Rajanīgandhā रजनीगंधा (night scented flower i.e Agave amica, formerly Polianthes tuberosa) is a flower having its origin in Central America. In English it is known as tuberose. In India, this white flower is also known as gul-e-shabbo (flower of night), sungandharāja (king of fragrance, Kannada), Gul Cheri, Nelasampenga (Telugu) etc. It was introduced to the East Indies (SE Asia) by the Spanish during the early 16th century, and eventually from there to India and Europe. In Mexican spanish it is known as Nardo and vara de San José, which means “Saint Joseph’s staff”.
In 1970s famous director Basu Chatterjee made a memorable film Rajnigandha (1974) on a story यही सच है Yahi Sach hai written by acclaimed Hindi writer Mannu Bhandari.
In Hindi literature, from Jaishankar Prasad to Nagarjuna, Rajanīgandhā रजनीगंधा has remained a recurrent object to evoke meanings of beauty, eroticism, sensuality, and advent of night.
Perhaps this is due to the sweet smell emitted by Rajanīgandhā flowers. It possesses a very strong odour whose aphrodisiac properties are believed to be very active after sunset. The flower’s aphrodisiac effect is due to it’s erogenous smell imitating human body sweat.
No wonder that the flowers are often used to decorate beds for the newly wedded in the Indian subcontinent, and often shown as a prop in depicting सुहाग-रात suhāg-rāt (wedding night) in Hindi films.
Tuberose also finds mention in the 17 century book “itr-e Nawras Shahi” written by Ibrahim Adil Shah II (1571- 1627), and which is a Dakani manual on perfuming the bedroom.