text, (18) and, according to Anya King (2007: 235 n. 20), civet is probably first mentioned in Arabic sources around the ninth century C.E. Within just a few centuries this apparently new, musk-like material was to become a major component of Arab and South Asian perfumery--what we might call "the civetizing process."


In the early centuries of the second millennium we find a revealing and quite datable reference to the usage of civet as a prestigious perfume for a king. This occurs in the twelfth-century encyclopedia of courtly life called the Delight of the Mind or Manasollasa, attributed to Kalyana Calukya King Somesvara III (reigned 1124-1138). In the section on the pleasure of unguents (Vilepanopabhoga), following a passage on the qualities of the best musk that the king should use, we are also told that the king should apply the 'seeds/semen' (bijani) of the civet cat (gandhamarjara, 'perfume/smell cat') that have been collected, put in hot oil, and removed. The result is applied together with pungent oil (probably implying mustard oil). (Manasollasa. Vim. 3, Adhyaya 5, vol. 2, pp. 86-87):
  gandhamarjarabijani samahrtya vinikyipet 116cd
  usnataile samuddhrtya katutailena lepayet 117ab

By the placement of this text after the unguents for the rainy season, it appears that this is to be used in cooler seasons. Thus, in a text from twelfth-century Karnataka we find a very clear reference to civet used as the main ingredient of a cosmetic preparation, heated and mixed with oil, and then smeared on the body of the king.

Also from the earlier part of the second millennium, an unusual medieval Sanskrit text on the nature of animals, the The Treatise on Animals and Birds, Mrgapaksisastra, composed originally in Prakrit by a certain Hamsadeva who is assigned to the thirteenth century, (19) tells us a little more about perceptions of the "perfume-cat" from which the perfume smeared on the king's body in the Manasollasa was produced. The section on cats contains a description of a type of forest cat called a medaka, which is said to be the best amongst cats (132, verse 865: medakas capi jayante marjaresuttama vane); I take this to be a civet cat of sorts. This type of cat, of which there are many varieties (867: bahuvidha matah), produces a secretion when young and can be trained by humans (867: yauvane madadataro manusyavasavartinah).

Civet is also mentioned in a text on perfumery called the Gandhasara. The terminology for civet in the aromatics glossary of the Gandhasara (see appendix 1, no. 3) appears to be similar to that found in earlier Indic texts that mention the substance (e.g., puti, sali), placing this part of the text, to my mind, closer to the turn of the second millennium C.E. than the texts I shall now discuss. (20) Yet, as I shall discuss below, the Gandhasara also contains another, quite discrete, and probably later passage that would appear to introduce a new term for civet (absent from the glossary)--which suggests to me that this text as a whole is probably composite in nature, and that the attested text as we possess it today might be from a later date, close to the mid-second millennium.


Around the mid second millennium C.E. a new word for civet--javadi--that I believe to be borrowed from the Arabic and Persian term zabad appears in Sanskrit texts, and this coincides with a new status for this aromatic material in Indic perfumery. This is part of a wider transformation in the vocabulary and style of perfumery as described in Sanskrit texts during this same period. But before I turn to the matter of javadi, I shall first discuss the more general transformation of the vocabulary of perfumery in Sanskrit texts during this period.

The materia medica of a perfumery text called the Gandhavada are quite different from those seen in earlier sources, and this also probably places the text at a slightly later date (approximately the early to mid second millennium C.E.), when considerable interaction was taking place with new, imported perfumery traditions. (21) Some of the new Sanskrit terms for aromatics we see in the Gandhavada are lobana, ambara, javadi, and ladana. (22) Lobana is clearly frankincense. (23) Previously this was often called turuska in Sanskrit--'Turkish resin' as it were--but now it seems that the so-called 'Turkish resin' is more commonly known by a 'Turkish' (turuska) word, as the word turuska was indeed sometimes used to refer to Muslims/Arabs in Sanskrit texts. Ambara is of course ambergris, (24) another aromatic that is prominent in Islamic perfumery and literature, which never really becomes a prominent feature in Sanskrit texts, particularly in literary ones. Ladarta is evidently labdanum, (25) also apparently entirely unknown to our earlier sources, at least by a recognizable name. In terms of the ingredients, the perfume formulae here resemble those found in the text, composed in a mixture of Persian and Urdu, called the Ni'matnama, of the Sultan Ghiyath Shahi, who reigned at Mandu in Malwa in central India from A.D. 1469-1500.

Another term in the Gandhavada, javadi, also appears to be quite the newcomer, appearing only in those Sanskrit perfumery texts that perhaps date from the fourteenth century. For a long time I had no idea what this javadi material was, and I was inclined to think it was more of a preparation than an actual raw material, as it appears in texts both as a raw material and as the name of a composed perfume, something I shall explain below. (26) Some references to this material as a raw material in relatively late Sanskrit texts, however, can shed light on exactly what javadi is, and I believe that javadi is in fact civet.

The Rajanighantu is a large lexicon of medical substances composed in the fifteenth or sixteenth century C.E. by a certain Narahari, who was apparently of royal blood, a resident of Kashmir, and a devotee of Siva and Parvati. (27) In this glossary of materia medica, javadi is classified as a type of aromatic material, and one of the synonyms given for javadi is 'the thing produced from deer skin' (mrgacarmajam). The whole passage from the Rajanighantu is as follows (Rajanighatgu of Narahari, 375):
  javadi gandharajam syat krtrimam mrgacarmajam
  samuhagandham gandhadhyam snigdham samranikardamam
  sugandham tailaniryasam kutamodam dasabhidham

  saugandhikam javadi syat snigdham cosnam sukhavaham
  vate hitam ca rajnam ca mohanahladakaranam
  javadi nilam samsnigdham isatpitam sugandhadam
  atape bahalamodam rajnam yogyam na canyatha

  Javadi has ten names, (28) king of perfumes, artificial
  (compounded?), produced from deer skin, aggregate-perfume,
  abounding in perfume, oily, benzoin-mud, fragrant, oil-resin,
  water-pot (? kuta) fragrance.

  Qualities: javadi is fragrant, oily, hot, and delightful. Beneficial
  for wind and causing infatuation and joy for kings. Javadi is dark,
  very oily, yellowish, and gives off a perfume. When it has an intense
  fragrance in the heat of the sun it is suitable for kings, and not

Here, javadi is also said to be oily and a perfume suitable for kings, and I might note that parts of this passage are also included in the Bhojanakutuhala of Raghunatha, a work on dietetics and related subjects dating from the mid- to late-seventeenth century (see app. 1.5). Another text, on personal hygiene, of uncertain but similar, approximately mid second millennium, date, the Carucaryd, also describes javadi, noting that it is produced from a deer (mrgodbhata) and to be worn by kings (see appendix 1, no. 4). So javadi is a prestigious, aromatic raw material that appears to be thought of, like musk, as derived from an animal, though importantly these same texts describe this material separately from musk.

In the perfumery text of uncertain date called the Gandhasara, which otherwise refers to civet by such terms such as salija and puti (appendix 1.3), we find in the section on artificial aromatics (krtrimadravyani) some verses that describe the manufacture of javadi. (29) The formulae in this section of the text are very clearly separated from the regular perfumes and incenses and describe how to make such products as artificial camphor, saffron, musk, and agarwood. Evidently here javadi is being made artificially, yet it is classed along with other major aromatics that it would be lucrative to manufacture in this manner. Here there are no references to lobana or ambara, and javadi is both an ingredient ("... and two palas of javadi," javades' ca paladvayam, p. 36, vs. 8) and the final product ("then the wonderful and divine fragrance of javadi is certainly produced," tad divyasaurabham citram javadir[-er] (30) jayate dhruvam, p. 36, vs, 9; "... that is known as a portion of javadi, with a shining supreme scent," taj javadidalam jneyam lasatparimalottamam, vs. 14). It is also notable that salija, another word we have seen for civet, is used as an ingredient in the second preparation described, for a "portion of javadi": "one should add two parts of civet" (dvibhagam salijam ksipet vs. 13). Thus in this section of artificial aromatics we have two recipes for producing a type of artificial javadi, one of which contains javadi itself as an ingredient, and the other salija. Here javadi is evidently a raw material like musk that is worth making in this manner, and yet the choice of vocabulary suggests that salija and javadi were perhaps not exactly the same product. Both substances, however, were deemed suitable to add to an artificial javadi, and we should not ignore the fact that these formulae are for artificial javadi and not for artificial salija. So, in addition to what we have already learned, we now know that javadi is a prestigious raw material, that can be made artificially (or processed) using civet (salija) as well as by using javadi itself.

As noted above, in Arabic and Persian civet is called zabad, (31) from which it is a relatively short step to a Sanskritized javadi, as the syllable "ja" in Indic scripts (nowadays often modified with a bindu) is often used to represent the letter zay in Arabic and modified Arabic scripts. (32) Also, an interchange between the labials b and v is not uncommon in Sanskrit, though I am unable to offer an explanation of the final i. (33) Moreover, as I shall discuss below, javadi and cognate terms meaning 'civet' also appear in several Indian vernacular languages around the mid second millennium C.E., maybe even earlier than we see the terms in Sanskrit, and it is quite likely that the word entered Sanskrit via these languages, possibly on several occasions, and not directly from Arabic or Persian, such that tracking a direct transformation from classical Arabic and Persian texts to Sanskrit is probably not advisable. Most probably the rendering of zabad into Indic forms--phonetic and orthographic--was often conducted in the marketplace, and even the more literate types who are responsible for Sanskrit perfumery texts might not always have been the most scholarly pandits. For example, the formula for a javadi perfume below demonstrates the rather mixed nature of many of these texts. In these circumstances some more complex sound substitutions should not surprise us. I might note in passing that the English word 'civet', attested from the sixteenth century, is also ultimately derived from the Arabic, though again, as the Oxford English Dictionary notes, "intermediate forms, now apparently lost, must have come between the Arabic and the European words." Finally, in my identification of javadi as civet, I fortunately find myself to be in agreement with the very knowledgeable scholar of Ayurveda, Priya Vrat Sharma, who notes (1975: 370) that in the Rajanighantu the term javadi refers to civet. (34)

From a close reading of the Rajanighantu and the Carucarya it is clear that javadi is an animal product, though there the association is with a deer, the origin of musk. However, both these texts also discuss musk in separate entries. As musk and civet have long been (and still frequently are) closely associated and confused with each other, I believe that the relative phonetic similarity of the term javadi to zabad, together with the animal/musk-like associations of the substance, make it highly likely that javadi is indeed civet of some variety, though considerably reconfigured from the previous presentations of civet we see in Sanskrit texts. In the passage from the Rajanighangu translated above it is notable therefore that none of the earlier Sanskrit synonyms such as those related to cats (or the terms puti, khattasa, and salija) appears. Possibly javadi was not even understood to be the same material as the locally produced, cat-derived aromatic product noted elsewhere, and this might be because it was being imported, as I shall discuss below, or because javadi was now processed and presented in such a distinctive and novel manner.

But what of the fact, admittedly a problem, that in some cases javadi seems to be more of a preparation than a raw material? In dealing with historical perfumes this is not an insurmountable difficulty. In this case I would argue that as civet in its raw state is foul-smelling, it would no doubt need to undergo extensive preparation or dilution in order to make it into a pleasant perfume. One might compare this situation to the cranberry juice one buys in American supermarkets, which is in most cases diluted and sweetened with various additives, as consumers find the pure juice too tart, so "cranberry juice" is almost never just cranberry juice. Or, one might argue that the allure of the fashionable new Arabic-Persian inflected expression of this aromatic might have led to the development of standardized, compounded perfumes based around javadi and named "javadi"--a situation analogous to the production of contemporary perfumes such as Jovan Musk Oil. The materials on javadi in the Gandhasara that I discussed above support this argument, for in one part of that text javadi is clearly both an ingredient and a final product. So, perhaps we might think of the word javadi as referring quite often to "civet as prepared in the Indo-Persian style" as opposed to raw untreated civet. Finally, it is quite possible that varieties of civet imported to India had quite a different smell and presentation even in their raw state from those that were locally produced--both the species of animal and the manner of collecting the secretion differ from South India to Ethiopia.

Let us return now to javadi in the perfumery text called the Gandhavada, for despite the similarities to the perfume formulae produced in a Persianate courtly context that we see in the Ni'matnama, there is something remarkably "Sanskritic" about one particular Sanskrit javadi recipe, which is said to have been created by an eleventh-century Indian king, Bhoja of Dhar ("javadi created by king Bhoja" "made by Bhoja"). Note that the complex recipe below might be understood as a purified javadi, or a javadi perfume. In addition to the new vocabulary, the Sanskrit vocabulary here shades into the vernacular at times, so instead of tvac for cinnamon, we see taj. Also, we see that one ingredient here is puti, the word for civet in earlier texts, which again strengthens the case for javadi as a certain relatively complex civet preparation with Indo-Persian associations, rather like an "Italian latte" versus "coffee." In the translation below I have deliberately reproduced the terse and, at times, vague style of the original:
  sastipalam ca paniyam navanitaca [tam] paladvayam I
  dvipalam candanam yojyam mrgiyos Ira [s Iv a]stasanakam II 1
  guhya darvyagarur vala tailyam cocathacurnakam I
  prthak palamitam yojyam lavanga[gam] palapancakam II 2
  tajachadachadah kostham natasanam prthak sada I
  tatha kacari lobanam prthak sanam munis tatha II 3
  ambaram navasanam ca beri sanadvayam hitam I
  mocarasacatuhsanam catuhsanam ca putikam II 4
  rala krsna munisya [ssa]nam ye[e]katra vastragalitam I
  sat. sa[sa]nam ksaudrajam catha ye[eka]tra drahapacitam II 5
  sitam grahyam tatoddhrtya puspavasam tatah param I
  astamsaih suddhajavadim devya [vaih] bhojanirmita II 6 (35)

The [Ja]vadi Made by Bhoja:

1. Sixty palas (36) of water and two pa/as of fresh butter; two pa/as of sandalwood to be used, and eight sanas (37) of the two musks (?) (38)

2. One pala measure each of guhya, (39) darv, (40) agarwood, vetiver, sesame oi1, (41) (and) coconut powder is to be used; five palas of cloves;

3. always a sana each: cinnamon, fragrant lichen (?), (42) costus root, nata; (43) and also galanga1, (44) frankincense--seven (muni) sana each;

4. nine sanas of ambergris, and two sanas of beri (45) are suitable: four sanas of plantain sap and four sanas of civet (puti),

5. seven (muni) sanas of sal tree resin (and?) krsna, (46) strained together through a cloth, and then six sanas of wax, together (it is) thoroughly cooked.

6. When cool it is to be collected, then having removed (it), after that (one performs) enfleu-rage (47) with flowers.

With eight parts, (one of) pure javadi is yielded, made by Bhoja. (48)

Not only is the recipe above said to have been made by Bhoja, but one whole text I mentioned above as dealing with personal hygiene (see app. 1, no. 4) that refers to javadi, the Carucarya, is also attributed to King Bhoja. If we accept that javadi is a civet preparation of sorts, then something quite remarkable is happening here. Civet, known by such terms as khattasa, puti, and salija, and used in India in some form during the actual reign of King Bhoja (though never a very important aromatic), now commands a prominent place in a book of perfume recipes, as well as in a treatise on personal hygiene. But now this material (here more of an olfactory concept), associated with Bhoja, goes by the name of javadi. In many respects I think that it is entirely possible that comparative study of recipes such as this might reveal that large parts of this civet recipe, and others like it, are themselves translations from texts such as the Ni'matnama and other such Indo-Muslim texts of the period. Even if that is the case, Bhoja's civet recipe is a very thick translation, since the perfume here, though displaying many features of the terminology and tastes of Persianate perfumery traditions, has now been attributed to eleventh-century King Bhoja of Dhar, who was, as Sheldon Pollock notes (2006: 179-80), the "ultimate arbiter of grammatical correctness, rhetorical propriety, and literary good taste ..." Apparently Bhoja was not only perceived to be the arbiter of taste in matters linguistic, but also in matters of perfume and personal hygiene. Zabadljavadi, at once cosmopolitan, exotic, and Islamicate by name, while possibly local in production, is now said to be expertly prepared by King Bhoja--cosmopolitan Indic and Sanskritic--in a complex perfume that also contains ambergris (ambara) from the Indian ocean, frankincense (lobana), quite probably from the Arabian peninsula, sandalwood, the Indic perfume par excellence, and cloves from Southeast Asia.

By around the fourteenth century civet, by the name of javadi, appears to have become a very prestigious perfume in India, both in circles associated with Islamic learning and cultures and in Sanskritic Hindu traditions. Another reference, in a text composed by a Jain of the thirteenth/fourteenth century, further enriches our understanding of the contexts in which zabad was adopted into South Asia. The Origin of Minerals (Dhatupatti) (49) is a text on metallurgy and aromatics composed by Thakkura Pheru, a Jain who was probably born in the second half of the thirteenth century and was a native of Kannana in present-day Haryana. Pheru worked at the court of the Delhi sultans, probably holding an important position as an assay-master in the mint, and composed texts on a variety of technical topics, such as arithmetic, gemology, and architecture. (50) At the beginning of Dhatupatti, in place of benedictory verses are some allegorical verses on the strange origins of some materials, which conclude that, despite their strange origins, the qualities of these materials render them pure. At the end of these verses there appears to be a reference to civet (which is not, however, listed among the aromatics actually described in the latter part of this text):
  ... malappavesau hui javai varam I
  iya sagunehi pavitta upatti jaiya niyao II 5
  ... the best civet (javai = javadi) (51) [comes] from
  the anus ['excrement entrance']. Although these [things all] have a
  lowly origin, they are pure due to their [good] qualities. (52)

If I am correct in reading this verse as a reference to civet, and Sriramula Rajeswara Sarma has noted to me that this is a plausible reading, then this constitutes yet another a reference to javadi that we can date and place quite accurately: early fourteenth-century Sultanate Delhi. This text also updates the descriptions of the origins of aromatics, especially when one compares them with earlier texts on aromatics (e.g., the Arthasastra). In Pheru text we read of China (cino) camphor, malindi sandalwood, (53) together with saffron from Aden (adana) and Hormuz (harumayassa) (Ratnapariksadi Sapt-Granth Samgrah of Thakkura Pheru, 43-44). (54) Pheru's text, composed at the court of the Delhi sultanate by a Jain with mercantile skills, displays a highly conscious engagement with the Indian Ocean world and beyond.

Moving on from Sanskrit and Prakrit, might the history of some vernacular languages also help us track down the history of forms of zabad in India? A look at the Dictionary of Old Marathi shows that javadi in the sense of 'musk' is attested in several texts from at least the late thirteenth century. (55) Javadi also refers to civet in Kannada according to Kittel, who in his Kannada dictionary gives references to material from the fourteenth-century Kannada Basavapurana and the eighteenth-century Jaiminibharata. (56) The University of Madras Tamil Lexicon also contains a great number of entries involving civet including the terms cavvatu and cavatu, the latter being given in the thirteenth-century commentary of Atiyarkunallar on Cilappatikaram 14.108. (57) These multiple vernacular variants, all strongly reminiscent of the word zabad, seem to make the case stronger for the identification of Sanskrit javadi as being derived from zabad. Also the early-mid second-millennium date of these references accords with what we have seen thus far of the development from civet-as-musk-substitute to civet-as-zabad-like-prestigious-perfume. As I mentioned above, it is quite likely that civet entered Sanskrit from such vernacular sources as perfumers and aromatics traders were most definitely not generally conversing in Sanskrit at this time.


I started this article in South India, at the temple at Tirupati where the production of civet had become controversial in recent years. I believe that a more general examination of the terminology and references to civet in South Indian languages and sources might be very enlightening with regard to the history of civet, though I am not able to pursue that line of enquiry here in any detail, as I do not study these languages. Nevertheless, one Tamil inscription from the Arulala Perumal temple dating from the early to mid twelfth century C.E. records the donation of paddy by a private person to a temple such that the annual interest will provide for requirements of worship (Hultzsch and Krishna Sastri 1929: 186-90). These materials of worship include "three kau of sandal, six twentieths of camphor, half a kalaiiju of agallochum [agarwood], one and two twentieths manjadi of musk, and two and four twentieths manjadi of civet-fat to be rubbed on (the image)" (ibid., 189). As Sophia Nasti informs me (pers. comm., April 20, 2012), the word used in the inscription is puluku, for the civet animal, but the next term ney, meaning the fat, is a reconstruction by the collector. However, given the context it is clear that the civet here is a perfume of some sort, and indeed it is extremely notable that civet is paired here with musk, placed at the very end of a list of many of the most prestigious aromatics in India during the latter half of the second millennium C.E. I might add that this inscription is approximately contemporary with the Manasollasa, where we heard of a civet-oil being applied to the body of the king. Here, however, we see civet combined with other perfumes including musk, but, rather strikingly, twice as much civet is used as musk in this temple, and it may well be that we see in this inscription evidence of the gradual ascendance of civet in perfumery practices.

Moreover, David Shulman (pers. comm., Nov. 11, 2011) kindly informs me that the final chapter of the Arunacalapuranam of Ellapa Nayinar, probably composed in the mid sixteenth century, has civet as its central focus. Here a certain demon, "who could take whatever form he wanted, turned himself into a civet cat on Mount Arunacalam, that is Annamalai, in the Tamil country, and anointed the mountain with the fragrant civet. The god there, Siva, thus received the name Puluk' ani Iraivar, the Lord graced by civet; and indeed the linga in the temple is apparently still anointed daily with civet." The latter myth ties many important strands together. Like the cows in many Hindu stories that exude milk over buried sacred images, here the civet cat, native to this region, anoints the sacred mountain. The very fauna of Tamil country, the landscape itself, appears to be designed to provide this perfume for Siva, and the story provides a mythical precedent for the temple practice. As we saw in the Manasollasa, and also in the later texts on javadi (in appendix 1), civet is commonly said to be a material fit to anoint a king, and thus entirely appropriate to use in anointing a divine image--a practice that makes even more sense in the sixteenth century. Finally, the manner in which civet is obtained here--the animal itself smears it on the mountain--recalls what appears to be a distinctive feature of the manner in which civet was (and is) collected in India, by keeping the civet cats together with a log onto which they smear the secretion--this being arguably a less painful manner of extraction than the Ethiopian spoon-scrape. (58)


By the sixteenth century people in India were aware that there were several types of civet from several places, as we see from an important and very detailed source in Persian. From the reign of the emperor Akbar, the Persian Ain-i Akbari (Blochmann 1927, book 1.30, 84-85) describes several types of civet-like materials as available in the sixteenth century. (59) The best variety of civet (zabad) is said to come from the harbor town of Sumatra in the country of Achin, so presumably from northern Sumatra. Another related but inferior product is called gaura and also comes from Achin. An even more inferior product called mid is adulterated and sold in greater quantities. Apparently this latter substance is "found in various countries" and "some say that Mid is the dried bag of the civet cat, pounded and boiled in water; the greasy substance which rises to the surface is the Mid" (Blochmann, ibid.). It is notable that Southeast Asia features so prominently in this account. Perhaps it was above all the foreign cat-derived perfume that people tended to call zabad, and the local product was less valued? Civet was also available from Africa, and Francois Bernier (1916: 135) (60) relates that an embassy from the king of Ethiopia offered to Aurangzeb an enormous ox horn filled with civet.

In the A'in-i Akbari we are also told that the animal that produces the best zabad and the one (somewhat larger) that produces the inferior gaura are traded, and can be kept in captivity so as to yield a regular supply of the material. Here we have a material that is both exotic (from Sumatra) and local (kept in captivity), a perfect solution to the chains of adulteration no doubt encountered in the musk trade. The text also describes the preparation of civet: after repeated washing with water and then lime juice, filtering and washing with rose water, it is smeared inside a cup and placed overnight over a floral extract (a version of the process of perfuming by diffusion called enfleurage in French, vasana in Sanskrit, see n. 47), prior to being dried in the sun, and finally used, mixed with rose water.

The A'in-i Akbari also tells us the price range for civet, which we can thus compare with other aromatics. Civet is priced at 1/2 rupee to 1 muhr (i.e., 9 rupees) per tola, whereas musk is priced at 1 rupee to 4 1/2 rupees per tola (Blochmann, 80). Thus civet came in varieties that were both cheaper and more expensive than musk. Ambergris, on the other hand, is priced at 1 to 3 muhrs (i.e., 9 to 27 rupees) per tola, thus being far more costly than both musk and civet. Civet animals themselves are priced at 300-500 rupees for the better varieties and 100-200 rupees for the inferior gaura variety (Blochmann, 85).

One final detail: as I have mentioned, civet is almost never mentioned as a perfume in Sanskrit literary texts, and this includes literary depictions of gods and so on. In these contexts references to musk, camphor, and sandalwood are abundant at later periods. This suggests a relatively early terminus ante quem--approximately the mid-first millennium C.E.--for being the sort of perfume you can talk about in Sanskrit poetry. I have, however, discovered one reference to it in a very late historical poem called the Anandarangavijayacampu, (61) dating from 1752 C.E., about the life of Ananda Ratiga Pillai of Pondicherry, where civet is known by the name javadi. The use of this particular name for civet perhaps reflects the increased prestige of this material in the context of the more civet-heavy perfumery traditions of Islamicate courtly culture. This is something that might also apply to the increased attention given to javadi in later Sanskrit perfumery texts, the Carucarya attributed to Bhoja, and the Rajanighantu pharmacological glossary.

So, to recap the previous sections, we have seen that civet is first mentioned around the ninth/tenth century in Sanskrit texts, though there it seems to be an insignificant material associated sometimes with musk, and in the twelfth century we see it used as a royal anointing oil. Nevertheless civet is not much discussed in Indic texts until around the fourteenth century when it is attested in some vernacular sources. By the sixteenth century civet by its Sanskritized Persian or Arabic name javadi is treated in much greater detail in several texts on aromatics and on perfumery, and it seems this product is obtained not only locally but also from long-distance trade.


But what of the history of civet at Tirupati? In studying the history of this temple we are fortunate in having access to a large number of inscriptions that have been collected and translated. (62) The earliest reference to civet appears to be in the record of a donation of income and villages by the Vijayanagara King Devaraya II dating from 1429. Part of this income is to provide for "two big (cups) for offering purpgu (civet)." The same inscription refers also to "civet for smearing." Notably the Kannada term for civet is used and not a zabad-like term. After this, throughout the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, there are repeated and quite common references to donations that somehow involve civet, and it is clear from these other inscriptions that the civet anointing they refer to was to take place every Friday, as it does indeed today as part of the complex Friday abhisekam ritual (Ramesan 1981: 140-41). A quick glance at the lists of worship services or sevas at the temple, or on the temple website, today shows that the Friday civet vessel costs Rs. 300 and is offered at 3:30 AM on a Friday.

In the summer of 2010 I was able to visit the temple at Tirupati and interview the head priest or Pradhana Archaka, Dr. A. V. Ramana Dikshitulu. (63) He explained that the civet or punugu is collected by priests from the sandalwood log kept with the captive civets, and a small amount of this material is mixed with sesame oil and heated prior to being smeared on the sacred image on Fridays. Nothing by the name of javadi is used, only putzugu. Yet this practice seems to reflect much of what we have learned so far about civet in India. The civet cats can be tamed as we saw in the Treatise on Animals and Birds. From those kept in captivity, one type of civet, smeared on sticks, is then produced. This manner of production involves no direct contact with the cats but rather involves removing the secretions from sticks, or logs, in the places where they live. This process was reported in the early fourteenth century by Friar Jordanus, as seen above. This material is then heated with oil, as we saw in the twelfth-century Delight of the Mind, and applied to the royal or divine body. It is quite possible, given the references to the use of this material at that earlier date, that the use of civet at Tirupati thus pre-dates the fifteenth century. It is also notable that both these examples of civet as a prestigious and prominent oil-based unguent are from South India: Karnataka, Tamil country, and Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh. They also date from well within the period when perfumery and Indic courtly culture in general seem to be interacting with Persianate traditions. Of course it is highly possible that the use of civet in an oily unguent is an ancient, unrecorded South Indian practice that only later on entered pan-Indian Sanskritic and vernacular textual expressions, when it finally rose to prominence in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries in parallel with the sanctioning of civet as zabad in Indo-Persian perfumery and courtly culture--a phenomenon that might well have led to increased production, trade, use, and prominence of this material across the Indian Ocean.

The Tirupati temple authorities (TTD), in defending their keeping of civet cats, cited three factors: tradition, scripture, and also the importance of the material in preserving the stone. Certainly, we have established the force of tradition in this case, and although I cannot speak for stone images, the use of civet oil as described in the Manasollasa was part of a larger regime that not only rendered the king fragrant but was also beneficial to his health and appearance. The main stone image at Tirupati is very ancient and has been, and will be, subject to countless rituals of anointing over the centuries (including with the somewhat caustic bomeol camphor), so it seems not unreasonable to demand a protective oil for the image.

But what of scripture? The rites of worship at Tirupati are, theoretically, conducted in accordance with the large and complex set of scriptures generally referred to as the Vaikhanasa agamas, though I have not been able to find any reference to civet in these texts. (64) However, Ramesan states that the use of civet in the temple at Tirupati is part of tradition, and he suggests this ritual was introduced in the donation associated with the inscription from 1429 noted above (Ramesan 1981: 140, 584). Ramesan suggests that the use of civet oil, along with several other practices, has "acquired sanctity due to the passage of time" (p. 584). This would suggest that the practice is only supported by tradition and not scripture. The matter is, however, more complex than that. As Gerard Colas explains, although the Vaikhanasa corpus contains accounts of its own ritual system, it "nevertheless allows traditional and local customs to operate with regard to temples of 'nonhuman' origin. Its rules are supposed to be applied to temples identified as those founded by human beings, but not to temples of 'nonhuman' origin, that is those supposed to correspond to a direct manifestation of Vispu. ... The texts thus leave a large scope for innovation ..." (2003: 244). It seems that the more ancient and important the temple, the more flexible these texts are when it comes to tolerating established practices. And the temple at Tirupati is most definitely considered to be of nonhuman origin, as it contains a direct manifestation of Vispu (Ramesan 1981: 102). Thus the use of civet oil is in fact in accordance with the scriptures used at Tirupati, for this is most certainly a tradition and the scriptures are clear that in the case of temples of nonhuman origin, such as at Tirupati, tradition can guide what takes place in temple rituals.

A conflict between modern ideas of conservation and wildlife protection and an older tradition of rearing civets for their aromatic secretions led to a short, and perhaps rather unexpected, period of public discourse on civet at Tirupati. For a long time civet was not the sort of thing people talked about or wrote about in India, but then in the last decade there was a small flurry of press releases, newspaper articles, and no doubt quite politicized legal arguments concerning this substance and its importance in the material culture of the temple at Tirupati. In the context of a small crisis, in the process of arguing that they needed to retain access to captive civets, the temple now publicly articulated the purpose, history, and scriptural sanction for the use of this necessary material, effectively creating an official history of civet at Tirupati--a history that does reflect much of the wider history of civet in India, yet that is conducted not in the form of Sanskrit commentaries and polemical texts, but through the more public textual forms of contemporary media.

Civet appears on the world scene approximately at the same time everywhere, and it is not quite clear why this happens and how. Possibly the almost universal prestige of musk, which was used and admired in the Arab world, in South Asia, and in China, paved the way for this other animal aromatic, which was cheaper and in many places available locally--not unlike salmon and lumpfish "caviars," which are local products that have been reconfigured and given a new, though relative, prestige owing to their resemblance to sturgeon caviar. Possibly the rise of civet thus involved incorporating local traditions of civet usage that were not previously recorded owing to their associations with classes and/or populations whose material culture was not normally described in the texts we possess today, but for now that remains speculative. Quite possibly the almost simultaneous appearance of civet in India, China, Southeast Asia, and the Arab world involved interactions among the types of perfumery practiced in these cultural spheres, though I am not qualified to study those areas. But by the early centuries of the second millennium C.E. it seems that, in South India at least, this material was respectable enough to be made into a royal body oil, fit for kings and gods. This might also suggest some regional variation in the uses of aromatics, as I have not (so far) come across civet used in this manner in this period in North Indian Hindu contexts. This particular civet oil seems distinctive to South India in the early and middle centuries of the second millennium C.E. Although theoretically governed by various detailed and complex liturgical texts, it seems the adornment of the gods in South Asian temples can change with the times, given a powerful patron, at least up to a certain point. The establishment of the weekly civet oiling at Tirupati was quite in line with royal bodily practices in the early centuries of the second millennium and might even have had a regional flavor because of the pious fauna of the local hills. Now, however, this practice seems strange and archaic, quite out of synch with contemporary elite perfumery practices in India; yet it reeks of tradition and orthodoxy, and also requires quite complex and scholarly justifications when challenged by a new environmental ethics. Elevated as a locally available substitute for musk, this secretion has become embedded in the seemingly eternal material culture of one of the most important Hindu temples in India. What was once a mainstream elite perfume, though apparently somewhat of a newcomer in Indic perfumery, is now the strange and exclusive scent of Lord Venkategvara and some other gods. The special compromise made for the temple with regard to civet in the context of recent wildlife protection laws effectively creates a sacred, and entirely modern, sumptuary law where only God can wear this particular secretion from the civet cats of South India and putzugu has become one of the smells of religion.


Civet was remarkable, possibly unique, among animal-derived aromatics in the pre-modern era, in that the civets themselves could easily be kept in captivity and traded over large distances--assuring a less adulterated material, at least for traders, and what we would nowadays call a "sustainable" resource, so long as the animal itself was not endangered. Such local production from captive civets must have played a role in the increased use of this material. Dannenfeldt notes, "The civet cat was the first of African and Asian wild animals to be imported in large numbers and 'domesticated' by Europeans. Live lions, elephants, and other exotic animals were often brought to Europe for display, but probably no foreign animal had as great an economic impact as the civet cat and its scent" (1985: 430-31). From the evidence of the Ain-i Akbari it seems that a similar situation could apply to civets as traded between Sumatra and India, though of course civet species are found locally in parts of South Asia. Imported varieties of civet might possibly account for the change from khattasa, and puti (local cats?) to javadi (imported product or cats?), though this must remain a hypothesis until more scholars, of South Indian languages, Indo-Persian material culture, Southeast Asia, and Indian Ocean trade turn their attention to the matter of the civet.

As I noted at the start of this article, I am not interested in merely noting that exchanges and interactions are going on here. Rather, in the case of civet as seen in Indic texts, we can track how patterns of consumption and styles of representation changed in response to new material, social, political, and linguistic conditions. Concerning the early trade in Indonesian products to China, O. W. Wolters (1967: 118) wrote that "The first important impetus to trade in the valuable natural wealth of western Indonesia came not from India or western Asia but as a backwash of western Asian trade with China, which resulted in China's accidental interest in certain Indonesian trade products resembling those of western Asia." In the present case one might propose a similar theory for the South Asian civet-mania of the mid second millennium C.E., according to which the prestige of imported musk served as the impetus for the (initial or increased) use of civet, and indeed this seems to be supported by the fact that a close reading of Sanskrit sources shows that civet served as a musk substitute in the earlier period. (65)

Musk, traded from places remote from South Asia and the Middle East, was well established quite early on as a prestigious perfume both in India and in the Islamic world. (66) That animalic perfume, popular in India as of the Gupta period, (67) and thus well established in "classical" textual culture, from literature to medicine, most likely set the precedent for the use of other musk-like materials, and in particular those produced in civets native to the Indian subcontinent (and also Ethiopia and Southeast Asia). Thus, for elites who tended to favor Sanskrit as a medium of expression, musk was a classical and almost canonical aromatic. For people educated in Islamic culture, musk was sanctioned by the prophet (King 2007: 159-83). During the Sultanate period in South Asia this created ideal conditions for the adoption of a musk-like substance that was more easily available in the region, namely civet musk in its own right, though precisely how that leap took place eludes me, Having become established in these musk-dominated contexts, civet had the advantage of being freshly available in many parts of the world that used musk. Moreover, the civet cat itself could be traded and kept in captivity, such that even in places where the civet does not naturally live, one could produce the material, as we see with the Sumatran civets mentioned in Mughal India and the civet production in Amsterdam (Dannenfeldt 1985: 429-30). Whether in the Indian Ocean or Europe, the geography of civet distribution and the hardiness of the animal meant that, when compared with musk, anyone engaged in producing, trading, or consuming this perfume was able to cut out as many middlemen as possible, be they Himalayan or Central Asian musk traders (from the point of view of South Indians), or Indian Ocean traders (from the point of view of the civet rearers in Amsterdam). Thus, quite unlike other important commodities such as cane sugar in Europe and tobacco in India, civet was already under everyone's noses in much of Asia, but it only swept to popularity in the fragrant wake of musk.

The rise of civet was facilitated by a taste for musk that was already well established over much of the Old World by the second millennium C.E., together with the fact that this animal was found in precisely the places (Sumatra, South India, East Africa) that contained major ports of trade in the Indian Ocean world. It is perhaps significant to note here that, unlike civet, ambergris, lacking any precedent in Indian perfumery, failed ever to catch on in courtly and religious circles associated with the production and use of Sanskrit texts. At an earlier stage in India civet-like products appear to be known at first by terms derived from Indic languages and they are not terribly prestigious: they do not feature widely in perfumes and (almost) never in Sanskrit literature. At first this material seems to have hidden behind musk, being made "like musk" (mrganabhisama) through artifice. (68)

A few centuries later civet took center stage, yet only in certain guises and in certain sites. Mid-second-millennium representations of civet as javadi represent a later stage where civet no longer had to hide behind musk and required a new articulation in the language of traditional Hindu scholarship. In the world of Sanskrit texts, mainly ones on perfumery and pharmacology, civet appears under an Arabic/Persian name--a terminology that might well reflect the rise of Persianate courtly cultures. Civet is also fit for a king, and it is repeatedly associated with the expertise of that most respectable of authorities, King Bhoja--zabad here is very strongly "Sanskritized," even "literary-ized." Despite this, civet never really entered the world of Sanskrit poetry.

It is during the same approximate period that civet-as-civet is vaunted as a perfume of the gods, as recounted in a Tamil myth and in records of royal patronage at Tirupati. Though even here, given the royal nature of the patronage at Tirupati, the rise of civet might well still reflect pan-Indian changes in elite courtly perfumery during the period. Anya King notes that, unlike musk, in Islam civet was not sanctioned by the prophet and scripture, and this might initially have hindered its popularity in the Islamic world (2007: 146-47, 283). Of course this was not a problem in Hindu contexts, though, unlike musk, sandalwood, camphor, and saffron, civet did not feature in older textual representations of divinities or kings. Still, as we see in the case of the civet that anointed the mountain, civet had something new: not only did this material possess the regal prestige of musk by the early second millennium C.E., but it also connected the native fauna with devotional olfactory piety. Courtly and cosmopolitan civet-musk evokes the landscape of South India; it is no less than a "cosmopolitan vernacular" perfume (with distinct economic advantages). Produced in captivity, the secretion is smeared on a fragrant cooling log of sandalwood, the most important Indian aromatic in the longue duree, before being purified and diluted until fragrant and applied to the body of the god.

From this perspective the use of civet-musk on the main image at Tirupati--a South Indian temple patronized by Vijayanagara kings in the mid second millennium C.E.--no longer seems at all strange, and, indeed, almost seems inevitable given the contemporaneous perfumery culture. The background for the adoption of civet thus varies, as does the exact style in which the new material was used and represented. The history of civet gives us a small but detailed snapshot of the complex and varied manner in which a new material, new words, and new practices were integrated and developed within South Asia during the early to mid second millennium C.E. What is perhaps most striking is the fact that this new aromatic is in many respects not exotic. Civet appears to have been a very common and prestigious perfume in South Asia around the mid second millennium, but it lacked the sorts of marvelous associations we encounter in descriptions of remote island sources of camphor and sandalwood in earlier Indic sources. As we see in the origins of aromatics named by Phera (China, Malindi, Aden, Hormuz), those remote places were better known than ever. Perhaps it was an increasing disenchantment in the discourses of perfume exotica that contributed to the rise of civet, which instead gained prestige from its regal, "post-musk" connections and links to regional sacred landscapes.

Such was the popularity of the (literally) remixed civet of the mid-second millennium that it seems that musk and civet were sometimes confused, as we saw in the case of the nomenclature of the civet in various vernaculars. Although the extension of these terms, that is to say, the substances referred to by these names, might not have been fully clear to some people in practice, nevertheless the "stereotypical" meanings (to borrow a term from Hilary Putnam) of musk and civet remained distinct (Putnam 1975: 247-52). The Sanskrit poet might have been confused in the market place, and the commentator or reader might possibly have understood musk words to refer to civet substances and vice versa, but it seems clear that the poet knew very well that he should use the classical musk vocabulary in the context of Sanskrit poetry--the conventional verbal-material culture of that artificial universe was quite stable. Experts in aromatics, however, were theoretically supposed to know the difference between the two, as is reflected in the fact that musk and civet are listed separately in texts on examination of aromatics--an example perhaps of Hilary Putnam's social "division of linguistic labor" (p. 227). As Putnam remarks about the use of the word 'gold': "everyone to whom gold is important for any reason has to acquire the word 'gold'; but he does not have to acquire the method of recognizing if something is or is not gold. He can rely on a special subclass of speakers" (pp. 227-28). That subclass of experts, in the case of musk and civet in medieval India, consisted of those people who would also have used the texts on examination, pariksa. If we consider that only a few people really had a clue about these materials, the confusion between musks and civets, javadis and khattaas and the other terms for these materials, makes more sense. Experts in aromatics no doubt had an appreciation of the difference between the various "cat"-derived scents and deer-derived musks they encountered, not to mention all the adulterated, mixed, and processed materials on the market, and this is reflected in the complex texts associated with these people. Poets, many other scholars, and possibly many consumers had a much vaguer conception of these materials. This sort of situation is analogous to the state of people's knowledge about a material such as coffee nowadays, where some experts and connoisseurs are very careful to differentiate arabica from robusta, as well distinguishing many regional productions, whereas for most people this material is simply coffee, which tends to have quite varied flavors.

The persistence of the vaguely defined but prestigious "stereotypical" concept of musk in religious and literary texts alongside the rise of actual civet as an aromatic provides an example of how the study of material culture alongside textual culture can elucidate the interactions between desires-as-informed-by-discourses, and consumption and supply. If we had only looked at certain genres of texts, in particular literary ones in Sanskrit, but also a text such as the Ain-I Akbari, which does not elevate civet to the same level as musk and ambergris, we would most probably have failed to notice the increasing prominence of civet in both Persianate and more consciously Hindu courtly cultures. This is not to say that civet was a subaltern perfume--rather it is a second tier, or "diffusion range" perfume: the slightly second rate in any culture is often somewhat invisible.

We have learned a lot from this exploration of the textual and material culture of a type of perfume but we have also exposed some gaps in our knowledge. Sources in South Indian languages from the mid second millennium C.E. would appear to be a fruitful place to look for references to civet; materials from Indonesia itself are wholly absent from this study, and the parallel Indo-Muslim textual culture of perfumery is a crucial missing link here. Nevertheless, it is clear that the aromatic material culture of South Asia underwent an enormous change in the early first millennium C.E. Musk went South, and an animal secretion available in much of the Indian Ocean world became a major aromatic, not only in Asia but in Europe. The "classical" textual cultures of Islam and Sanskrit had to adapt to this new, unsanctioned yet familiar material, but in some types of texts, certainly Sanskrit poetry, civet never ousted its Northern predecessor: musk. In South India, on the other hand, a regional nomenclature for the civet, coupled with the fact that it was part of the local landscape, permitted this perfume to be adopted quite seamlessly into the rites of orthodox Hinduism, as we see at Tirupati.


1. Cikitsasamgraha of Cakrapanidatta and the Ratnaprabha commentary of Niscalakara:

A number of lost texts on perfumery are mentioned in an important commentary on the mid-to-late eleventh-century C.E. Cikitsasarpgraha of Cakrapidatta: (69) that is to say, the commentary called the Ratnaprabha of Nisaclakara, which was probably composed in Bengal in the late twelfth century c.E. (70) The Cikitsasamgraha itself also contains instructions on the purification of civet (pull) for making a very complex aromatic medicine called maharajaprasarini oil, and those materials are also quoted in the Todarananda below. This text provides perhaps our most detailed, datable, and placeable account of civet-as-puti, that is to say eleventh and twelfth-century Bengal region.

From the oil formula given by Cakrapani in the Cikitsasamgraha (p. 389, vss. 261-63):
  yathalabham apamargasnuhyadiksaralepitam I
  vaspasvedena samsvedya putim nirlomatam nayet II
  dolapakvarm pacet pascat pancapallavavarini I
  khalah sadhum ivotpidya tato nihsnehatam nayet II
  ajasobhanjanajalair bhavayec ca punah punah I
  sigrumule ca ketakyah puspapatrapute ca tam I
  paced evam visuddhah san mrganabhisamo bhavet II

Smeared with alkali [made with the plants?] apamamargam, snuhi, and the rest according to availability, thoroughly sweated [a technical process] with steam, one should make civet (puti) hairless. Afterwards one should cook (it), (already) cooked in a dola [-yantra device] in water of the five sprouts; (71) like a bad man pressuring a good man one should make it devoid of affection (also means 'devoid of moisture/oil'). (72) One should repeatedly steep it [and dry it] with goat urine and sobhanjana [plant] water, and one should cook it in sigru root and in a fragrant pandanus flower spathe. Thus purified it becomes equal to musk.

Note that the above description of removing the hair might imply one is dealing with a product "in the pod," though not necessarily so.

From the Ratnaprabha commentary on the oil formula (Ratnaprabha, 395, lines 10-12):
  salijah khattasah sa ca anupadesajah sresthah yaduktam Gandhatantre:
  khattaso 'nupajah srestho vartulo mamsalas ca yah I
  madhyamo misradesiyah sammatas tupajo (73) 'dhamah I iti.

  "Salija" is khattasa, and that which is produced in a marshy country
  is the best as is stated in the Gandhatantra:

  Khattasa produced in marshy places is the best--globular and dense.
  That from countries of a mixed nature is of middling [quality].
  and the thin one from dry places the worst.

2. Todarananda

The Todarananda is a massive Sanskrit encyclopedic text commissioned by the emperor Akbar's finance minister Todaramalla, and prepared for him by several scholars in Varanasi sometime in the late sixteenth century. In the medical part of this encyclopedia, in the section on disorders of wind, the compilers quote passages from at least three other lost texts on perfumery: the Light on Fragrance (Parimalapradipa), the Document on the Light on Perfume (Gandhapradipapatrika), and the Treatise on Perfume (Gandhatantra). A comparison with the Cikitseisamgraha and the Ratnaprabha commentary I quote above shows that this text is a combination of a passage from the Gandhatantra as well as one from the Cikitsasamgraha above (Todarananda, pt. 3, 390):
  khattaso 'nupajah srestho vartulo mamsalas ca yah I
  madhyamom misradesiyo jangalas tanuko 'dhamah II 882
  yathalabham apamargasnuhyadiksaralepitam I
  vaspasvedanasamvedya yati nirlomatam nayet II 883
  dolayantre pacet samyak pancapallavavarini I
  khalah sadhum ivotpidya tato nisnehatam nayet II 884
  ajasaubhanjanajalair bhavayec ca punah punah I
  sigrumulena ketakyah puspapatraputena ca I
  paced evam visuddhah san mrganabhisamo bhavet I 885
  Comm: ajam mutram II 886

For translation see the section on the Cikitsasmgraha above.

3. Gandhasara of Gangadhara

A lengthy text that deals with the processes, recipes, and raw ingredients of perfumery. We know nothing about the author, though it is found in a manuscript with another perfumery text called the Gandhavada, which is provided with a Marathi commentary. I am inclined to think many of the materials in the (probably partly compiled) Gandhasara predate those later perfumery texts that mention javadi, ambara, and so forth, thus dating it very vaguely some time in the centuries close to the turn of the second millennium C.E., though, as seen above, one short passage in the Gandhasara does describe javadi. However, in the aromatics glossary of the Gandhasara the entry on civet is as follows (Gangadhara, Gandhasara, 48, v. 84):
  mrgah sayalu(h) khadrasah sr(sr) galah putisalijau I
  salir dhatuh kharah suklo dhutah sumaramantrinau
  II sayala (h)

These terms are tricky, but as some of them are revealing I will give translations that convey some of the associations of these words:
  Deer, dog/jackal, khadrasa, jackal, stinky and rice-born, rice,
  (75) humour/secretion, pungent, white, shaken-off (?) sumara (76)
  and minister (?)--[these are terms for] "Jackal."

Here the term identifying the content of the verse is sayala, suggesting that this term was common enough in some contexts as to be used as a label in the manuscript. Might khadrasah be related to the commoner khattasa? The terminology here is somewhat different from what we see elsewhere. Despite the "deer" term, the jackal terms suggest that this substance was considered to originate from a different animal.

4. Carucarya:

A treatise on personal hygiene attributed to eleventh-century king Bhoja of Dhar. However the text that has been published is highly compiled and contains later texts, including what are probably sixteenth-century materials. (77) I have no doubt that the passages on javadi here are also a later addition, and we can see by comparing them with those in the Rajanighantu and the Bhojanakutuhala (see below) that this material on civet is very similar to those found there. The fragment ... isatpingam su ... might suggest that the materials on javadi in the Carucaryd are from a textual tradition that is closer to the Bhojanakutuhala ( ... isatpingam su-) than the Rajanighantu ( ... isatpitam su-).

The passage on javadi in this text follows the section on musk examination and precedes the examination of saffron. Here civet has been inserted amongst the most prestigious and very long established aromatics:
  ... isatpingamsu ...
  atape bhavanamoda rajnam yogya na canyatha I

For translation of the above verse compare the Rajanighantu text and translation, which is better preserved. The remainder of this text is rather different from the other texts on javadi (Carucarya of Bhoja: 51-52):
  suddha rajakumarabhogasukhada saubhagyapusiprada
  vrsya ... maladimocanakari hrdya sugandhiprada dosaghni ca
  sirobhramadisamani kantamanoranjani bhutapretapisacayaksamani
  srestha javadi smrta javadi nama vikhyata subhada parvatipriya
  yasaskari pustikari bhubhujas sirasa dhrta hrdayahladigandhadhya
  mitaketakamisrita usnavirya mrgodbhuta kaphamarutakagahrt

  The qualities of civet:
  The best civet is traditionally understood as pure, provides
  pleasure for the enjoyments of the royal prince, furnishes good
  fortune and prosperity, invigorating, causes release from ...
  and so on, is pleasing and furnishing perfume, and it removes
  bad humours, subdues dizziness of the head, etc., and delights
  the mind of the beloved, and it subdues bhutas, pretas, pisacas,
  and yaksas. Indeed civet is celebrated as auspicious and it is
  dear to Parvati, it creates fame, creates prosperity, [and] worn
  by the king on his head, gladdens the heart and has a rich odor,
  mixed sparingly with fragrant pandanus, it has a hot potency, is
  produced from the deer, and removes difficulties of phlegm and wind.

5. Bhojanakutuhala:

A work on dietetics and related subjects, composed sometime in the mid to late seventeenth century by Raghunatha Ganesa Navahasta, a prolific scholar also working in Marathi. Raghunatha was associated with the saint Ramadasa, the preceptor of Sivaji, and was apparently patronized by Queen Dipabai, wife of Ekoji Bhosala of Tanjore. (78) The lines here on javadi are quite probably a quotation from the Rajanighantu, and they also occur in the Carucarya and provide another source for the critical comparison of these passages. The content of these verses is of little interest, as they are identical to those in other sources, but the context is what matters the most. In a list of aromatic materials, in which musk and camphor are most prominent, the final entry, following nutmegs, cubebs, and cloves, is javadi (Bhojanakutuhala of Raghunatha: 120-21):
  saugandhikam javadi syat snigdham cosnam sukhavaham I
  vate hitam tu rajnam ca mohanahladakarakam II javadi
  tallaksanam ca:
  javadi nirasam snigdham isatpingam sugandhidam I
  atape bahulamodam rajnam yogyam ca nanyatha II

For the translation see the Rajanighantu above.


All inscriptions and translations taken from Sadhu Subrahmanya Sastry's edition of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams Inscriptions.

Volume 1:

No. 192, pp. 182-84. "On the Bangaru-vakili, i.e., door-jamb covered with gilded copperplate, at the entrance to the Central Shrine in Tirumala Temple." 5th December 1429 C.E. by Vijayanagara king Devaraya II. Donation of income and villages, presumably to provide offerings of food and "for the holy water prepared of fragrant herbs two big (cups) for offering punugu (civet) are presented." " ... incense and civet for smearing (the holy body) during the festival ..."

No. 207, pp. 207-9. Location of inscription same as 192. 16th July 1434 C.E. Donation by a Tirukkalikanridasar Alagappiranar of Tirupati of 4000 narpanam for daily morning offerings in certain months including of " ... powdered or pressed pulugukkappu (refined camphor or civet squeezed of oil) for the holy face ..."

Volume 3:

No. 4, pp. 11-14. On 1 March 1506 C.E. Donation by Dharmapuram Sittamu-setti merchant from suburb of Tirupati of 3500 narpanam of articles required for civet-oil ablution (pulugu-kappu-murai) along with pacchai-karpuram and kasturi on Fridays.

Volume 4:

No. 14, pp. 28-31. On 27th March 1532, donation by the scholar and poet Tallappakkam Tirumalai Aiyyangar of two villages for the supply of articles of worship of Venkatesa including "1 rose-water pot to be supplied during the time of civet-oil ablution on every Friday." Also states with regard to prasadam, "You are also entitled to receive at the time of Sankirtanas one rose-water pot supplied by you for civet-oil ablution to be celebrated on every Friday."

No. 36, pp. 73-75. On 23rd August 1534, donation by Bhandaram Siru-Timmaiyyar, treasury officer of Achyutaraya Maharaya, of 4000 natpanam for purpose of offering 53 vadai-padi (a food) in every year when Venkatesa has the anointment with civet oil.

Volume 5:

No. 47, pp. 104-12. On 3 July 1545, concerning Tallappakkam Tirumalai Aiyyatigar (see above--a major donor), who had obtained renewed sanction from emperor Sadasivaraya Maharayar to the income from a certain village (that had been stopped for a few years), for the performance of rites including "3 rekhai-pon for turmeric powder to be used on 66 days of civet-oil ablution yearly, viz., 53 turumanjanam on 53 Fridays and 13 tirumanjanam on 13 days of the star Mrgasirsham to be conducted for Sri Alarmermangai-Machchiyar (divine consort,) adorning the bosom of Sri Venkatesa."

No. 167, pp. 440-44. On 5th December 1561, donation by Rayasam Venkatadri and his brother, of villages and land revenue for various offerings including atirasa-padi to be offered during the 52 pulugu-kappu (civet-oil ablutions) every year.


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(1.) A. D. Rangarajan, "An Endangered Animal and a Ritual in Doubt." The Hindu, August 31, 2002.

(2.) Special Correspondent, "TTD seeks YSR's help in getting back civet cats." The Hindu, August 8, 2008.

(3.) Rtthul, N. "TFC unlikely to get civet cats." The Hindu, August 9, 2008.

(4.) For the most comprehensive account of Pollock's theories see Pollock 2006.

(5.) As discussed by Flood referring to the work of Sheldon Pollock (Flood 2009: 5).

(6.) See the numerous observations on Indian aromatics in Pliny, Natural History. For medieval Europe see Freedman 2008. For the Arab world see the remarks on sandalwood in Levey 1961 as well as Anya King's work on musk (King 2007). For the Indian love of exotica see McHugh 2011. For China see Schafer 1963.

(7.) Dannenfeldt (1985) provides an excellent history of civet in Europe. His notes on European accounts of civet in Africa and Asia are also a very useful source.

(8.) Cowper, On Conversation (written in 1781). Cowper 1967: 96.

(9.) The other three are the large Indian civet, Viverra zibetha, found in Bengal, ASS0,111, Burma, Malay Peninsula, Siam, and Southern China, and apparently known in Hindi as khatas; the Malabar civet cat, Viverra civettina, considered to be the same species as the above, but separated in distribution, found "throughout the Malabar coast" but not found in Central Provinces, Deccan, or Karnatik; the Burmese civet, Viverra megaspila, found in Burma, Malay Peninsula, Cochin China, and Sumatra.

(10.) Fortunately, Meulenbeld's magisterial History of Indian Medical Literature (HIML) has now made exploring these materials far easier than previously. See also Priya Vrat Sharma's short discussion (in Hindi) of civet where he suggests that it started to be used around the tenth century (1975: 370).

(11.) For the civet cat reference see HIML la, 229; lb, 345 n. 587. For detailed discussions of the dating of the Carakasainhita see H1ML la, 105-15; on the dating of the Stdrutasainhitii see HIML la, 342-44.

(12.) Possibly my argument seems somewhat circular, as P. V. Sharma uses references to civet to date texts, and I use Sharma's dating of texts to date civet. However, civet is not the only item of materia medica that Sharma and Meulenbeld refer to in this matter, nor are references to items to materia medica the only type of evidence used to date these sources.

(13.) The late sixteenth-century encyclopedic text. the Todarananda (see appendix 1. no. 2), reproduces some of the materials on civet from the Cikitsasamgraha and Ratnaprabha commentary. Although composed in a place and time when the Persianate inflection of civet was evidently thriving, there is no mention here of the later terminology or the substance. This also hints at the complexities involved in dating any of these passages, given that we have lost so many perfumery texts.

(14.) On the date of Varahamihira, see Pingree 1994, Series A, vol. 5, p. 563.

(15.) According to Pingree. Bhattotpala, who lived in Kashmir. was active from 966/969 C.E. It would appear from the verses at the end that his commentary on the Brhatsamhita, the Samhitavivri, was composed in the year 967 C.E. (Pingree 1994, Series A, vol. 4, p. 270).

(16.) The terms used in the text vary, for example. sali at Haramakhala 5.134, sari 5.193. vanaara (vanacara = salijataka, 5.132), and puti 5.164. Even if the Haramekhala itself uses such varied terms, it seems certain that, at least for the commentator, sali is a civet-cat-derived aromatic. But, as sali, and perhaps more so salija. are common terms for civet elsewhere in this period, the word probably does indeed refer to civet in the text of the Haramekhala itself.

(17.) HIML IIb, 108 n. 160. Meulenbeld notes that the commentator Sivadasasena. dating possibly from the last quarter of the fifteenth century (see HIML la. 198), gives khattast as a synonym of this term.

(18.) Schafer notes that it is mentioned by "Ch 'en Ts'ang-ch-i. in PTKM, 51a, 31a" (Schafer 1963: 315 n. 24). See also a short discussion in Needham and Lu (1971, vol. 5, pt. 2, pp. 137-38, n. b) with a reference to Hirth and Rockhill (1911: 234-35), who discuss Chinese sources that mention civet, etc., in some detail. From their discussion and the reference in Schafer it appears that the first clear reference to civet in Chinese (as opposed to castoreum from the beaver) is indeed to be found in the eighth-century text of Ch 'en Ts'ang-ch-i.

(19.) See HIML IIa, 563-65. Cf. the discussion in Bollee 2008.

(20.) For a translation of the section on civet in the glossary of aromatics in the Gandhasara see appendix 1, no. 3.

(21.) One might argue that the presence of these Persianate terms is not a matter of date but of cultural context. This is a good point and no doubt plays a role here, but we should also remember that perfumery texts in general show little resistance to the adoption of new materials and terminologies, and that, as we see with the early references to civet, new materials and words quite rapidly penetrate aromatics glossaries and lists of materia medica on a large scale. Thus I do not believe it would take terribly long until word spread (literally) about prestigious, new aromatics in South Asia.

(22.) I am very grateful to Dr. Anya King, a scholar of Arab perfumery traditions at the University of Southern Indiana, for providing references and advice with regard to the Arabic and Persian terminology I discuss in these paragraphs ( March 25, 2012). I should also note that Meulenbeld points out the many references to ambara and lobana as well as other unusual names of ingredients. (HIML IIa, 510-11).

(23.) Dr. King has provided me with the following: Arabic Luban (Ullmann 1983: 172-73). Persian Luban (Steingass 1892: 1116).

(24.) Dr. King notes Arabic 'anbar (Lane 1968: 2168); Persian: Middle Persian (Pahlavi) ambar (Mackenzie 1971: 8); Classical and Modern Persian spelled 'anbar (loan from Arabic) but pronounced 'ambar (Steingass 869).

(25.) Dr. King notes Arabic ladan and ladhan (WkaS, vol. 2, pt. 2, 35) (loanword from Greek); Persian ladan (Steingass 1892: 1111).

(26.) The editor of the Gandhasara takes it as a preparation rather than a raw material (Gangadhara, Gandhasara, intro. 3).

(27.) Rajanighantu of Narahari: 375. On Narahari and his date see the discussion in HIML IIa. 269-70.

(28.) Note there seem to be eleven terms here; probably the ten names are ten other names, or one of these terms is being used as an adjective.

(29.) The section on artificial aromatics is p. 36, vs. 1 to p. 38, vs. 33. The javeidi is described p. 36, vss. 7-24.

(30.) My emendation.

(31.) Dr. King notes Arabic Zabad (Lane, vol. 3, 1209), Persian Zabad (Steingass, 608).

(32.) As confirmed by Plans (1884: 614). I have also discussed the matter of Persian Sanskrit orthography with Dr. Sreeramula Rajeswara Sarma, who has extensively studied Persian-Sanskrit lexica (Sarna 2009), and he also confirms the use of the Devanagari ja to represent the zay (pers. comm., March 31, 2012).

(33.) Note that comparison with the Tamil zabad-like words I discuss below might suggest that the Sanskrit form might also be derived from an Indian vernacular term.

(34.) Sharma (ibid.) also suggests that khattasi was the name under which the dried civet gland was traded, and that this object could be used to impart an odor to oil, though he does not give his sources for this important detail. Nevertheless. Sharma's command of these materials is such that we should take this comment seriously.

(35.) Gandhasara of Gangadhara, 70.

(36.) According to Monier Williams, 1 pala = 16 sanas.

(37.) Emending sanaka to sanaka.

(38.) I prefer the editor's emendation here, but nevertheless mrgi is not a standard term for musk nor have I ever come across a standard "two musks." The Old Marathi commentary translates this as kholade, which is not given in any of the standard Marathi dictionaries (including Tulpule and Feldhaus). Thus my translation here is very tentative.

(39.) Uncertain--literally 'hidden' (f.), and the commentary also gives guhya.

(40.) Literally 'wooden' and commonly 'ladle'. The commentary understands this to mean devadaru. that is to say the wood of Cedrus deodara.

(41.) Reading taila. Taila can also refer to aromatic resins but I believe a clearer word would have been used in this context.

(42.) This term, chadachada, and the Marathi chada, are somewhat reminiscent of the Sanskrit word charila and related vernacular words that refer to fragrant lichens, "tree moss," that are still widely used in perfumery.

(43.) Probably a synonym of tagara, most likely referring to a variety of valerian root.

(44.) Both text and commentary have kavari. Ambasta (2000: 307) has kachri as the Marathi for Kaempferia galanga.

(45.) Uncertain.

(46.) Uncertain, the commentary does not mention this, so maybe this is "black sal tree resin." despite the lack of agreement in gender.

(47.) In perfumery vasana is the process by which fresh flowers such as jasmine are placed on a fatty substrate and left for some time until they impart their fragrant qualities to it. this being the very same process known as enfleurage in French.

(48.) The final line is especially difficult and corrupt. The scholar of Marathi, Anne Feldhaus, extremely kindly translated the Old Marathi commentary on the final lines of this recipe for me. The explanation of the final line is as follows: "Get I tank of pure javadi [from] 8 tank [of stuff]. It becomes the best javadi (tank 8 tank I su(su)ddha javadi melavije. uttama javadi hove). This suggests that the basic idea is that one produces one part of farad/ from eight of raw materials, and that this javadi is excellent. Therefore I very tentatively reconstruct the Sanskrit as the, still far from ideal, astamsaih suddhajavadim deyam [_]Jbhojanirmitam.

(49.) Contained in the compilation Ratnapariksadi Sapt-Granth Samgrah of Thakkura Pheru, 39-44. Note that Ratnapariksa in this compilation is the Prakrit Rayanaparikkha translated by Sreeramula Rajeswara Sarma.

(50.) I rely here very closely on the detailed account of his life and works by S. R. Sarma, given in the introduction to his translation of Thakkura Pheru's work on gemology, the Rayanaparikkha. 1-20.

(51.) This could also possibly be yavadi. so 'barley and so on', though I think that less likely. Vasudev Saran Agraval, who produced a Hindi translation, takes the verse in that manner (1951-52: 332).

(52.) Professor S. R. Sarma, who has studied the works of Thakkura Pheru for many years, kindly provided this translation. I have slightly modified his translation (Dhatutpatti of Thakkura Pheru, 39).

(53.) Presumably a reference to Malindi in East Africa. It would be interesting to discover whether African civet might have been traded from such a port. Fifteenth-century European travelers noted the production of African civet (Dannenfeldt 1985: 406-8).

(54.) Again I am entirely indebted to S. R. Sarma for pointing out the interest of these passages and helping to translate them.

(55.) Javadi as musk is attested in Mhaimbhata-Sankalita Govindaprabhu Caritra from the late thirteenth century (Raeside 1960: 507). Attested also in Muni Kesiraja Viracita Murtiprakasa from late thirteenth century (idem, 506). Two other attestations of javadi are listed but at least one is later. Also civet cat javadiya mamjara, attested earliest in Rukmini Svayamvara of Narendra, fl. 1291 (idem, 507).

(56.) He also mentions pula: "A mixture of civet, etc., which is smeared on idols, then removed, and sold at a high price."

(57.) As I do not study Tamil, I am very grateful to Mark Kharas, Alex McKinley, and Sophia Nasti at Harvard Divinity School for preparing me a very useful report on the entries and attestations for civet in the University of Madras Tamil Lexicon. All errors in using their data are my own.

(58.) Poucher notes (1930: 107-8): "... it is said that they are repeatedly titillated by the natives in order to increase the yield. During this process the animal is confined to a small cage in which it cannot turn around, the contents of the pouch which are almost liquid being removed every few days with the aid of a small spoon."

(59.) We should bear in mind that castoreum from the beaver might also have been circulating in these markets in all periods.

(60.) As noted by Sharma (1975: 370).

(61.) "... his chest besmeared with sandal fluid mixed with civet ..." javadimisreva patiradravena paricarcitabhujantarah Anandarangavijayacampu of Srinivasa Kavi, 8.0, p. 173, line 6. I am grateful to the Sanskrit Dictionary Project at the Deccan College in Pune for allowing me to examine the entry on javadi in their card catalog, which led me to this reference.

(62.) See appendix 2 for notes on these inscriptions. This evidence is also discussed in Ramesan 1981: 140-41, 583-85.

(63.) Dr. A. V. Ramana Dikshitulu, Pradhana Archaka and Agama Advisor, T. T. Devasthanams, Tirumala. personal interview. June 12, 2010.

(64.) For an excellent study of the Vaikhansas and their scriptures, see Colas 1996. For a shorter introduction see Colas 2003.

(65.) King (2007: 235 n. 20) proposes a similar hypothesis for the Arab world.

(66.) One of the commoner words for musk in Sanskrit, kasturika, would appear, however, to be redolent with foreign contacts (i.e.. Greek kastor 'beaver'), though the exact nature of this contact seems confused in a manner that might well not seem surprising to the reader by now. See King 2007: 27-28.

(67.) See HIML Ha, 157 and note.

(68.) See the passages on civet from the Ratnaprabha and Todarananda in appendix I. nos. 1 and 2.

(69.) Also called the Cakradatta and Cakra(datta)samgraha. HIML Ha, 86.

(70.) On Cakrapani see HIML Ha, 92-93. Meulenbeld places Niscalakara in Bengal in the second half of the twelfth century C.E., and Priya Vrat Sharma suggests a date later than 250 C.E. See HIML Ha, 105.

(71.) According to Apte, the five sprouts are the leaves of mango, fig, banyan, Ficus religiosa, and another species of fig, though there are variations on this.

(72.) Note that khala can also mean 'dregs' or 'residue' but given the grammar of the line as it stands it is not possible to do anything with that sense of the word.

(73.) The editor gives two other readings here: tu payo; sa payo.

(74.) In the above translation from the Ratnaprabha commentary I have adopted the reading in the Todarananda (see below) for the very last line, as this makes far better sense in the context.

(75.) Possibly one ought not to translate these two "rice" synonyms.

(76.) This is so uncertain that I prefer not to translate.

(77.) On this text see HIML Ha, 160-61.

(78.) For details of Raghunatha, see "A Note on Bhojanakutuhala" by K.S. Mahadeva Sastri at the beginning of the edition referred to. Also cf. HIML IIa, 309.



A number of people and organizations have helped me produce this article, and I am grateful to them. First I thank the anonymous reviewer for valuable comments, and also Stephanie Jamison for excellent editorial advice. At Harvard Sophia Nasti, Mark Kharas, and Alex McKinley, together with Anne Monius, prepared a very useful report on some Tamil terms for civet for me. David Shulman kindly provided some important references to civet and civets in Tamil sources. Anne Feldhaus generously took time to translate part of the Old Marathi commentary on one of the texts I discuss. The Office of the Provost and the Grant Program for Advancing Scholarship in the Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Southern California provided generous support for my travel and research in India in summer 2010. At Tirupati Dr. A. V. Ramana Dikshitulu was extremely gracious to meet me and discuss the use of aromatics in the temple there. I would also like to thank Mohan Babu, Lakshmi Manchu, and Varun Soni for helping me to prepare for my research in India. The scholar of musk, Anya King, looked into Arabic and Persian civet terminology for me, and Sreeramula Rajeswara Sarma shared his knowledge of interactions between Persian and Sanskrit language texts with me. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to present a version of this paper to the Graduate Student Association of Religious Studies at McMaster University and I thank all the students and faculty there for all their comments: James Benn, in particular, shared some thoughts on civet in China with me. The noted occultist Ray Sherwin first introduced me to civet a long time ago in Leeds. Of course, all misunderstandings and shortcomings are my own.
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