India has a rich tradition of using incense in many social and religious occasions since time immemorial. Incense sticks, also known as agarbathi (or agarbatti derived from Sanskrit word Agaravarthi, gara = odour, agar = aroma, varthi = wound ) and joss sticks, in which an incense paste is rolled or moulded around a bamboo stick, is one of the main forms of incense in India. The bamboo method originated in India, and is distinct from the Nepal/Tibet and Japanese methods of stick making in which a bamboo stick is not used. Though the method is also used in the west, particularly in America, it is strongly associated with India. Other main forms of incense are cones and logs and Benzoin resin ( In Sanskrit Saambraani), which are incense paste formed into pyramid shapes or log shapes, and then dried.

A uniform and codified system of incense-making first began in India. Although Vedic texts mention the use of incense for masking odors and creating a pleasurable smell, the modern system of organized incense-making was likely created by the medicinal priests of the time. Thus, modern, organized incense-making is intrinsically linked to the Ayurvedic medical system in which it is rooted.

The oldest source on incense is the Vedas, specifically, the Atharva-veda and the Rigveda. Incense-burning was used both to create pleasing aromas and a medicinal tool. Its use in medicine is considered the first phase of Ayurveda, which uses incense as an approach to healing. Incense-making was thus almost exclusively done by monks.