Kannauj the Perfume Capital of India

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Kannauj the Perfume Capital of India
29 Dec 2021
7 min read

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A thing that has slowly gained an important place in everyone's daily routine. One of the many things that a person uses is perfume. But have you ever wondered, where does it come from and how is it made? Well, a city in the state of Uttar Pradesh is known as the perfume capital of India and is a major producer of Attar, the natural perfume exempted from any alcohol or chemicals ingredients. #ThinkWithNiche

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What is the morning routine that you follow every day? Get up, take a bath and get ready, have something healthy and tasty in your breakfast, and get ready for the day ahead. Just like all this, one more thing that has become common among many is the use of perfume. It gives you a fragrance that stays with you the whole day. But, every day when you use it, do you ever wonder what it takes to make this perfume? How does a person take the fragrance from different substances and collect it in a small bottle for you? 

Well, we are here to tell you the exact process on how the aroma that you carry on yourself every day. Unlike the popular Deo Brands available in the market, perfume contains less or no alcohol. It is made of most essential oils that are taken out from different substances.

The process of making perfume is long. It takes a lot of time, hard work, and many effort to make perfume. A small city named Kannauj, in Uttar Pradesh, has been involved in the production of perfume for over 400 years. The city is known as ‘The Perfume Capital of India.’ The city is known for its authentic methods of making perfumes. The place is especially famous for making the smell of the rain on the earth. They make a perfume that resembles the smell of the first rain. The cost is very high, but the quality is very rich along with the cost, and you will never find yourself disappointed with its use. The perfume is also known as Ittar or Attar is popular, and high in demand not only in India but all around the world as well.

The Process

The process of making perfume starts with the collection of flowers. The roses are collected, and after that, the whole process is undertaken. The methods used in this process are around 1000 years old, and Kannauj is the only city in India that makes the perfume by using the same traditional process even now. The flowers are collected by the workers from different fields, and then they deliver fresh flowers to the distilleries. The flowers are weighed, and the pots are prepared for further process. Keep in mind the whole process takes place without any electricity or modern machinery.

The containers are filled with the exact amount of water. According to the workers, this is the hardest part of the job, as not everyone can measure the exact amount of water needed in this process. The roses are evenly spread out and then are poured into the containers filled with water. After which, the containers are sealed with a mixture of clay and cotton. The earthen ovens called Bhattis are lit, and a temperature level is maintained for the further process. 

The water boils along with the flower petals until it starts steaming. A smaller container is connected to it with the bamboo pipes called Changa. The smaller container is called ‘Bhapka’ and is filled with sandalwood oil that works as the base for ‘attar.’ The water and flower petals are boiled for over 6 hours, and the workers keep checking the temperature of the containers. The small containers or ‘Bhapka’ are also kept in a check so that they stay cool enough to turn the steam back into the liquid. The liquid collected at the end of this process is all-natural Attar, free from any alcohol and artificial substance.

The Mitti Attar

Kannauj city is known for its perfume. Not only a family or two, but almost the city is also somehow involved in the production of Attar. Multiple factories produce a variety of Attar. The city is known as The Perfume Capital of India and creates a huge variety of perfumes. But, just like anywhere else, the city has a most prized Attar, called Mitti Attar. Mitti is the Hindi word for earth. The perfumers describe it as the smell of rain on the earth. When it rains on the dry purged earth, it has a sweet and soothing smell. Mitti Attar is known to have that smell.

The process to create this Attar starts with putting the used clay pots in the container. The pots are crushed and are added to the water. The process of making different perfumes takes a different amount of time. The Rose Attar takes only a day for its production, but others can take weeks or even months to produce. The perfumes are distilled and redistilled until the smell is potent enough.

Packaging

The packaging of perfumes is the last step in the whole production. The packaging is also done in a traditional process. Every tiny bottle of Attar is filled by hand using a funnel and a bucket. The Attar is then sent off to the market for sale. 

Price

The Attar made in Kannauj is free from any chemical substance and is made by using the traditional method. The price of Attar can differ based on the type of Attar. Expensive Attars can be sold for 10,000 Rs. or $135. The quantity you would get for this much Attar is not too much but for only two teaspoons of Attar.

The reason for this high cost is the costly raw material, and the time it takes to produce it. The sandalwood used as the base in the ‘Bhapka’ costs 1 Lakh for 1 Kilogram of the oil. Plus, the cost of flowers makes it this expensive automatically. But for consumers, when it comes to authenticated perfume, they are ready to pay the price for it too.

Kannauj was known for producing the Attar for almost 400 years. The perfumers believe that Kannauj has the geographical indication for producing Attar. They also believe that Attar can be produced in Kannauj only, using traditional distilling methods. The steam distilling method of making perfume is known to have originated in ancient Persia and the middle east thousands of years ago. The method became popular in India during the Mughals Era, in the 17th century.

The problem started occurring for these perfumes when the market became more brand conscious people started moving towards the popular brands. The demand for Deo’s and western perfumes has created a fall in demand for Attar. As a result, in the past 20 years, around 80% of the distilleries in Kannauj have closed down. The city of Kannauj is known for its Attar and where almost the whole city is involved in the perfumery business. Around 80 to 85% of the town’s population is involved in this business in one way or another, and as the Attar is losing its name and demand, it puts the remaining Attar Distilleries in danger of closing.

But there is still hope for them. With the new applications added to it, the growth in the demand of Attar is also seen. The demand for Attar is high not only in India but in the middle east as well. Attar is an important aspect of Islam and is one of Prophet Mohammad’s prized possessions. Hence the demand for chemical-free and naturally made Attar is very high in the middle east. Not only in the Middle East, the demand for Attar is also high in European countries. The fragrance houses in Europe use it as an ingredient in their modern perfumes.

Perfumers in Kannauj are proud of what they do and are trying their best to keep it alive. The process of making Attar is surely hard and takes a lot of time and hard work, but it becomes even harder when you have to maintain certain standards. The Perfumers of Kannauj are still proud of their legacy.