Uttar Pradesh’s Lesser-Known, GI-Tagged Fragrance


Attar, a perfume usually derived from flowers, musk, camphor, saffron, and sandalwood, is extremely popular in the city of Kannauj in Uttar Pradesh. People here are largely associated with the art of attar-making, making Kannauj one of the oldest places in India to produce perfume.

However, it is important to note that attar-making is not a modern form of extracting fragrances and in fact, the art dates back approximately thousands of years, according to local lore.

As an art form, attar-making requires precision. It is achieved after years and years of practice. Even though technology has made progress by leaps and bounds in the perfume industry, the best of Kannauj attars and oils are stored in camel skin bags. Camel skin is touted to expel moisture and keep the product safe for a longer period.

What sets Kannauj’s attar apart is the fact that the perfume does not contain chemicals, alcohol, or artificial preservatives. However, it doesn’t affect its shelf life at all. Even though the perfume is extracted from natural substances, there is hardly a chance that the attar would spoil or smell funky if stored. These attars are also GI tagged–a tag given to a product to protect its region of origin which plays a big role in the history of the product.

Perhaps one of the most famous attars of Kannauj is the rose attar. True to its name, the rose attar has a pleasant fragrance with sweet notes on it. It is known to be more potent than the others. However, there are eclectic choices available, such as attar-mitti or the smell of the soil. It is the smell of petrichor, apparently bottled by the skilled perfume makers of Kannauj.

The perfume city is situated not far from Kanpur, a major city in Uttar Pradesh.

Some say that you will get this unmistakable hint of flowery fragrances in the air as soon as you enter Kannauj.

It is because while most households are engaged in the art of perfume making, a lot of fragrant by-products such as essential oils, extracts, and others are made in the city as well. The attars are a hit among many international countries such as the UK, USA, Saudi Arabia, UAE, France, Iran, and more, which import these perfumes.

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