The Mysore Sandal Soap has held a special place in the hearts of Indians for more than a century.
In 1916, the then Maharaja of Mysore Krishna Raja Wodiyar IV and Diwan Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya set up the Government Sandalwood Oil factory at Mysore for sandalwood oil extraction.
The primary goal of the project was to utilise the excess stocks of fragrant wood that had piled up after World War I halted the export of sandalwood from Mysore.
Two years later, the Maharaja was gifted a rare set of sandalwood oil soaps. This gave him the idea of producing similar soaps for the masses.
Diwan Visveswaraya identified a bright and young industrial chemist Sosale Garalapuri Shastry of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) and sent him to England to fine-tune his knowledge about making soap.
Affectionately remembered by many as Soap Shastry, he standardised the procedure of incorporating pure sandalwood oil in soaps.
Once the soap hit the market, it quickly became popular with the public, not just within the princely state but across the country.
He gave the soap a unique shape — from the conventional rectangular to an oval shape packaged in a rectangular box resembling a jewellery case with floral prints.
At the centre of the design was the unusual logo he chose for the company, Sharaba (a mythical creature from local folklore) that symbolise the state’s rich heritage.
The Mysore Sandal Soap is the only soap in the world made from 100% pure sandalwood oil along with other natural essential oils such as vetiver and palm rose.
In 2006, the iconic soap was awarded a GI tag. Today, there are a multitude of branded soaps in the market, but Mysore Sandal Soap continues to hold a distinctive place among all of them.