Petrichor- The Smell of Childhood

I don’t remember my childhood.

Nothing except the smell of the monsoon rains, right before they lashed onto the verandah. Me, the solitary crawler, both enchanted and perplexed by a sudden downpour, would rush indoors to the safety of my mother’s lap. Such memories are vague, rather loosely etched on my mind. But the smell of the rains, the Petrichor, is something I can never forget.

I suspect that the ravishingly beautiful Petrichor is hard-coded deep into the minds of every human being. It is passed onto an individual through an infinite chain of forefathers. Or maybe it is simply a gift from heaven. After all that’s where the rains come from!

Rains-Monsoon in India

I cannot help but wonder– how the first homo sapien, the legendary Adam (or his Indian counterpart, Manu) had reacted to the first onset of rains. Did he enjoy it as much as I do? Did he dance with over-brimming joy? Cherishing the feeling of getting wet, the cold water relinquishing the thirst of his dry skin. Or did the rains make him anxious? The Petrichor acting as a beacon for some impending danger? I don’t know the answer, neither am I hopeful of ever finding it. [Unless I somehow stumble upon John Oldman from The Man from Earth].

We humans have long romantisized the rains. Perhaps since the age of Manu. And I blame the Petrichor for this allurement. Kissed by the rains, the magical aroma gently rises up from the earth and is imbibed by our nasal cavities. Once inside, it churns up its magic among our brain cells. Wizardry  so powerful, it overwhelms our senses- though only for a brief moment.

Alexander Frater, in his legendary novel -Chasing the Monsoon, describes the first onset of monsoon as:

Soaked to skin within seconds,

I felt a wonderful sense of flooding warmth and invigoration;

it was, indubitably, a little bit like being born again“.

I second that!

It may be interesting to note–and this might not be unique to India— how eagerly people anticipate the arrival of monsoon. They await the rains throughout the year and finally welcome them with open hands. Much like a child awaits his city uncle who brings a plethora of sweets on every visit. And their wait is justified too. For India, a predominantly agriculture based country, the onset of rains means a good harvest later in the year.

Petrichor is, thus, more than just a happy smell. It is a promise of abundance, a welcome chance of survival, and a hope that the merry childhood days will be back again.


-Vibhav Bisht


The author loves to sail paper boats during the monsoon rains.
Feel free to join him on his Twitter and Facebook.

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© Copyright for all the images owned by SlowRover and Vibhav Bisht. 


261 thoughts on “Petrichor- The Smell of Childhood

  1. If one was to buy in to Christian theology, they would find in Genesis that there was no rain until the proverbial Great Flood (I don’t). It’s widely believed that mist was the only form of precipitation at that time. At any rate, this is a great read! I wish to one day travel to India. 🙂

    Liked by 7 people

  2. I adore the smell of beginning rain. My lover told me the smell was nitrogen, released by lightning and pulled down by rain drops. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    Liked by 7 people

    1. Thanks for the trivia veronica.
      But latest studies reveal that petrichor is due to dust particles that accumulate on the surface of rocks. These dust particles burst out from the surface due to excessive moisture during the rains.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. However there is a vast difference between the rain pre-millenium and rain post-millenium. I remember my school days when we used to wait for rain to descend down the earth and hug us in its freshness and beauty. Strong nostalgic feeling

    Liked by 7 people

    1. I believe that different age groups see the rains differently.
      My childhood was spent dancing in the rains till my hearts content(and often catchinh cold due to this).
      Now I prefer to sip a coffee and watch the spectacle from my balcony.

      Liked by 3 people

  4. Living in grey and rainy Vancouver, I’ve started viewing rains with dreary resignation. What I miss the most about India, other than my family of course, is the smell of that first rain hitting the dry, cracked earth. The loud thunder, the sound of rain hitting the windows, the sense of rejuvenation of the soul when the same rain soaks the clothes on my body. This makes me fondly reminisce about all those rainy evenings when I’d sit by the window with a good book and coffee, looking out every now and then and dreaming about things too sweet and sacred to talk about.

    Liked by 7 people

  5. Rain is not so fun in Asia, but I hear it is fun in Asia. Kids run outside to take advantage of of little pools that is created after heavy rainfall. The pool can be even bigger in cities with bad drainage.

    Liked by 6 people

  6. Your words hit very sentimental notes in my mind. It helps me recollect some memories of my childhood; of the dry and yet cold harmattan winds in Eastern Nigeria, of playing in the rain clad in very little or nothing at all; and my dear mama pulling us inside with a little swat to the backside for exposing ourselves to the cold 🙂 Those were lovely years. Quel nostalgie.

    Liked by 9 people

  7. Very nice writing. My husband’s parents live in India, and while I didn’t get to experience the monsoon, I certainly had an experience like no other while I was there meeting them with my family. I’ve followed you, feel free to do the same and perhaps we’ll cross paths again. 🙂

    Liked by 8 people

    1. My theory is that this is related to our ancestry. For our ancestors, the cultivators, the smell was a sign of the approaching rains. The rains that will guarantee a good harvest. Thus, their felling of happiness attached with petrichor has been passed onto us as race memories.

      Liked by 1 person

          1. Rains also remind me of ‘Baba Farid’. Legend has it that he had captured the thunder lightning. So each time there was lightning during monsoons, we would hide in our rooms and start chanting ‘baba Farid baba farid’!!

            Liked by 3 people

  8. Am all the way in Africa precisely Ghana and yes the rain was always such a beatiful thing to connect with.. Its drumming on our aluminium roofsand ealking in the wet sand afterwards.. I still take walks immediately after a rain.. Helps me think clearly.. LOVE WHAT YOU WROTE

    Liked by 7 people

  9. This piece of writing made me feel warm and happy. Even though it’s not raining now in Delhi, my nostrils are enjoying themselves all need to do is just close my eyes.
    I must say its a wonderful piece .

    Liked by 5 people

  10. I love the sound of rain, it helps me sleep at night. The sound of thousands of water droplets coming into contact with the ground and anything that covers it composes a soothing and monotonous sound. It’s like nature singing a lullaby.

    Liked by 4 people

  11. I just visited england and it rained almost everyday! While most people complained about it I’m more like you and couldn’t be happier with it! Lively and refreshing

    Liked by 4 people

  12. This post was lovelyyyy. I’m so happy I came across it. I’m half indian, huhu. Though I live somewhere else, the few trips back home are packed with petrichor memories. I’d watch my little cousins run around and play in the rain with so much joy that I swore I’d slap myself if I didn’t join them. Those were the good ole happy carefree days.

    Liked by 6 people

  13. And what power do I have to not feel every word of what you’ve written! the warmth in the heart,the peace to the mind…Who am I to resist those feelings! great work mate! 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  14. Beautiful…beautiful…beautiful…superbly beautiful………….I was once explained the scientific base of petrichor but more than that its the effect on our whole being that is something indescribably unique and life giving….

    Liked by 3 people

  15. A wonderful read – I was hooked at teh mention of petrichor, quite possibly my favourite word! Tehn the first sentence gripped me tighter as I have no memory either. Off to investigate your blog further!!

    Liked by 2 people

  16. You just took me back to my childhood. Memories of smelling the first showers hitting the earth swirl in my mind. Do write more!😁
    Also do check out my blog whenever you’re free. I’m a first time blogger here. I’d really appreciate it.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Well said. The smell of rain and the wet earth has an enchantment of its own. Nothing quite like it, is there? I’ve also noticed that different places put their own ‘twist’ on that smell. Always refreshing though. My boyfriend says that I get high off rain. He’e not entirely wrong. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Beautifully written. I never knew the scent of rain had a name but I used to stand in Africa watching the clouds gather on the far jebel and smell the rain. Standing in the rain, feeling the first drops fall on warm skin. Overnight the garden would be transformed with fresh green grass…

    Liked by 3 people

  19. I am a bit late to the party but I must thank you for enriching my wellbeing with your post about the smell of the rain. Now I finally know that spellbinding smell of rain as it makes contact with the parched parched soiI has a name – petrichor.

    Liked by 1 person

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