The Maharani of Rajasthan ~ Pichola by Neela Vermeire Creations

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“India for the Indian’s” she purred as she stretched and turned on the silk pillow in her perch under the columns of the pavilion of the City Palace.  Shaded from the hot sun she surveyed her kingdom with glittering green eyes. As far as those exotic impenetrable eyes could see out across the lake and into the hills around Udaipur she knew that with the British leaving at last her people were free.

She sighed with pleasure as she took a sip of honey milk, her favorite drink. Let everyone else drink Chai or Champagne this little Maharani when you got right down to it preferred the simple pleasures of life. Her palace on the lake. Soft silk pillows to lie upon, her diamond choker and the loving attention of her servant. She must be the only Maharani in all of India who had a little British maid. Now that was something. Of course after independence she would have to send her back to London. It would be hard to say goodbye to the one who had waited on her hand and foot, who brought her all her meals and showered her with so much attention. Sometimes even when she just wanted to be alone there she was…demanding to take care of her. Well it would have to be done hard as it would be. Goodbye to all things British and hello to a new world. Yes 1947 was going to be the best year yet.

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Something caught the corner of her eye, someone was coming. She was in no mood to see anyone. She would simply pretend they were less than a mouse an ignore them.

Ah India, her beautiful land, it was now hers to rule, well anyway this part of it called Rajasthan where she had been born. “India for the Indians.”  How wonderful that sounded. The British Raj was at an end at long last too. Since Alexander two thousand years ago and even before him many had swept into India and tried to claim it as their own.  Bit in fact, she swatted at a tiresome bee buzzing past her ear on its way to the tuberoses in the garden. What was she thinking? Ah yes…but in fact India was unconquerable. No matter how long the invader stayed India remained in its soul its very own. It remained always India, the jewel in its own crown.  It would absorb and slowly change those who tried to take it and they eventually and inevitably became part of her or as in the case of the Greeks and the British they would leave…India for the Indians.

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The approaching quickening steps grew louder. “Little Maharani where are you?” She ignored that shrill clipped voice and closed her eyes to mere slits of green and turned to look out over Lake Pichola. Another lazy regal sigh. She rolled on the pillows and stretched again in the all-encompassing heat. The rains would come soon. She loved the Monsoon and how it made the lake sing like thousands of bells when the water fell from the heavy clouds onto its silver surface. Then when the rains finally ceased the flowers would come back with the heat to perfume her palace on the edge of the lake.  Pichola was really most beautiful in spring, when the orange blossoms burst the air with their glory. In the night the jasmine filled the warm breeze off the lake to enchant her. Summer roses enticed her in the mornings and magnolias heavy in the trees smiled down on her, the beautiful little Maharani of Rajasthan. She would never leave this place that smelled of cinnamon, sandalwood and saffron in the summer. And in the autumn could only be described as heaven on earth. The place where the gods touched earth and found the land to be divine. She would never leave her beloved India.

“There you are Little Maharani!” Her servant’s hands reached down to pluck her rudely from her silky soft pillows of peace.  “You are the silliest cat in all of India. I had a devil of a time finding you. Now come along or we shall miss our train. You are going to love London!” Mary Elizabeth Thurber hugged her cat tightly as she turn on her heel to see her parents waiting at the end of the terrace looking tired and a little sad.

Little Maharani’s eyes widened in horror as she was carried away from the pavilion to the waiting boat below. The first leg of her journey into exile.

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Pichola by Neela Vermeire Creations just released in March of 2015 is a lush fleurs blanches rush of romanticism as well as a homage to the beautiful lake in Rajasthan for which it is named. It is a splendid perfume that I find to be intoxicating and perhaps the most beautiful perfume yet from the impeccably brilliant house of Vermeire. It is a fragrance of love, and spring beginning, it is a wedding fragrance that promises a honeymoon of carnal delights that with a holy blessing may never end. It is glorious.

The nose behind this creation of Neela’s is the wonderful Bertrand Duchaufour who is responsible for the entire canon of the house. A brilliant nose who has created many modern masterworks for L’Artisan Parfumeur, Dior, Acqua di Parma, Aedes de Venustas …the list is longer than the  Avenue des Champs-Élysées. The idea for this house is to blend and marry two worlds. The exotic rich beauty and history of India with the equally rich tradition of classical French perfumes. We are not disappointed in the least by this attempt to bring the two worlds together. Bertrand Duchaufour once again has met the challenge and succeeded brilliantly.

As an oriental floral Pichola sings in accords of spices and white florals, of woods and the aromatic splendors of the East.  It is undulating and sensuous. A sublime seduction of the senses.

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It opens with notes of spices and citrus, bergamot, clementine, neroli oil, sparkle like early morning sun on the lake…the magnolia smooths and sooths the citric notes down and lays its fleshy white carpet over them to make way for the spices of saffron, cardamom, cinnamon with a twist of juniper that are spilled like jewels before a monarch on unfurled bolts of red, purple and gold silk.

The middle notes take us to the heart of this perfume, the palace where passion dwells on her throne of love. Orange blossom absolute, Rose absolute, Tuberose absolute come in waves designed to weave into a marriage made in heaven with yellow blossomed ylang-ylang and a slyly beautiful midnight Jasmine Sambac.  It shimmers on the skin more beautifully than gold dust in the light of a full moon.

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This is all supported by a fine if not in fact very glamourous dry down of vetiver, benzoin absolute, bone dry driftwood and a creamed almost caramelized sandalwood.  A brilliant armature of notes that is almost architectural, an armature if you will from which all that came before it hangs in perfect harmonious balance.  But the notes do much more than hang from this support, they dance.

The longevity of this perfume is epic but never overwhelming. The silage is full and lush and you will be noticed. This is a perfume for both sexes but keep in mind that this sexy perfume demands a bold personality to wear it well. Pichola embodies all the glamour and youth, the romance and beauty, the fluttery butterflies one feels with the realization that you are falling in love with India though the eyes of Paris. This is no shrinking wall flower…this is the belle of the ball at the dawn of a new Belle Epoch in perfume.

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PICHOLA

SONG OF INDIA ~ Ashoka by Neela Vermeire Creations

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“At sunset in the top of the jungle canopy the monkeys sing his name. Across the sky at dawn it is written by the clouds in the east as the sun guilds each letter in crimson and gold. At the roof of the world, where the mountain gods abide it is written a thousand thousand times in the stone of the Himalayas. Ashoka the Great.”

ashokaShah Rukh Khan as Ashoka in ASOKA (2001)

 The gasp from the circle of children was audible. Eyes wide in wonder at the splendor of his imperial glory began to unfold. The old storyteller continued.

“As a boy he was such a fierce warrior that he killed a lion with a stick.”

“No that is impossible.” Said little Parnashri in disbelief. “A boy and a lion? The Lion will always eat the boy.”

The old storyteller nodded and with a half smile raised his hand to beg for patience. “He was not an ordinary boy, but an exceptional boy who grew to be a great man.”

Parnashri gave him a displeased look that said with the tilt of her head. “Prove it.”

“After Ashoka came to the throne he desired to expand the empire of India wider than ever before. With great wars he pushed our boundaries to the west deep in to Persia. To the south almost as far as the very tip of India and eastward to the very gates of Burma, but this was not enough for the Emperor. His eyes fell upon the land of Kalinga.

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A great battle ensued and many thousands died. Kalinga fell to Ashoka and in his joy he walked into the filed of battle to celebrate and glory in his victory over his enemy. But his joy short lived. It was quickly transformed to grief. Ashoka the Fierce looked upon the hundred thousand dead and cried.

‘What have I done? If this is a victory, what’s a defeat then? Is this a victory or a defeat? Is this justice or injustice? Is it gallantry or a rout? Is it valor to kill innocent children and women? Did I do it to widen the empire and for prosperity or to destroy the other’s kingdom and splendor? One has lost her husband, someone else a father, someone a child, someone an unborn infant…. What’s this debris of the corpses? Are these marks of victory or defeat? Are these vultures, crows, eagles the messengers of death or evil?’

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His tears ran down his face and washed the bloody earth upon which he stood. In that moment his heart was softened by the savage sorrow and hideous death he had rendered upon Kalinga.”

“This makes him a great man? Because he cried after all the death he made” Said Parnashri.

“This was the transfiguring moment, Parnashri, the door to enlightenment was before him on the battlefield of Kalinga. If he embraced it and stepped through the door it would be the beginning for the boy inside the Emperor of becoming a great man.”

And did he step through the door?” Parnashri said as she and the entire circle of children under the Bodhi tree leaned forward in anticipation.

“He turned away from war and toward the path of the Buddha.  He found on that path a way to peace, for himself and for all the land. And in so doing he brought the teachings of the Buddha to all of India. He built monasteries and great Stupas across the land and hospitals for people and animals as well. For forty years he reined in peace and created a golden age to India.”

“And that is why the monkeys sing his name at sunset.”

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Ashoka by Neela Vermeire Creations is a contemplative beauty. A perfume for both men and women that is a thoughtful meditation on beauty and peace inspired buy one of the great leaders of not only Indian history but on the world stage as well.

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NEELA VERMEIRE

(photo from Ca Scent Bon! taken by Claudio Bonoldi Studio)

The nose behind the perfume is one of my favorite perfumers, Bertrand Duchaufour who has created for so many great houses from L’Artisan Parfumeur to Dior. Here in this perfume he has a soft symphony of notes. So many notes are in this perfume that in the mixing of them you find his great subtlety as an artist.

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BERTRAND DUCHAUFOUR

The perfume is green and calm with the major note of fig leaf and parsley leaf being a very easy green complemented by incense aromatic notes of styrax, incense, myrrh and osmanthus. It is the very picture of a smoky blue haze incense market under the shade of rows and rows of fig trees in the heat and heart of India.  Fig milk note along with vanilla and amber adds a creamy texture to the mix smoothing out all the incense. Other notes that flow through the perfume like a subterranean river are the florals of rose, water hyacinth, cassie flower, jasmine sambac, geranium, ylang-ylang and iris with the support of, rooty green vetiver, a soft tonka bean. There is a woody subtext and foundation of a tangy balsam fir and creamy sandalwood. The perfume is categorized as a Woody Aromatic. I find it to be more aromatic than woody.

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For me, on my skin it stays well bended and not one note other than the fig leaf dominate. It is not a huge dramatic perfume but rather a dreamy soft warm fragrance that longs to be on skin where it floats and shimmers in a nirvana bubble of beauty. It lasts on my skin about six to eight hours with a moderate sillage. And that is as it should be, one would not expect an enlightened perfume to be bombastic or all about ME! It is about sharing its beauty and inviting others in.

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ASHOKA by NEELA VERMEIRE CREATIONS ~ FIVE GOLD STARS *****

NEELA VERMEIRE CREATIONS: http://www.neelavermeire.com/

RAJDULARI GOES TO BOLLYWOOD ~ Bombay Bling by Neela Vermeire Creations

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They chose her for her small ankles and her lovely movement. It had been a long way to come to win the role of Princess Beloved in the new musical film “Bombay Bling” But for little Rajdulari it had been well worth the effort.

Back home in the jungle of the south everyone had laughed at her when she said she wanted to go north to Mumbai to be in the movies.

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“Oh little silly,” her mother said when they were washing down at the river. “You can not be a movie star. You are too little and you have rough skin. They do not like girls like you from the country in Bollywood. For goodness sake!” Her aunts who were close by giggled and stamped in unison.

Her brothers were much meaner to her. “Bollywood, Ha!” Gourab trumpeted.  “You are ugly and you can not sing or dance like the pretty girls in the movies.”

“I can too sing! And I can learn to dance.”  Rajdulari protested.

“Maybe you can learn dance like a monkey. But what about that nose?  Not long enough, and your eyes! Ha, they are too far apart. And those tiny ankles will not support you for long.” Said the eldest of the brother’s Chandramohan. “No stop day dreaming stupid girl.”

“They have make-up in the movies. They can paint you pretty.”

The brother’s laughed so hard the ground shook.

“Stop this at once!” The sound of his voice was enough to send the birds above them who were watching from the jungle canopy aloft in fluttering feathered terror. From behind a Jacaranda tree Gajendra appeared in all his great splendor.

The brothers lowered their heads as they always did when their grandfather approached. He glowered at them. Then with one swift movement he plucked a fragrant purple blossom from the Jacaranda tree and gently placed it behind Rajdulari’s ear.

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   “You are beautiful little princess. The others are too blind to see.”

Rajdulari looked up into his brown eyes and smiled. “I know they are blind!”

Gajendra laughed. “We will go to Mumbai together and show them all.

Now months later on the first day of shooting her very first movie little Rajdulari stood very still while the dressers bedecked her with garlands of flowers and the makeup man painted her pretty.

“You have perfect skin and the most beautiful eyes.” The makeup man said. “Wide set eyes photograph best you know.”

When Rajdulari stepped on to the set for “Bombay Bling” her grandfather was watching from the sidelines. He saw at once that she was the most beautiful Elephant in all of India.

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Bombay Bling by Neela Vermeire Creations is bright and young and full of glittering pizzazz.  It has a personality that is big, charismatic and cinematic. It is all about being in the joy of the moment. One glorious over the top musical number after another rolls out from the bottle as you spay it on. It is a big bold Bollywood star of a perfume.

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The opening is frenetic and brightly colored blending of Labdanum, succulent Mango, cardamom, litchi, caraway seeds and black currant. Sweet is the theme here and the litchi and mango mixed with the black current create an effect that verges on the pink spun sugar of cotton candy. Not my favorite scent at all but thankfully short lived.

With the fireworks out of the way we now enter the heart of the perfume. The garden of unearthly delights in fact for here we have a beautiful Jasmine full of dark twilight richness blooming on a warm night in Mumbai. Not to be outdone by this favorite white of the perfume world the air is enriched by a stunning gardenia with support from tuberose, ylang-ylang, a rocking rose and saffron like silky frangipani. Yes it is stunning, the kind of exquisiteness you find in women who grew into great swan like beauty from a pond of full of ducks.

The dry down carried echoes of the jasmine and gardenia as more earthbound notes of woods, patchouli, tobacco and cedar move up the keep them company.  Here the scent is becomes one with the skin and lingers in lovely wafts of memory and light.  Sandalwood and vanilla flicker in and out like shadows on a wall on a late afternoon in the tropics.

I was very impressed with Bombay Bling for the very fact that it is a sweet perfume that manages to move past the sugar and find its heart in the most beautiful arrangements of floral notes. It sings and entices us to explore the wonders of the gorgeous complex music and stunning intricate dance that lives in the heart of India.

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BOMBAY BLING ~ FIVE GOLD STARS *****

VISIT NEELA VERMEIR CREATIONS! http://www.neelavermeire.com//

SHANGRI-LA ~ Fever Pour Homme by Celine (100th post!)

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Leisurely the veils lift and fall and curl in the fir perfumed air high above the valleys of India.  Veils made of silk dyed a thousand years ago in saffron reds of the maharajahs  golden yellows of the sheikhs and violets of the princesses of Persia. The worn but still splendid and nearly transparent with age the veils are all shot with golden threads. Here in the Himalayas in the abandoned palace of the fallen Chauhan there lingers a memory of the old gods of India.  It is buried in the faded wall paintings of elephants and monkeys in jungle gardens stained with centuries of faded incense.

Occasionally someone stumbles upon the abandoned palace on their way to Kathmandu and beyond in search of fabled Shangri-La. When sudden twilight traps them here they crawl into sleeping bags laid out on old woven vetiver mats and turn to the walls against the bitter early spring cold night.  They huddle in corners way from the broken sandalwood fretwork windows and fall into exhausted sleep. It is only then when the fever dreams of the searchers come upon their heavily closing eyes does this place reveal its secrets.

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The painted monkeys awaken in the walls and begin to chatter as they eat petals of pink jungle roses and cardamom seeds and look down upon the sleeping visitors. Musk deer bound from one wall though a cracked plaster corner to the next. A bull Elephant trumpets a call to the herd to move deeper into the now steaming lush forest away from the river where the sage grows.  A hundred or more eyes open within the green painted fronds of palm, bamboo and rubber trees. Brown kohl painted and deep the imperious eyes look down upon the mortals who have invaded their sacred palace. A far radiant and distant music, ethereal, primal and sensual comes from deep within the walls. The eyes in the forest fronds shift to the windows of the palace and the veils flutter separating the world within from the mountains of the Himalayas. The monkeys laugh like humans as the veils swirl to the music of the gods in seductive undulation.  Within the silk shot with gold are a thousand dancers moving as one. The world of dreams is alive and floats inches above the sleeping men. Those mortals who paralyzed to myth and magic have forgotten how to dream.

Upon the touch of the henna orange fingers of the first rays of dawn the air stills. The veils fall straight again and the painted walls fade to amber hues and only the memory of burned incense hangs in a Morpheus cloud above the now stirring bodies of the strangers. Awake at first light to push on in search of Shangri-La not knowing they have just spent the night within its very walls.

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Fever Pour Homme by Celine is a remembered dream of incense perfume. It lies lightly upon the skin where is stays close and soft.  It opens with a fresh whiff of mountain sharp fir and a spicy sweet cardamom. This aromatic opening gives way fast to the lightly smoky incense which is the main focus of this perfume. Not heavy catholic incense but rather ethereal eastern and almost balmy incense. This note is made more interesting by the rose and at the same time tamed a bit by the dry influence of sage.   There is a solid masculine dry down of a sturdy blending of sandalwood, patchouli, musk and vetiver toward the end it becomes paper dry.

Fever is not a spectacular oriental incense perfume but rather a dreamy dry woody spicy well blended perfume that is light enough to wear in close quarters and still get away with a touch of glamour in the burning of incense cones. For what it is, the silage is light thus it has the ability to capture the attention of those who come into close orbit. Once they are within range, say kissing range, the gravity of the perfume will pull them closer and you will more likely than not have a complement to deal with. The longevity is moderate, about five hours at most on me. A short duration for me is no problem. I enjoy the ceremonies involved of perfume application. There is a sensuous joy I find in that act.

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In the end there is much to be said for a subtle touch in a perfume. This is a nice change of pace when you are feeling exotic but you don’t want to awaken the gods by ringing every gong in the temple.

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FOUR GOLD STARS **** 

(DHOOM TAANA from OM SHANTI OM  2007 INDIA

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