City of tarrying fragrance: Kannauj

Every lane in the city wafts with a unique fragrance, which is ceaselessly manufactured by unrecognised craftsmen.

0 661

“We have only learned the art of making attar from ages. Our fathers were involved in this business, so we are. Our lives are dependent on the attar production. We do not know anything else,” said a 62-year-old craftsman.

Indian “attar” or “itr” industry which exists since ages holds an enormous, archaic and unique value. Even in epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata, there is apparently a discussion about the attar, even if the exact name “attar” wasn’t mentioned.

As the most common form of natural perfume, attar doesn’t affect the environment and comprises of essential oils.

Situated on the banks of Ganga, the city of Kannauj is recognised as the ‘perfume city of India’. The city is compared with the Grasse of France.

It is believed that Noor Jahan discovered the attar in Kannauj. However, local people believe that the land of Kannauj is blessed with attar in abundance.

“When we were a kid, our parents used to send small bottles of attars for domestic use to various cities. Buyers used to order in advance for different kinds of attars. It is medically good for health. While the soothing smells of jasmine and rosewater relax the mind, Kewra water is put in kheer, sewayiyan, and other sweets to add essence. The modernity and artificial products have killed it all,” explains a 43-year-old manufacturer.

A popular belief among the people is that rivers of attar used to flow in Kannauj (yaha attar ki nadiyan behti thi).

“Attar industry is an informal, family guarded cottage industry. Every second house of the city is involved in its production. The traditional method of deg-bhapka using different copper vessels is used in its production.”

The attar in Kannauj is a mixture of raw material from different places. Roses from Aligarh and Palampur, saffron from Jammu & Kashmir, Kewra from Ganjam to Spices and Herbs from North East and Madhya Pradesh. Kannauj itself is rich in Genda, Jafrani, and Maulsri.

Protecting the heritage is the Essential Oil and Attar cluster which manufactures products like rosewater and gulkand through 375 micro and small units with a turnover of Rs 400 Crore in which approximately 20 per cent of the turnover is exported. The investment made by industries is around Rs 50 Crores and it gave employment to around 30,000 workers either directly or indirectly. There are 12 prominent exporters with more than Rs 30 Crore turnover. The export is mainly to Arab countries, Saudi Arabia and Middle East countries.

“The attars are produced by the manufacturers for the different section of buyers; it can be for business or personal use.”

At present, the focus of attar used has shifted to the tobacco industry with at most 90 per cent of attar used in gutka products. They are also used in body gels, ayurvedic medicines, incense sticks, soaps and mehendi. Due to the cost factor, the demand for the product in other industries is less.

The most expensive attars are quoted on the sandalwood essential oil. With the hike of sandalwood prices, the attar price has also increased tremendously.

“They say every manufacturer had a different recipe of attar which was only shared with the eldest male member after the death of the owner.”

Kannauj is protected under the agreement of Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property rights (TRIPS) agreement and is listed at 157 under the Geographical Indication Act 1999, with Government of India’s registration in 2013-14. On the other hand, Fragrance and Flavour Development Centre (FFDC) in Kannauj is the main centre established by government to protect the existence of attar industries and Research Development in fragrances and flavour.

The rich heritage of country is losing its ethnicity slowly and steadily.

There are various issues which are eating up the age-old culture of fragrance. It’s not technique neither its availability but the demand for the fragrance. The changing demand from natural to cheaper artificial products is the main concern. The second concern is the standardisation of attar; it is not possible in local terms because the quoting of the essence on essential oil differs from manufacturer to manufacturer. It lacks marketing at the international level. The export is purely dependent on goodwill. The ban on tobacco and gutka industry has diminished the existing attar industries. Lack of funds from the government to increase research is another issue along with underpayment to the craftsmen.

The involvement of young generation to protect the cultural heritage of India has become necessary now.

“We have only learned the art of making attar from ages. Our fathers were involved in this business, so we are. Our lives are dependent on the attar production. We do not know anything else,” said a 62-year-old craftsman.

Indian “attar” or “itr” industry which exists since ages holds an enormous, archaic and unique value. Even in epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata, there is apparently a discussion about the attar, even if the exact name “attar” wasn’t mentioned.

As the most common form of natural perfume, attar doesn’t affect the environment and comprises of essential oils.

Situated on the banks of Ganga, the city of Kannauj is recognised as the ‘perfume city of India’. The city is compared with the Grasse of France.

It is believed that Noor Jahan discovered the attar in Kannauj. However, local people believe that the land of Kannauj is blessed with attar in abundance.


Also Read : Promote biotechnology and nano-technology for sustainable agriculture: Vice President

“When we were a kid, our parents used to send small bottles of attars for domestic use to various cities. Buyers used to order in advance for different kinds of attars. It is medically good for health. While the soothing smells of jasmine and rosewater relax the mind, Kewra water is put in kheer, sewayiyan, and other sweets to add essence. The modernity and artificial products have killed it all,” explains a 43-year-old manufacturer.

A popular belief among the people is that rivers of attar used to flow in Kannauj (yaha attar ki nadiyan behti thi).

“Attar industry is an informal, family guarded cottage industry. Every second house of the city is involved in its production. The traditional method of deg-bhapka using different copper vessels is used in its production.”

The attar in Kannauj is a mixture of raw material from different places. Roses from Aligarh and Palampur, saffron from Jammu & Kashmir, Kewra from Ganjam to Spices and Herbs from North East and Madhya Pradesh. Kannauj itself is rich in Genda, Jafrani, and Maulsri.

Protecting the heritage is the Essential Oil and Attar cluster which manufactures products like rosewater and gulkand through 375 micro and small units with a turnover of Rs 400 Crore in which approximately 20 per cent of the turnover is exported. The investment made by industries is around Rs 50 Crores and it gave employment to around 30,000 workers either directly or indirectly. There are 12 prominent exporters with more than Rs 30 Crore turnover. The export is mainly to Arab countries, Saudi Arabia and Middle East countries.

“The attars are produced by the manufacturers for the different section of buyers; it can be for business or personal use.”

At present, the focus of attar used has shifted to the tobacco industry with at most 90 per cent of attar used in gutka products. They are also used in body gels, ayurvedic medicines, incense sticks, soaps and mehendi. Due to the cost factor, the demand for the product in other industries is less.

The most expensive attars are quoted on the sandalwood essential oil. With the hike of sandalwood prices, the attar price has also increased tremendously.

“They say every manufacturer had a different recipe of attar which was only shared with the eldest male member after the death of the owner.”

Kannauj is protected under the agreement of Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property rights (TRIPS) agreement and is listed at 157 under the Geographical Indication Act 1999, with Government of India’s registration in 2013-14. On the other hand, Fragrance and Flavour Development Centre (FFDC) in Kannauj is the main centre established by government to protect the existence of attar industries and Research Development in fragrances and flavour.

The rich heritage of country is losing its ethnicity slowly and steadily.

There are various issues which are eating up the age-old culture of fragrance. It’s not technique neither its availability but the demand for the fragrance. The changing demand from natural to cheaper artificial products is the main concern. The second concern is the standardisation of attar; it is not possible in local terms because the quoting of the essence on essential oil differs from manufacturer to manufacturer. It lacks marketing at the international level. The export is purely dependent on goodwill. The ban on tobacco and gutka industry has diminished the existing attar industries. Lack of funds from the government to increase research is another issue along with underpayment to the craftsmen.

The involvement of young generation to protect the cultural heritage of India has become necessary now.