Rosewater Revolution

Revolutions, they say, are not made with rosewater. But, then again, history books do not trace the footprints of fleeting perfumes as they mingle with sweat, conceal death, and intoxicate the living. Perhaps we’re won over by extremes, swayed by gallons of spilled blood, when just a drop will do, a slip of the hand while you prick your skin picking petals then crushed and steamed into clear liquid.

Patrick Gordon, Rose Pavé; Jewelry by Jiro Kamata
Handmade items to buy (clockwise): Necklace by Tiffany Key; Ring by Jasmine Scott; Vase by Jonathan Cohn; Resin Bangle by Beadevolution; Fuschia Vase by Mahaila Glass; Necklace by Hook & Matter; Ring by Kaz Evans; Ring by Spotted Dog Farm

Just a drop, on the wrist, between silk gloves and satin sleeves, so that when she holds up her hand to a nobleman the embroidered garden comes alive: small birds, flaming hearts, and scrolling vines envelop the pair in a memory sealed solely by its sweet smell. Keep the glove, she says. Only after her scent has faded does he notice the Tudor rose stitched in silver thread, a token of allegiance that shifts their exchange from personal to political. No longer did the rose wander through monasteries, for the pleasure of monks blind to its erotic charm, but in the garden of a court eager to air out the musty fumes of Catholic incense. Rosewater, married to flesh, was a personal statement, a signature more powerful than the written word. Drop by drop, it fueled the Reformation.

Flowers by Martin Klimas; The Gloves Dream by Min-Ji Cho
Handmade items to buy (clockwise): Body Oil by Rebel & Mercury; Rosewater by Elma Sana; Toner by Lalun; Rose Water by Rose Bazaar; Toner by Botanical Labs; Soap by Pure Naturalis; Bath, Body & Tea Set by Kyra Botanica; Bath Salts by The Perfumed Workshop

Just a drop, or two, or three, on your skin and in your hair, and you might just take your mind off the sweat pouring down your body. It’s summer in India and we’re about three centuries behind air conditioning. The Mughals brought peace from the north and their gardens became laboratories for the cultivation of pleasure and profit, creating scents that put Hampton Court to shame. Distilling rose petals first took place in the private quarters of the nobility, until the oil that settled on top proved sweet enough to merit a production line in the garden. And who can resist rosewater when it infuses the syrup that drips from fried dough, still warm, breaking the fasts of peasants and princes. Rosewater, then, is an essence of power, an agent of change. Which brings us back, in a way, to revolutions.