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The story of GI tagged Mysuru Sandalwood Oil – The world’s most sought-after Natural Fragrance Oil – Part 1

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Mysore Sandal ” OR the Sandalwood grown in the Mysuru district, is a variety of sandalwood tree species that is said to be one of the few best assortments in the world. The aroma of the oil, extracted from this breed, grown in the typical climatic condition and the soil (available in the Mysuru district), is heavenly and unmatched. Other than its fragrance, it has a long list of medicinal properties. 

This article tries to dig a bit deeper into the world of Mysuru sandalwood and understand how its oil became the most sought-after fragrant oil in the world. This article is to release in 2 part series, each carrying interesting information.

Introduction – Significance of Sandalwood

In India and the rest of Asia, sandalwood has been in use for over Millenia now. The Sandalwood paste has a special place in the spirituality of Sanatana Dharma. That means, no religious ritual is complete without sandalwood paste applied to the deity, and it has the cult status among the spiritual offerings –  flowers, coconuts camphor etc, made to the divine.  Also, the Sandalwood oil/ paste has enormous health benefits which are discussed in part 2 of the series.

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The special among sandalwood oils, the Mysuru sandalwood oil, whose trademark is now owned by the government of Karnataka, has an interesting past. Let’s dig into it. 


Mysuru kingdom was one of the largest Sandalwood producing and exporting regions of India by the early 20th century. Over 70% of the world’s sandalwood demand was being met by India, such was the clout.  The sandalwood oil was distilled in Germany and was resold as a value-added product to other nations.

As the adage goes “good time won’t last forever”, India’s good time too didn’t last long. Troubles started with the breaking of World war 1 in 1914. As a consequence of the war suddenly the demand for the sandalwood went down to nothing. This resulted in the buildup of huge unsold stocks of sandalwood, as no one was buying it. This was giving headaches to the growers and the royalty. 

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That was when Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar – the Maharaja of erstwhile Mysuru kingdom, entrusted the then Industry minister of the kingdom, Alfred Chatterton, to get a process developed for extracting and distilling the sandalwood oil. Chatterton took the help of Professors J. J. Sudborough and H. E. Watson for that and the duo developed a fool-proof process for the same. Later a pilot project was built to demonstrate the process in front of dignitaries, and they were happy with the outcome. That was how Mysuru’s very own sandalwood oil was extracted for the first time in India at the Indian Institute of Science. This was a momentous event for India,  which paved the way for much of Mysuru state’s Industrialisation in the years to come.

Mysuru Sandal Soap

Without wasting any time, in the year 1916, a sandalwood oil distillery was established in Mysuru to distil oil on an industrial scale.  In the same year, Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar established the Government Soap Factory in Bangaluru to manufacture bathe soaps under the brand name Mysore Sandal Soap using sandalwood oil as the main ingredient. The bathe soap was an instant hit among the Europeans living in India and abroad, as it created a huge demand. To meet the demand, another Sandalwood oil distillery was opened in Shimoga town in 1944.

Karnataka Soaps and Detergents Limited (KSDL)

Post-independence and after the states were created based on the language people spoke, the two distilleries and the soap factory were amalgamated and brought into one entity called KSDL. A separate brand was created to encash the goodwill people had for the bathing soap. The company has since diversified, and manufactures incense sticks, talcum powder, and detergents, apart from bathing soaps. 

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Karnataka State Handicraft Development Corporation (KSHDC)

For over millenia,  Karnataka was known as land of artisans and art. The Belur, Halebeedu, Somanathpura temples and many more like them would prove this point. Stone, wood (rose wood, sandalwood) carvings were very popular till 19th century. However, by mid 20th century, the popularity waned due to various reasons, one among them was, very few craftsmen were holding on to their traditional family profession – crafting stone OR wood. Younger generations moved on to other professions, and the art was dying naturally. 

The government having recognised this issue, started KSHHDC and market the artisans’ art professionally through retail outlets called “Cauvery Handicraft Emporium”(CHE). KSHDC supports artisans holistically in all possible ways, so that they should be able to financially support themselves and their families.

The CHE has Sandalwood, Rosewood Carvings and other art works.  Genuine Mysuru sandalwood oil can be bought at the showrooms. 

The CHE showrooms are located in Mysuru, Bangaluru, Hubballi, Mangaluru, New Delhi, Gujarat, Secundrabad and Kolkatta.

Sandalwood | Pic Courtesy – KSDL

Why Mysuru sandalwood oil is so expensive & most sought after in world?

Mysore Pure Sandalwood Oil -Indian Sandalwood Oil is the most valuable & in demand all over world. India meets 80% demand of sandalwood oil in the world because of the best quality. Sandalwood oil is highly used in perfumery, skin care and cosmetics. Sandalwood oil has Antimicrobial property, mostly as urogenital (internal) and skin (external) antiseptic. Sandalwood oil widely used in aromatherapy & soap making. Sandalwood is widely effectively in skin care, being useful for dry, cracked and chapped skin, rashes and acne. It is suitable for all skin types and non toxic. It is helpful for removing blackhead & spots. Sandalwood oil has a characteristic of sweet, woody odour which is widely employed in the fragrance industry, but more particularly in the higher-priced perfumes.

Most of the luxurious perfume, spa brands of the world use Mysuru sandalwood oil in their products. Because of that their products are very skin friendly with mesmerising fragrance.


This part ends by giving the glimpses of Sandalwood oil to the readers. The Part 2 will talk about how Government can kick start the sandalwood economy and bring richess to the growers and the state government.

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