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Kannauj Attar – The Perfume Heritage of India

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Kannauj Attar: Attar (also called ‘ittar’ in Hindi) is a natural perfume oil made from natural ingredients like rose or even agarwood (as is the case for so-called gold attar). It is possible that the word ‘attar’, ‘ittar’ or ‘itra’ is a derivative of the Persian word ‘itir’, meaning ‘perfume’.

Attar is obtained from a traditional steam distillation process called ‘deg and bhapka’, which means ‘large pot and small pot’, and is performed by skilled workers called dighaas. First, the dighaas pour the main ingredient into the deg along with cold water and then seal it using a special type of clay.

Logs are placed under the deg and lit so that the mixture comes to a boil. Throughout the procedure, the dighaas must make sure that the temperature stays at a certain specific level and that the attar does not overheat or become contaminated.

After a while, the steam comes through a bamboo pipe, the ‘chonga’, passing from the ‘deg’ into the ‘bhapka’ (receiver). There, a layer of oil catches the evaporated aroma molecules. Sandalwood oil used to be used for this layer, but now its high price and rarity mean that other oil-like substances are generally used instead.

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The distillation process is then repeated several times, depending on the desired concentration of the final attar. The whole process usually takes up to 25 days

The home of the Attar- Kannauj

KANNAUJ ATTAR - Traditional Making

On entering the Bara Bazar of Kannauj, walking through not so broad lanes you can’t evade smelling the fragrance around you. Kannauj has been home to some popular and thriving perfume industries. And thus, Kannauj Perfume, popularly known as Kannauj Attar has been into trading for many decades now.

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Kannauj Attar conceals a long historical background behind its origin and sustainability in the market. Due to its exponential growing popularity, the place of its origin – Kannauj, got tagged as “The Perfume Capital Of India”. The production of Attar was initially carried out in the families and then it became a business tradition to be followed from generation to generation by passing on their skills to their children and beyond.

The families there have been working on this for three centuries now. In simple words, that is three hundred years. Can you imagine how much expertise would they behaving in this particular field?

Quite interesting to know The Attars are made from musk, saffron, plant materials, including some other natural resources and aromatic substances. When it comes to planting materials, they use white jasmine (a flower) and vetiver (a plant).

They also have got some wonderful varieties like Mitti Attar – which is a monsoon variety and imparts the smell of wet soil, Heena Attar and Musk Attar belong to winter varieties. Perfumes exempted from alcohol and chemical stuff are termed as natural perfumes. Certain natural attars with high-order fragrances are manufactured from rose and sandalwood. They impart quite a longer-lasting aroma, which is quite appealing, I must mention.

THE BUSINESS STANDPOINT

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KANNAUJ-ATTAR-MARKET
Source: CNN

Coming to the business prospect of Kannauj Perfumes, it’s been known that it has not only made its name in local markets but also reached international markets. About twenty companies export their perfume to the UAE, UK, USA, Iran, Iraq, Singapore, Australia, Saudi Arabia, France, Oman, Qatar and etc. However, the perfume market is driven by demands from various consumer’s behavior and their demands. Due to the historic abundance of these natural aromatic resources present in India, there’s a broader horizon of raw materials from which perfumes and scents can be extracted. Also, the complex Indian market has developed over the millennium. By bridging the communication gaps, all these products are no more stagnant to the place of their origin and are exported worldwide scaling up the economy.

And now moving on to the current business conditions, Kannauj Attar being an internationally recognized and accepted product has received the GI Tag. Also, an FFDC – Fragrance & flavor Development Centre has been set up in the year 1991 by Govt. Of India, with the help of UNDP/UNIDO and Govt. Of Uttar Pradesh. UNDP/UNIDO provides all sorts of technical information and assists in providing lands for building the infrastructure of a production house. Meanwhile Govt. India is contributing to the recurring, non-recurring, and indigenous equipment. Further, FFDC aims to be an interface between essential oils, fragrance, and flavor industries in order to make the perfume-producing house competitive both in the local & global markets.

THE POLITICAL SHADES

However, as the local traders have remarked “poor marketing” is keeping Kannauj attar away from the main market of perfumes and fragrances. A few years ago, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav visited Grasse, France’s perfume capital, to save the industry. A joint venture resulted in the Kannauj-Grasse pact, which will enable sharing of expertise, and a proposal to set up an international perfume museum in Kannauj in collaboration with the French government is on the anvil.

And now a 100-acre ‘Ittra Park &Sangrahalya’ (Perfume Park & Museum) will come up at Kannauj, the perfume capital of India, with the Adityanath government deciding to hire a project management consultant to draw out the contours of the project within three months.

Indian Business Owners in the foreign Perfume Industry and Markets have helped the emerging growth of the Indian Perfume Business by putting it upfront. Entrepreneurs like, Manan Gandhi, Pulkit Malhotra, Mira Kulkarni, JahnviLakhotaNandan and Sushant Panda have stepped out as the perception changers for the Perfumery Industry. Launching their ranges of fresh and innovative perfumery brands has called out for a wider base of consumers.

Of course in the business, with such of its own conventional experimentation boundaries, finding a newer way through it gets hard. But founding a startup in Grasse – The heart of French Perfumery, and reaching out to the gates of markets across Europe; it is certainly a way through it.

“I wanted to build a brand that pays homage to the beautiful Indian naturals that have been used in perfumery for generations now, but are not quite given their due,” says the 30-year-old Manan Gandhi, Founder of Bombay Perfumery.

THE FUTURE OF ATTAR

Source: D.S. Fragrances

At present, the Indian perfume market is set to grow considerably and offers innumerable opportunities for new entrants to establish themselves in this market. The perfume market is operated under organized as well as unorganized players. Earlier, the market was overpowered by unorganized players, as India was a land of attars, Kannauj (Uttar Pradesh) being the capital city for attars.

According to “India Perfume Market Overview, 2016-2022”, Indians were mesmerized by the fragrance of attars and was a favourite amongst many. As new players are entering into the organized market with innovations like perfumes, deodorants, and colognes, attars is somewhat losing its essence to these products. With the introduction of perfumes having synthetic ingredients, products like attars have started getting competition and are facing tough times as synthetic laid perfumes are taking over a major segment of the perfume market.

Hence, with all the infrastructural support to be planned and with new business leaders the Attar Industry is sure to grow gradually and establish its position in the market soon.

The Kannauj Attar has to emerge as the focal of the Perfumery Industry, withholding such a rich culture of the craft of perfume production. The political tangents affecting the market and the whole ecosystem for it has to play a vital role in the development of favorable market and exposure.

Kannauj carries a heritage of its kind, and with today’s world of the market economy, shaping that heritage in a commercial model could lead not just the local businessman and craftsmen for a well-to-do life, in fact, would benefit the complete domestic economy.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Coming from Kannauj and being working in this industry as a help to grow this age-old Indian tradition, I think this article a great one. You know a lot about this industry and I admire that you posted something about it. Thanks for that. Indian Attars industry really needs a big push to survive in this mass production era. We really need to preserve our heritage. I always say Mitti attar should be our main focus to start from somewhere.

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