India is a land of many fascinating stories, cultures, traditions, religions, people, and places. Diversifying its rich culture is this very interesting place- the perfume city of India.
Situated about a 2-hour drive away, towards the northwestern side of Lucknow, is Kannauj. Kannauj is popularly known as the ‘Perfume City of India’.
Do you know why? Well, the city is the largest and the oldest manufacturer of attar perfume, ittar or itr, an oil-based fragrance in the entire world.
As you enter the bylanes in the markets of Kannauj, the city welcomes you with invigorating fragrances that are sure to take you to a different world. Long before the world began knowing it as ‘petrichor’, this old town had already captured its essence in a bottle. Called the ‘mitti attar’, it is one of the most sought after fragrances today.
A tradition that began 5000 years ago, employs 80% of Kannauj’s population today. You will find stores and stores stacked with glass bottles, selling all kinds of regular and exotic attar that you can possibly think of.
Attar Making Process in the Perfume City of India
Newer and newer methods of making synthetic chemical-based perfumes are in use today. However, the perfume distilleries in Kannauj still follow the completely natural, traditional methods for making attar. These methods have been in use from the time attar manufacturing began in Kannauj and haven’t changed a bit since.
The process is known as ‘deg bhapka’ and makes use of hydro-distillation. The ‘deg’ is a huge nickel-coated copper vessel, in which flowers and water are added. This pot is then sealed with a clay mixture. And the ‘bhapka’ is the condenser which is filled with oil. The whole setup of this deg bhapka is then heated.
When it starts boiling, the flowers added to the vessel enter the condenser in the form of water vapors through a hollow bamboo pipe. And the oil that is present in the condenser absorbs the fragrance from the flowers.
This process takes a few hours to complete and at the end of it, whatever amount of water is left gets removed from the vessel. Depending upon the type and quality of the attar, this process gets repeated for as long as a month.
Although it is quite a labor-intensive and time-consuming process, this is how attar is traditionally made in the perfume city of India.
Attar Fragrances made at Kannauj
The attar makers in Kannauj derive fragrances out of numerous natural ingredients. They draw fragrances out of floral sources like rose, jasmine, lavender, marigold, kewra, bela, plants like vetiver, and a lot more.
Their range of attar also includes fragrances made from spices like cardamom, saffron, juniper berries, cloves etc.
Fragrances like musk, oud, henna, and shamama henna are also quite popular here.
Their special attar ‘shamama’, also one of the most sought after, is made from the co-distillation of various herbs and natural essential oils.
Also thanks to the attar makers of Kannauj, it is now possible to enjoy the scent the earth oozes out after rains fall on dry soil any time you want. With their ‘mitti attar’, this fragrance can be enjoyed any time of the year!
Kannauj presents quite a variety of fragrances to match every connoisseur’s taste. The perfume city of India is definitely THE place to fetch some fine scents. These scents aren’t just widely popular in India but are also exported to many parts of the world in huge quantities.
Is the industry facing a decline?
The lingering scent of Kannauj’s many attars is sure to leave you spellbound. Its process, the traditional methods used and the scents that smell like pure bliss have quite a magic of their own. Once you visit this place or own an attar manufactured here, its experience is something that you are sure to cherish a lifetime.
However, due to the easily available and cheaper synthetic low-quality perfumes, the manufacturers here have started observing a slow decline in their businesses. These cheaply manufactured attars or fragrances sometimes sell for as low as one-tenth of the original organic product’s price. As a result, the scent industry of Kannauj is facing a major blow.
To promote the industry and preserve its heritage, an ‘International Perfume Park & Museum’ is all set to open up in Kannauj.
With its rich cultural history and such a major contribution to the world, we hope that the glory of the perfume city of India never fades. If you wish to buy attar online, which are completely natural and devoid of chemicals, you must visit Kashmirica.