This ancient town in Uttar Pradesh is the perfume capital of India
Kannauj, in northeast India's Ganges belt, has been producing oil-based botanical perfumes known as "attar" for generations, utilizing the world's oldest known distillation methods. Kannauj attar, sought for by both Mughal royals and commoners in ancient India's fragrance-obsessed culture, flavored everything from wrists to food, fountains to residences.
Despite the fact that attars fell out of favor in the twentieth century, Kannauj perfumers continue to practice their trade in the same old-fashioned style, recently awakening a new generation, both at home and abroad, to its sensual, seductive aroma.
The scent of attar
This ancient town in Uttar Pradesh is known as India's Perfume Capital 1.
Damask roses are gathered early every day in the area around Kannauj by trained hands and handed to master attar craftsmen.
Attar is traditional perfumery. Perfume, derived from the Latin per and fume (via smoke), began with humans crushing and infusing herbs straight into oil or water. Alcohol is employed as a carrier or solvent in modern perfumery since it is affordable, neutral, and easily diffused. Attars, on the other hand, are usually produced with sandalwood oil, which makes them unctuous and incredibly absorbent. With just a droplet on the wrist or behind the ear, the aroma penetrates the skin and remains delightfully, sometimes for days.
Attars have an androgynous character that appeals to both men and women. They produce strong flowery, woodsy, musky, smokey, green, or grassy scents. Attars can be both warm (cloves, cardamom, saffron, oud) and cooling (depending on the season) (jasmine, pandan, vetiver, marigold).
Kannauj makes these, as well as the dramatic attar mitti, which is formed with shards of unfired Ganges clay and recalls the aroma of earth after a shower. Another Kannauj creation, Shamama, is a distilled blend of 40 or more flowers, herbs, and woody resins that takes days to produce and months to age. The perfume combines sweet, spice, smoke, and wet to transport you to a magical place. Renowned European perfume businesses employ Kannauj attar as a layer, a compelling chord in the composition of modern perfumery, whether rose, vetiver, or jasmine.
Kannauj has been producing attar (also known as ittr) for nearly 400 years, more than two centuries before Grasse, in France's Provence region, rose to prominence as a perfume powerhouse.
Kannauj is about a four-hour journey from Agra and about two hours from historic Lucknow, a former princeling state ruled by the Nawabs of Oudh. Kannauj, like many minor Indian cities, is caught between the past and the present. Time here does not pass; it merely accumulates.