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The box of the Mysore Sandal Soap

Karnataka is famous for Sandalwood, and this is best projected in the state's own Mysore Sandal Soap. This golden, fragrant soap that is rich with the goodness of Sandalwood, has a rather fascinating history behind it, and it is not for cosmetic benefit at all.

Mysore Sandal Soap, surprisingly, was not created by anyone interested in the beauty benefits of soap or its cosmetic value. Instead, it was created by Maharaja Krishna Raja Wodeyar IV and Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya, the Diwan of Mysore.


Post-World War I, there was too much sandalwood lying around and the state did not know what to do with it. This excess stock was a result of the halted export to the other princely states. In 1916, the birth of the Sandalwood soap beloved to Karnataka came from an idea that the Maharaja received because of this wood.

He was gifted a set of soaps made from sandalwood oils, and he was extremely impressed with this. He decided to make soaps that represented the essence of the state. He discussed this idea with his Diwan, Visvesvaraya, who immediately backed him up. They began to experiment the making of soaps in collaboration with Indian Institute of Science.

Shastry also designed the packaging box and gave the soap a unique shape Msore Sandal Soap is the only one with an oval shape that has not changed since 1916 Photo credit: Wikimedia commons


One of the students who worked on this process, Sosale Garalapuri Shastry showed great talent and was sent to England, to learn how to make soaps. He later came to be known as Soap Shastry. His work helped to standardise procedures, and the government factory that makes Mysore Sandal Soap was set up.

Shastry also designed the packaging box and gave the soap a unique shape. Soaps at that time were only rectangular bars. Mysore Sandal is the only oval soap that is embellished both inside and outside. Shastry intended for it to look like a jewellery box.

Every box of Mysore Sandal Soap has the inscription, 'Srigandadha Tavarinida' which means, "from the maternal home of the sandalwood". It is the only soap made from pure sandalwood oil, and bears the emblem of the sharaba, a creature with the body of a lion and head of an elephant.

The Maharaja's initial intent behind the soap was to reach the goodness of sandalwood to as many people as possible, and through men like Visvesvaraya and Shastry, it was made possible. The Mysore Sandal Soap is still one of the most organic soap and perhaps the only one that represents the culture of an entire state.

Keywords: Mysore Sandal Soap, Sandalwood, History, Shastry, Visvesvaraya


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