सुदर्शन के राष्ट्रवादी पत्रकारिता को आर्थिक सहयोग करे

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This ancient town is the perfume capital of India

For centuries, perfumers in Kannauj have worked their alchemy to create “liquid gold. Although Damask roses are cultivated in other parts of India, the varietal favors Ganges alluvial soils surrounding the town of Kannauj. For more than 400 years, the highly fragrant roses from Kannauj have gone into the creation of rose attar using the world’s oldest known perfume-making process.

MANU PRATAP
  • Jan 9 2021 6:40PM

Tegh Singh arrives at his flower farm on the banks of the Ganges before sunrise, ready to pluck rose petals when they are at their peak bouquet. Circling the dense and haphazardly planted Rosa damascena shrubs, he works quickly, tossing the light pink petals into a jute sack slung over his shoulder. By the time the first rays of sunlight skim across the river, the 35-year-old Singh is already on his scooter, ferrying the sweet-smelling load inland to Kannauj, a small city known as “the perfume capital of India.”

 For centuries Kannauj (pronounced kunh-nowj), in northeast India’s Ganges belt, has been crafting oil-based botanical perfumes called attar using the world’s oldest known distillation methods. Sought after by both Mughal royals and everyday folk in ancient India’s fragrance-obsessed culture, Kannauj attar scented everything from wrists to food, fountains to homes.

Although attars fell out of fashion in the 20th century, Kannauj perfumers continue to ply their craft the same old-fashioned way—recently awakening a new generation, at home and abroad, to its sensual, compelling fragrance.

The aroma of attar

Attar is old-world perfumery. Rooted in the Latin per and fume (through smoke), perfume got its start with humans crushing and infusing botanicals directly into oil or water. Modern perfumery uses alcohol as a carrier or solvent, for the simple reasons that it is inexpensive, neutral, and easily diffused. But attars are traditionally made with sandalwood oil, which makes them unctuous and highly absorptive. A tiny droplet on the wrist or behind the ear, and the scent seeps into the skin and lingers pleasantly, sometimes for days.

 Equally alluring to men and women, attars have an androgynous quality. They strike intense floral, woodsy, musky, smoky, green, or grassy notes. Trotted out by season, attars can be both warm (cloves, cardamom, saffron, oud) and cooling (jasmine, pandan, vetiver, marigold).

Kannauj produces these, as well as the dramatic attar mitti, which evokes the scent of earth after a rainfall and is made with shards of unfired Ganges clay. Shamama, another home-grown Kannauj invention, is a distilled blend of 40 or more flowers, herbs, and woody resins that takes days to make and months to age. The scent manages to harmonize sweet, spice, smoke, and damp and whisks one off to an otherworldly realm. Renowned perfume houses in Europe use Kannauj attar—be it rose, vetiver, or jasmine—as a layer, a compelling chord in the composition of modern perfumery.

 

 

The art of perfume-making

Kannauj has been concocting attar (also known as ittr) for over 400 years—more than two centuries before Grasse, in France’s Provence region, emerged as a perfume juggernaut. Known locally in Hindi as degh-bhapka, the artisanal method uses copper stills fueled by wood and cow dung.

Kannauj is a four-hour drive from Agra and just shy of two hours from historic Lucknow, a former princeling state governed by the Nawabs of Oudh. Like many smaller Indian cities, Kannauj is wedged somewhere between past and present. Time here doesn’t move on, it simply piles up.

Crumbling sandstone ramparts, onion-domed minarets, and scalloped archways recall the town’s early grandeur as the seat of the Harshavardhana Empire in the sixth century. On the main drag, puttering scooters and the occasional glistening Mercedes careen past fruit sellers pushing wooden carts piled high with guavas and overripe bananas.

Duck into the narrow lanes of Bara Bazaar, the main market, and Kannauj reverts fully to medieval times. In this labyrinth, longtime shops are crammed with finely cut glass bottles holding attar and ruh, or essential oil, each smelling better than the last. Men sit cross-legged on cushioned floor mats, sniffing vials and dabbing behind their ears with extraordinarily long perfumed cotton swabs. Presiding over this age-old commerce is the attar sazh, or perfumer, conjuring and enticing with the aura of an imperial alchemist.

“The world’s best perfumers have walked through these narrow lanes, making their way through mud and cow dung to get their hands on Kannauj attar. There is really nothing like it,” remarks Pranjal Kapoor, the fifth-generation partner at M.L. Ramnarain Perfumers, one of the oldest of roughly 350 distillers still operating here.Tegh Singh arrives and unloads his bundles of blossoms in Kapoor’s godown, an open-air stone courtyard that serves as the distillery. Ram Singh, Kapoor’s master attar craftsman, scoops the petals into a bulbous copper still, and tops it with fresh water. Before fastening the lid, Ram Singh packs the rims with a clay and cotton mash, which hardens and creates a formidable seal.

When the flowery broth begins to simmer, steam flows from the still, via a bamboo reed, into a copper pot holding sandalwood oil, which readily imbibes the rose-saturated vapor.

सहयोग करें

हम देशहित के मुद्दों को आप लोगों के सामने मजबूती से रखते हैं। जिसके कारण विरोधी और देश द्रोही ताकत हमें और हमारे संस्थान को आर्थिक हानी पहुँचाने में लगे रहते हैं। देश विरोधी ताकतों से लड़ने के लिए हमारे हाथ को मजबूत करें। ज्यादा से ज्यादा आर्थिक सहयोग करें।
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