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  • Nicolas Roth

Reading List: Gardens and Fragrance, Perfumery and Flavour

Hafiz was a Persian poet much admired by the Mughals. His divan (collected poems) consists largely of ghazals (short lyric poems). These were intended to be sung, or at least spoken with heavy intonation, and were popular in Mughal court entertainments. Royal Collection Trust, UK
Divan-i Hafiz. circa 1600: Hafiz was a Persian poet much admired by the Mughals. His divan (collected poems) consists largely of ghazals (short lyric poems). These were intended to be sung, or at least spoken with heavy intonation, and were popular in Mughal court entertainments. (Royal Collection Trust, UK)

Gardens and Fragrance in Early Modern South Asia

A Reading List by Nicolas Roth

On Scent

  1. Husain, Ali Akbar. Scent in the Islamic Garden: A Study of Literary Sources in Persian and Urdu. Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2000.

  2. McHugh, James. Sandalwood and Carrion: Smell in Premodern Indian Religion and Culture. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.

  3. Singh, Kavita, ed. Scent upon a Southern Breeze: The Synaesthetic Arts of the Deccan. Mumbai: Marg Foundation, 2018.


On Gardens

  1. Alemi, Mahvash. “Chahar Bagh.” Environmental Design 1 (1986): 38–45.

  2. Alemi, Mahvash."The Royal Gardens of the Safavid Period: Types and Models." In Gardens in the Time of the Great Muslim Empires: Theory and Design, edited by Attilio Petruccioli, 72-96. Leiden: Brill, 1997.

  3. Ali, Daud. “Bhoja’s Mechanical Garden: Translating Wonder across the Indian Ocean, circa 800–1100 CE.” History of Religion 55, no. 4 (May 2016): 460-493.

  4. Ali, Daud, and Emma J. Flatt, eds. Garden and Landscape Practices in Pre-colonial India: Histories from the Deccan. New Delhi: Routledge India, 2012.

  5. Ali, Daud. “Gardens in Early Indian Court Life.” Studies in History 19, no. 2 (2003): 221-252.

  6. Asher, Catherine B. “Babur and the Timurid Chār Bāgh: Use and Meaning,” Environmental Design 1-2 (1991): 45-66

  7. Bailey, Gauvin. “The Sweet-Smelling Notebook: An Unpublished Mughal Source on Garden Design.” In Gardens in the Time of the Great Muslim Empires: Theory and Design, edited by Attilio Petruccioli, 129-139. Leiden: Brill, 1997.

  8. Elizabeth Moynihan Resources at National Museum of Asian Art (Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery).

  9. Fairchild Ruggles, D. “At the Margins of Architectural and Landscape History: The Rajputs of South Asia.” Muqarnas 30, no. 1 (2013): 95-117.

  10. Fairchild Ruggles, D. Islamic Gardens and Landscapes. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008.

  11. Gharipour, Mohammad. Persian Gardens and Pavilions: Reflections in History, Poetry, and the Arts. London: Tauris, 2013.

  12. Ghosh, Pika. “Tales, Tanks, and Temples: The Creation of a Sacred Center in Seventeenth-Century Bengal,” Asian Folklore Studies 61, no. 2 (2002): 193-222.

  13. Golombek, Lisa. “From Tamerlane to the Taj Mahal.” In Islamic Art and Architecture: Essays in Honor of Katharina Otto-Dorn, edited by Abbas Daneshvari, 43-50. Malibu: Mazda Publishers, 1981.

  14. Gopal, Lallanji. Vr̥kṣāyurveda in Ancient India. New Delhi: Sundeep Prakashan, 2000.

  15. Gothein, Marie Luise. Indische Gärten. Berlin: Drei Masken Verlag, 1913.

  16. Habib, Irfan. “Dealing with Multiplicity: Mughal Administration in Braj Bhum under Aurangzeb (1659-1707).” Studies in People’s History 3, no. 2 (2016): 151-164.

  17. Habib, Irfan. “From Ariṭh to Rādhākund: The History of a Braj Village in Mughal Times.” Indian Historical Review 38, no. 2 (2011): 211-224.

  18. Habib, Irfan. The Agrarian System of Mughal India 1556-1707. 3rd ed. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2014.

  19. Habib, Irfan, and Faiz Habib. “Mapping the Growth of a Mughal Period Township: Vrindavan,” Studies in People’s History 6, no. 1 (2019): 16-22.

  20. Herbert, Eugenia W. Flora’s Empire: British Gardens in India. Philadelphia University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011.

  21. Husain, Ali Akbar. Scent in the Islamic Garden: A Study of Literary Sources in Persian and Urdu. Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2000.

  22. Johnson-Roehr, Susan N. “Centering the Chārbāgh: The Mughal Garden as Design Module for the Jaipur City Plan,” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 72, no. 1 (2013): 28-47.

  23. Khera, Dipti Sudhir. “The Joys of Bonding.” In Visions of Paradise: Indian Court Painting, edited by Wayne Crothers, Dipti Khera, Shailka Mishra, and Suneeta Peres da Costa, 109-117. Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria, 2018.

  24. Khera, Dipti. The Place of Many Moods: Udaipur’s Painted Lands and India’s Eighteenth Century. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2020. Further resources accessible here.

  25. Koch, Ebba. “Carved Pools, Rock-Cut Elephants, Inscriptions, and Tree Columns: Mughal Landscape Art as Imperial Expression and Its Analogies to the Renaissance Garden.” In Gardens of Renaissance Europe and the Islamic Empires: Encounters and Confluences, edited by Mohammad Gharipour, 185-212. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2017.

  26. Koch, Ebba. “Flowers in Mughal Architecture.” Marg 70, no. 2 (2018): 24-34.

  27. Koch, Ebba. “Jahangir as Francis Bacon’s Ideal of the King as an Observer and Investigator of Nature.” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society Series 3, 19, no. 3 (2009): 293-338.

  28. Koch, Ebba. “Mughal Palace Gardens from Babur to Shah Jahan (1526-1648).” Muqarnas 14 (1997): 143-165.

  29. Koch, Ebba, The Complete Taj Mahal. London: Thames & Hudson, 2006.

  30. Koch, Ebba. “The Mughal Waterfront Garden,” in Gardens in the Time of the Great Muslim Empires, ed. Attilio Petruccioli (Leiden: Brill, 1997), 140-60.

  31. Parodi, Laura. "Mughal Garden Typologies Reconsidered." In Reflections on Mughal Art and Culture, edited by Roda Ahluwalia, 183-208. New Delhi: Niyogi Books, 2021.

  32. Sharma, Sunil. “Kashmir and the Mughal Fad of Persian Pastoral Poetry.” In Borders: Itineraries on the Edges of Iran, edited by Stefano Pellò, 183-202. Venice: Edizioni Ca’Foscari, 2016.

  33. Sharma, Sunil. Mughal Arcadia: Persian Literature in an Indian Court. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2017.

  34. Subtelny, Maria E. “Agriculture and the Timurid Chahārbāgh: The Evidence from a Medieval Persian Agricultural Manual” In Gardens in the Time of the Great Muslim Empires, edited by. Attilio Petruccioli, 110-128. Leiden: Brill, 1997.

  35. Subtelny, Maria E. “A Medieval Persian Agricultural Manual in Context: The Irshād al-Zirā‘a in Late Timurid and Early Safavid Khorasan.” Studia Iranica 22, no. 2 (1993): 167-217.

  36. Subtelny, Maria E. “Mīrak-i Sayyid Ghiyās and the Timurid Tradition of Landscape Architecture,” Studia Iranica 24 (1995): 19-60.

  37. Villiers Stuart, Constance Marie. Gardens of the Great Mughals. London: Adam and Charles Black, 1913.

  38. Wescoat, James L., and Joachim Wolschke-Bulmahn, eds. Mughal Gardens: Sources, Places, Representations, and Prospects, Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks, 1996.

  39. Wescoat, James L. Jr. “Landscapes of Conquest and Transformation: Lessons from the Earliest Mughal Gardens in India, 1526-1530.” Landscape Journal 10 (1991): 105-114.

  40. Wescoat, James L. Jr. “Gardens versus Citadels: The Territorial Context of Early Mughal Gardens.” In Garden History: Issues, Approaches, Methods, edited by John Dixon Hunt, 331-358. Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks, 1992.


A Mughal volume of the Persian classic written in 1584 in Agra by the calligrapher Muhammad Husayn Kashmiri. Royal Collection Trust
Gulistan-i Sadi گلستان سعدی (The Rose Garden of Sadi): A Mughal volume of the Persian classic written in 1584 in Agra by the calligrapher Muhammad Husayn Kashmiri. (Royal Collection Trust, UK)

Fragrance and Flavour

A Reading List by Bharti Lalwani

  1. Aftel, Mandy. Essence and Alchemy: A Natural History of Perfume. Repr, Gibbs Smith, 2004.

  2. Arctander, Steffen. Perfume and Flavor Materials of Natural Origin. LULU COM, 2017.

  3. Barwich, A. S. Smellosophy: What the Nose Tells the Mind. Harvard University Press, 2020.

  4. Bradstreet, Christina. "Wicked with Roses": Floral Femininity and the Erotics of Scent. Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide (NCAW). Volume 6, Issue 1 | Spring 2007. Accessible online.

  5. Burr, Chandler. The Emperor of Scent: A Story of Perfume, Obsession, and the Last Mystery of the Senses. 1st ed, Random House, 2002.

  6. Burr, Chandler. The Perfect Scent: A Year inside the Perfume Industry in Paris and New York. 1st ed, Henry Holt, 2008.

  7. Calkin, Robert R., et al. Perfumery Practice and Principles. John Wiley & Sons, 1994.

  8. Corbin, Thomas. The Foul & the Fragrant – Odor & the French Social Imagination. Harvard University Press, 1988.

  9. Dhingra, Divrina. The Perfume Project: Journeys through Indian fragrance. Westland Publication, 2023.

  10. Dugan, Holly. The Ephemeral History of Perfume: Scent and Sense in Early Modern England. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011.

  11. Ellena, Jean-Claude, and John Crisp. Perfume: The Alchemy of Scent. Arcade Pub, 2011.

  12. Goldsmith, Dora. Smellscapes in Ancient Egypt, Ancient Near East Today Vol. VII, No. 7, 2019. Accessible online.

  13. Goldsmith, Dora. "Fish, Fowl, and Stench in Ancient Egypt", in: Annette Schellenberg and Thomas Krüger (eds.), Sounding Sensory Profiles in the Ancient Near East, Ancient Near East Monographs 25, Atlanta, GA: SBL Press, pp. 335-360, 2019. Accessible online.

  14. Hsu, Hsuan L. The Smell of Risk: Environmental Disparities and Olfactory Aesthetics. 1st ed., NYU Press, 2020.

  15. Kettler, Andrew. “Delightful a Fragrance: Native American Olfactory Aesthetics within the Eighteenth-Century Anglo-American Botanical Community,” in Empire of the Senses: Sensory Practices of Colonialism in Early America, ed. Daniela Hacke and Paul Musselwhite (Leiden: Brill, 2017), 223-54.

  16. Kettler, Andrew. “Making the Synthetic Epic: Septimus Piesse, the Manufacturing of Mercutio Frangipani, and Olfactory Renaissance in Victorian England”, The Senses and Society, Volume 10 - Issue 1, 2015.

  17. Kettler, Andrew. The Smell of Slavery: Olfactory Racism and the Atlantic World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020. See “Review of Kettler, Andrew, The Smell of Slavery: Olfactory Racism and the Atlantic World”. H-Early-America, H-Net Reviews. March, 2022.

  18. McGee, Harold. Nose Dive: A Field Guide to the World’s Smells. Penguin Press, 2020.

  19. Naiyer Masud, and Muhammad Umar Memon. The Essence of Camphor. Katha: Distributed by Katha Mela, 1998.

  20. Ostrom, Lizzie. Perfume: A Century of Scents. Pegasus Books, 2016.

  21. Paradis, Clement. A Disoriented Perfumery. Nez (7 February 2022). Part I, Part II

  22. Patterson, Daniel, and Mandy Aftel. The Art of Flavor: Practices and Principles for Creating Delicious Food. Riverhead Books, 2017.

  23. Sharma, Nik, and Matteo Riva. The Flavor Equation: The Science of Great Cooking Explained + More than 100 Essential Recipes. Chronicle Books, 2020.

  24. Shiner, L. E. Art Scents: Exploring the Aesthetics of Smell and the Olfactory Arts. Oxford University Press, 2020.

  25. Tanaïs. In Sensorium: Notes for My People. Harper, 2022

  26. Turin, Luca. The Secret of Scent: Adventures in Perfume and the Science of Smell. 1. ed, Harper, 2007.

  27. Turin, Luca, and Tania Sanchez. A Little Book of Perfumes: The 100 Greatest Scents. Profile, 2011.

  28. Turin, Luca, and Tania Sanchez. Perfumes: The A-Z Guide, Profile 2010


Exhibitions, Research & Podcasts

Exhibition: Scent and the City, 2016

Curator: Lauren Nicole Davis

Venue: ANAMED Gallery, Koç University

Ottoman History Podcast: Istanbul and the Ottoman Olfactory Heritage, Episode 363, Interview with the Curator

Exhibition: Concept, Context, Contestation: Art and the Collective in Southeast Asia, 2013

Catalogue: Lenzi, Iola, et al., editors. Concept, Context, Contestation: Art and the Collective in Southeast Asia, Mūnnithi Hō̜ Sinlapa Watthanatham hǣng Krung Thēp Mahā Nakhō̜n, 2557.

Venue: Bangkok Art and Culture Centre

Lead Essay: Lenzi, Iola, “Conceptual Strategies in Southeast Asian Art: a local narrative”, Download PDF

Journal Article: Perfumery from Myth to Antiquity

Authors: Dimitra Voudouri & Christine Tesseromatis

International Journal of Medicine and Pharmacy

December 2015, Vol. 3, No. 2, pp. 41-55

ISSN 2372-5087 (Print) 2372-5095 (Online)

Published by American Research Institute for Policy Development

Cognitive scientist and author of Smellosophy: What the Nose Tells the Mind, included in our Reading List, Ann-Sophie Barwich, smells for a living and publishes her extensive research on where one can find her lectures and papers on mapping odours in the brain, and the smells of the past, among other topics. However, it is her musings expressed on her blog that are intriguing. My personal favourite is her piece on what it was like to cook with the hottest chili peppers in the world and how the taste of excessive heat made her reflect on her decision to quit Twitter in order to focus on her physical reality.

Professionally trained perfumer, writer and journalist, Victoria Frolova, explores the world of senses through art, literature, and history. She writes on topics ranging from art, fiction, farming and harvesting botanicals, to even sharing techniques on how she learns languages.

Column: Per Fumar

Mishka Hoosen, a researcher from Johannesburg (South Africa) writes extensively on perfume, madness, and the body. They are currently working on a novel, Through Smoke, which will examine perfume as an embodiment of desire and remembrance in the postcolonial city. One of her most poignant pieces describes the smell of Notre Dame burning.

Anthropologists Samprati Pani and Sarover Zaidi come together to create a most sensorilly rich blog that lets the reader experience the psyche of Delhi city through conversations around its forgotten histories, architecture, religious practices intertwined with flavours and smells. Sometimes, between searching for jalebi or haggling for earrings in Old Delhi, their posts also weave in personal associations with Bombay monsoons and Berlin springs.

Harold McGee is an author who writes on chemistry and food science. He possesses an encyclopaedic knowledge of smells and flavours. His eponymous column ran in NYT from 2006 to 2011 and is archived here. His most recent publication, included in our Reading List, Nose Dive: A Field Guide to the World’s Smells, is a revelation on the science behind aromas and tastes that excite the olfactory system. Dive into his scholarship via his blog to learn about the molecular link between freshly cooked eggs and the mouth of a volcano, or about ants from the Amazon that taste like lemongrass and ginger.

Perfumer, educator and researcher Nuri McBride writes on olfactory culture, scent in death rituals, and traditional perfume production techniques from the early Islamicate. In this blog she discusses the role of scent in burial practices around the world explored in tandem with the history, science, and myth of scent.

Public speaker, educator and writer with sensory evaluation training, Michelle Krell Kydd, possesses an olfactory version of a photographic mind when it comes to smell and taste. In other words, she retains the sensory impression and continues to build on it with repeated exposure. She pays special attention to the condition of anosmia. In 2021, she developed olfactory calisthenics to help people recover their sense of smell and launched The Incense Project. Michelle often devices curious thought experiments — my favourite is one that explores instinctive smell-bias and revulsion. Here, she offered her audience rat shaped chocolates to test if folks would forgo their bias or overcome their nausea-inducing impulses to enjoy the chocolate (they do!).

Classically trained in Grasse, perfumer and educator Dana El Masri blogs about her personal journey as a perfumer and sound artist, as well as the thought process and ingredients involved in her olfactory creations. She also runs the podcast “On the Nose

Aromatherapist Frauke Galia sheds light on the significance of smell in a culture dominated by sight and sound from different angles. Each episode covers wide ranging topics through interviews with distillers, perfumers, ethical suppliers of aromatic materials, flavourists and writers.

Mala: A Garland of Flowers, A Bad Woman, Memories Living Art is a podcast and perfume anthology where extraordinary women retell their stories of survival and reimagine them as scents. Perfumer and writer Tanais, explores memory and olfaction to interrogate the idea of a so-called “bad woman.” The women interviewed for this project spent decades in the criminal justice system in New York State; the project sought to render their lives, before & after their convictions, as perfumes. The process was meant to be open, without judgement, and emancipatory. Through this podcast, audiences can experience their stories and scent-memories.

Director of Institute of Art and Olfaction (LA), Saskia Wilson Brown, explores sensorial cultural associations through interviews with perfumers, academics and artists. IAO is a non-profit that regularly curates visual art, performative, and installation-based exhibitions for the public. They also run lectures, scent training and education workshops.

Katherine Schofield is a historian of music and listening in Mughal India. Through stories about powerful courtesans, legendary maestros and captivated patrons, Katherine writes of sovereignty and selfhood, friendship and desire, sympathy and loss, and power, worldly and strange as the Mughal empire gave way to British rule. Each episode teases out the hidden strands of resistance shown by courtesans and musicians against the East India Company. Katherine’s deft story-telling illustrates the tensions between the British colonial state and the Indian peoples whose worlds it was increasingly encroaching upon during the 1830s and 40s. Episodes also list reading and listening resources (some include links to Katherine's performances of short musical pieces related to the subject under discussion) on the blog run by the British Library.



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