The perfumery tradition is believed to have dated back to more than 5000 years ago during the indus valley civilization when the distillation process was reported to be in existence. The history of natural attars in India is very much associated with the history of Kannauj and the Mughal period when the process of preparation of attars was discovered and developed.
The word Attar comes from the Persian word 'Atr' which means sweet or fragrant. It is also known as Ittar in Hindu/Urdu language. Attar is the natural undiluted form of a perfume created using the distillation process. Only natural elements and no man made additives are used in its making. Used by both men and women, attars are generally composed of a combination of flowers to create a unique fragrance.
A true Attar is a perfume oil made from flower petals distilled in water using low heat and pressure. It is completely made up of natural elements and does not include alcohol or any manmade additives. This type of perfume may also be called otto or ottar perfume.
The naturally made Indian attars have been in existence since the Mughal period when they are believed to have discovered and prepared by the Mughal queen Noorjahan. However, the perfume tradition in India has been in existence for long. The perfume references are part of a larger text called Brihat-Samhita written by Varahamihira, an Indian astronomer, mathematician and astrologer who lived in the historic city of Ujjain. In ancient India, these ittars were worn as a sacred perfume or to annoint. In fact, even today Attars are made as offerings to God in India and Middle East.
The city of Kannauj in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh is known as the 'Attar city' and the development of natural attars during the Mughal period was mostly around the city of Kannauj due to the presence of aroma bearing substances there like Sandal, Musk, Comphor, Saffron. The first natural attars were also made in this area. Historical records mention that the floral group used for attar manufacturing was Rose, Bela, Jasmine, Champa, Molesari, Tuberose, Myrrh, Anbar and Khus.
Today, all ittars are used as perfumes by themselves. When a good smell reaches nose, it stimulates one's senses, helps in relieving stress and ease one's mind. This pleasant and smoothening attar fragrance makes one feel confident and fresh. Attars are used on 'pulse points' as they dispose the fragrance most effectively. The sensitive pulses are behind the ears, on the neck, between the breasts and at the bend of elbows, knee and ankles.
There are other uses as well. Attars of Rose and Kehwa are used as flavours in Indian sweets. In fact, pan masala and chewing tobacco industry consume about 80% of the attar manufactured in India. Attar perfumes are also used as home remedies. Some of the flowers used in the making of attars are thought to treat depression, asthma, coughing, cramps, sexual problems, nausea, burns, skin problems and cuts.
The distinctive quality of these ittars is that they are skin friendly, can be used for all religious purposes and contain high quality ingredients like Agar wood, sandalwood, saffron, rose, jasmine, amber, musk, geranium and Patchouli. They are used by both men and women.
Known to arouse aroma, sensuality & sexuality, these traditional Indian attars are very popular perfumes in certain parts of the world.