Has it ever happened to you that a particular aroma transported you right back into your childhood, back to being a little girl? I believe nostalgia has its own unique fragrance redolent of beautiful times! And there is something beautifully Indian about our childhood memories and the aromas we associate with them. I have some very distinct  and pleasant memories of flowers from my grandparents’ lawn. They had a stretch of lovely roses, some of them exotic for those days including a variety of black rose. I also remember the huge patch of jasmine flowers that we kids loved. The aroma was heady to say the least. I remember sitting many evenings in the patch plucking the pretty white buds that were later woven into small gajras for our mothers. The rest of the buds were left to float in a large bowl of water perfuming the air around it. I have always loved jasmine flowers and their scent since then. These days, we are growing them in our own small garden.


Lovely jasmine flowers

Then there were the pretty parijat flowers – these small white flowers with an orange band in the center are delightfully fragrant. Pick a few in your hands and inhale deeply. They will transport you to a happy space immediately. Another fragrance I remember fondly is that of raat ki rani or Night queen. This one flowers only at night. And its aroma is something to be experienced! If you have this plant growing somewhere in the vicinity, you can sense its smell from a few houses away. Its sweet smell has always mesmerized me. I remember my mother asking me not to go near the plant in the dark of the night as snakes are believed to dwell somewhere near. But I remember lingering, not wanting to go away just yet despite my real fear of snakes. Raat ki rani transports me back to the small sleepy town of Sitapur where we had this flowering in the lawn of our house. I must have been 5 or 6 years old back then but I remember distinctly. And then there is the fragrance of incense sticks that we burn during poojas. I remember my mother would burn a bunch of them together perfuming the house, leaving a smell lingering for hours that I associate to this day with piety. Yes, they came in several fragrances and sandalwood was my favorite. No wonder I am such a stickler for deodorants, perfumes, scented candles, air sprays and car perfumes. I love to be surrounded by nature’s aromas! Fragrance is a part of me.


Parijat flowers

There are several others smells of nostalgia for me. When I walked into the home from school, I would inhale deeply and know exactly what mom had cooked. And that held an element of pleasant surprise for me. I especially remember halwa with the inviting smell of rava frying in desi ghee. It was sheer delight! Another smell that has stayed with me is that of new books or text books. Unlike today’s children, I used to await getting new books at the start of the school year. While covering them, I would pick them up and inhale deeply and savor the fresh smell. Bliss! Even today, I have the habit of sniffing any new book I buy. Old habits die hard :).

raat ki rani

Raat ki rani with a heavenly perfume!

I can go on and on about the amazing smell of ripe mango, piquant smell of star fruit, heady aroma of bel fruit, the invigorating perfume of first rain on sun-baked earth, the piquant smell of marigold flowers that were strung in rows during Diwali or poojas in our house, the strong smell of phenyl used for cleaning, the inviting smell of petrol, the luscious aroma of fresh herbs, the deep smell of henna on the hands, of eucalyptus oil put in water to steam when we had nasal congestion…


The amazing marigold!

These scents have made a lasting impression on my whole being. A whiff and warm memories are rekindled. And, don’t you agree that they are so inherently Indian and amazingly satisfying to the soul?

What are the unique smells of childhood that you crave for?

All images are courtesy Wikimedia Commons. I own no copyright for them.



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71 Thoughts on “Smells of nostalgia of an Indian childhood

  1. Aha.. I love garden smells too. The smell of mogra, grass, gooseberries, mango. mmmm. And yes I too would start sniffing as soon as I entered home. And guess what, sonny does the same. 🙂

  2. Amazing post … the pics and writing made me nostalgic 🙂

  3. A truly fragrant post. I can identify with all the ones you mentioned here…moms cooking, jasmine flowers, bel fruit and the incense sticks.

  4. the “mitti ki khusbu” in rains – oh lovely. and subsequently combined with pakoras and adrak chai smell… true bliss

  5. really lovely 😀 made me nostalgic

  6. I loved it…
    Your words made me nostalgic too!!!

    All the best 🙂

  7. Parijat flowers look delightful. I am also planning to plant few flowers in my terrace. Will try and find them here.

  8. Alas! The only smell that I do resonate to the most is food 🙂 Even though we had that parijat, jasmine and night queen flowering in our garden in Neyveli. 🙂

  9. Wow.. Made me nostalgic and go back memory lane into my childhood days.. Even I love the smell of new books..I love the smell of Mother Earth when rains first touch its soil.. I love the smell of rava when fried in ghee when mom used to make halwa.. Beautiful post and so very well written.. Lovely..!!

  10. The writing, the pictures, the you-behind-the-post reminiscing, all very beautiful. I can almost smell the flowers. Feeling refreshed! 🙂

  11. There are so many smells I associate from my childhood, but the most strongest is the smell of madhumalati growing in our government colonies….


  12. You took me back in time with all those smells, especially the smell of the new books…such lovely times and so small our wishes. These memories are indeed beautiful and truly Indian. 🙂

    • How amazing was that! New books — I can’t get enough of that smell. Big pleasures in such small things indeed. I am glad you connected with the fragrances in the post.

  13. Isn’t it amazing how we capture these scents and store them in our memories – and later associate them with certain places and even people? You’ve created a lovely fragrance with your words today, Rachna. 🙂

  14. Lovely post ! Smells evoke so many memories in us. Though we cant distinctly recollect smells, we remember it the moment we smell it. I think smells have still a lot of potential for product companies to explore 🙂 Imagine an ad for a pizza which smells of pizza !

  15. ddeepa on August 22, 2013 at 9:25 pm said:

    Aah! To be honest, I do not have any memories of gardening or smells related to flowers from my childhood but I can quite imagine you as a little girl spending your time among the flowers 🙂 Somehow I am getting more drawn towards gardening now! 🙂

    • I did no gardening, Deepa :). I like to enjoy the fruits of others’ labors! Even now it is G who is a keen gardener. But I do love flowers, have always loved them!

  16. You know, I don’t quite have very many strong aromatic associations from my childhood perhaps because I have always lived in a concrete jungle. But I do have one – Odomos! My Dadi use to smear that all over her arms and legs before going to bed! Even today that smell is in my head clear as day!

    • Nana’s house was beautiful. The lawns were lush green and huge. There were many vegetables and fruit trees too, of course flowers as well. They had two full-time malis. Otherwise, we were lucky if our government houses had a patch of aangan or garden. And I feel women are more clued in to smells than men. Your dadi incident makes me remember the strong smell of kachua chaap :).

  17. Those flowery fragrances, Rachna! I used to sit in the garden whenever I visited my aunt (mother’s side) in holidays. And..the smell of food, ah! matchless 🙂

  18. The smell of lemon and karipatta I associate with my childhood as we had these trees in our backyard. Also, the smell of damp earth transports me to the summer days in Nagpur when I used to water the garden…

  19. ALL of these hold big memories for me, Rachna. Photos are fab..and so is your post. Hugs!

  20. A fragrant post with all the aromas stirring the childhood memories! Best of luck for the contest, Rachna:)

  21. The smell of pink Lux soap reminds me of my Granny’s place. The parijaat flowers remind me of our neighbours and of course, it was fun guessing what mom had cooked, on the stairs before entering home, after school. 🙂

  22. Beautiful post and such beautiful memories! The Parijat flowers are a rarity here. Loved its pic!

  23. blogwatig on August 23, 2013 at 1:30 pm said:

    Ah, Rachna………………..what a fab, fab, fab post! Loved every bit of it. Yes, the flowers and gardens are such an unmistakable part of our childhood. Food aromas are another. Halwa remains a favorite with me too. And oh, new books. Yup, I smell them too……glad to find another madhatter like me. Your post so took me back home! Thank you <3

  24. One fragrant post! 🙂
    I love all the fragrances you have mentioned. Would also like to add these: freshly cut grass, the sweet smell in bakeries, that pure smell inside temples, and the way a baby smells! Of course, the baby smell is not a childhood memory but it’s one of the nicest and sweetest smells in the world.

    And did you know the smell of the earth after the first rains is called Petrichor? Pronounced – /pe-tri-kur/

  25. fragrance of your post has elated the ambiance of my room. Thank you.


  26. Girl, did you sneak into my mind by any chance? I love everything that you said, except for the ripe jack fruit..I am not a big fan of it 🙂 And I am a very smell sensitive person..I don’t know if you remember my post on smells some months back 🙂
    good luck for the contest 🙂

  27. What an amazing trip down memory lane!

  28. What a nice post Rachna–the first three flowers mentioned by you took me back to my parental home-that home was sheer bliss.
    I pray that my kids too have equally fond memories of their growing up years.

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  30. I never liked croton plants. When I did my garden in my previous house, I went looking for flowering plants which were smelling good. I had many many varieties of jasmine in our house and Paarijaat too! I love this flower. Maybe I love these flowers because I grew up in my grandma’s place which had an exclusive flower garden which had many different flowers.

    Enjoyed reading your experience and the pictures are lovely.

    • I remember your posts on jasmine. Aren’t they so fantastic. My husband loves various varieties of hibiscus too. I go for the sweet smelling ones. Thanks for reading.

  31. Rachna, what a beautifully written post.
    My associations come from Bangalore flower market, vegetable market and our garden with 3 kinds of jasmine and champak flower which kids used to pick for prayers at home. Mothers and aunts used to tie garlands from it.
    Parijata is also one among my associations. During our childhood we used to visit our aunt’s place which was huge place with parijata tree in the backyard. We used to play a lot there. I love hibiscus and the grass (including freshly mowed grass), in our family it is one form of offering to Ganesha, the grass. we call it ‘garike’. The combination of flowers, agarbatti, and cotton garlands, vibhuuti (dont know what you call it in english) in the prayer room makes me nostalgic even though I am an atheist now, ahh!
    There is one more flower which is called ‘jaaji’ in Kannada not sure what we call in English. I just loved that flower.
    And ofcourse my all time favorite, rose. Red roses, ahh!
    and fruits, mangoes, sweet lime, different kinds of bananas and the cuisines made out of fruits, south Indian ones. For me north Indian food was eaten in restaurants. So not much association there. Ohh. let me stop here..:-D

    • Lovely memories those, Bhavana! Thanks for sharing! Yes, we have many varieties of hibiscus in our house from the normal pink to the exotic ones. You see them in so many hybrid forms. But they don’t have the smell. I also love the smell of freshly brewed coffee. I just love it in the morning. This is one taste I acquired once I shifted here :).

  32. Smells remind us of things more than anything else!! Raat ki raani still lives in my house.. Jasmine reminds me of my nani’s place.. just by looking at the picture you can inhale the smell and go back. Amazing it is!

    • Ah, we have planted raat ki rani but it hasn’t bloomed yet. Even the jasmine has not proliferated much. Amazing, aren’t these flowers and the memories they invoke in us? Thanks for reading!

  33. Fragrance of Jasmine and HasnaHena(Rat ki Rani) never fail to cheer me up. Now that I’m away from my country, even the sight of samosas makes me nostalgic.

    Enjoyed reading your fragrant musings, Rachna.

  34. The smell of mountains covered with pines always transport me to my Nani’s house. No matter which hill station I am visiting, they all remind me of her. 🙂

  35. What a fabulous fabulous post ! I so enjoyed reading it ! You are so right when you say that nostalgia has its own unique fragrance. My favorite childhood fragrance is mogra and parijat – both growing in my grandmother’s garden and the smell of wet earth. My grandmother used to sprinkle water every summer evening ! Somehow I dont like the smell of mangoes 🙂

    • Thanks Ruch! My memories are perfumed with these aromas. Really about mangoes? I love the heady perfume of almost all varieties. I don’t like jackfruit though.

  36. Arvind on June 26, 2014 at 12:28 am said:

    what is the hindi and english names of Parijat ?

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