Travel & Leisure India & South Asia

On the Jasmine Trail

IT BEGAN, as things often do in India, with a visit to the temple. A monsoon shower broke as I ran toward the carved stone entrance of Madurai’s Meenakshi Amman temple, where women sat in rows selling strings of flowers from wicker baskets. “Buy a garland of roses for the goddess,” they called. “A string of jasmine for your hair.” The scent of sambac jasmine, tuberose, marjoram, myrrh, champak magnolia, and rose infused the damp air as we entered, like a fragrant blessing.

I was in the South Indian state of Tamil. Nandan had invited me along on a research trip to Madurai, where she sources many of her ingredients. “The best jasmine in the world comes from here,” Nandan explained, referring to a variety locals know as or “rounded jasmine.” Around Madurai, the tropical climate and red, fertile soil endow the blooms with a voluptuous, layered scent not found elsewhere.

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