Attar also known as ittar is a natural perfume oil derived from botanical sources. Most commonly these oils are taken from the botanical material through hydroelectric or steam distillation. The oils can also be expressed by chemical means, but generally the natural perfumes that qualify as Ittar / Attars are naturally distilled. The oils obtained from flower and wood herbs are generally distilled in a wooden base such as sandalwood and then aged. The aging period can last from one to ten years depending on the botanical ingredients used and the desired results.
These completely natural perfumes are highly concentrated and therefore are usually offered for sale in small quantities and have traditionally been offered in bottles decorated with cut crystal or small carafes in precious stones. Ittars are popular throughout the Middle East and the Far East of India and Pakistan. Ittars have been used all over the eastern world for thousands of years. These 100% pure and natural perfumes are free of alcohol and chemicals and so the problems faced in the West by perfume lovers are irrelevant to most Oriental perfume lovers. The natural perfumes are accessible because they are so concentrated that a small bottle will last for the user several weeks, if not months. Due to the purity and nature of the oils, there is very little chance of deterioration unless a carrier-based oil is used to cut the pure concentrated oil.
Some of the first lovers of Ittars were the Mughal nobles of India. Jasmine ittar was the favorite perfume of the Nizam of the state of Hyderabad. Traditionally in the oriental world it was a customary practice of the nobility to offer ittar to their guests at the time of their departure. The ittar are traditionally presented in small crystal bottles decorated as itardans. This tradition of giving a scent to guests continues today in many parts of the Eastern world. Among the Sufi worshipers the use of Ittars during circles and meditation dances is quite common.
Most of ittar are alcohol-free and are used by many Muslim men and women. Ittar has long been considered one of the most precious material assets and Prophet Muhammad has been compared to Ittar as one of the most beloved gifts offered to humanity. The Hittari are also used in Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh meditation practices.
The word “attar”, “ittar” or “othr” is basically an Arabic word meaning “perfume”; this in turn is believed to have been derived from the Persian word Atr, which means “fragrance”.
The history of Indian perfumes is as old as civilization itself. Archaeological evidence shows that the first inhabitants of the Indian subcontinent possessed plants with great reverence. Over time, fragrant oils were extracted by pressing, pulverizing or distilling aromatic vegetables and animal products. The first indications of this activity are available in the perfume jars and terracotta receptacles of the Indus Valley civilization, where archaeological work has revealed copper rods, used for the distillation process that are at least five thousand years old (reference). These stops are called degrees. Following the flower seasons, traditional ittar producers, with their specialists, have traveled all over India to make their ittars fresh on the spot. Even now, some traditional ittar producers still travel with their grades to be close to the harvest. Their equipment has changed slightly, if at all.
A large number of references to cosmetics and fragrances in Sanskrit literature have been found as in the Brhatsamhita is a sixth-century Sanskrit encyclopedia of Varahamihira (505 AD – 587 AD). The production of cosmetics and perfumes was practiced mainly for purposes of worship, sale and sensual entertainment. Gandhayukti gave recipes for making perfumes. Provides a list of eight aromatic ingredients used to produce perfumes. They were: Rodhara, Usira, Bignonia, Aguru, Musta, Vana, Priyangu and Pathya. Gandhayukti also gave recipes for mouth perfumes, bath powders, incense and talcum powder. The production of rose water began perhaps in the nineteenth century after Christ. The first distillation of Ittar was mentioned in the Ayurvedic text Charaka Samhita. Harshacharita, written in the 7th century AD in northern India, it mentions the use of scented agarwood oil.
In ancient India, ittar was prepared by placing precious flowers and sacred plants in a water or vegetable oil. Slowly the plants and flowers infuse the water / oil with their delicate fragrance. The plant and the flower material would have been removed and a symphony of their aromatic beauty would have been preserved in the Ittar. These ittar were then worn as a sacred scent or to grease.
Ittar represents some of the romantic stories of a bygone era. His patrons included great poets like the mythical Mirza Ghalib. When Ghalib met his beloved in winter, he rubbed his hands and faced ittar hina.
In Ain-e-Akbari, Abul Fazal, mentioned that Akbar used ittar every day and burned incense sticks in incense burners of gold and silver. The bath of a princess was incomplete without incense and ittar. A very popular ittar with the Mughal princes was a good government, prepared in Assam.
Located on the banks of the sacred Ganges River, 80 km from Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh, is the now almost forgotten ancient city of Kannauj, once the capital of the famous emperor Harshavardhana. Today it is proud to be the “city of Attar” or the perfume city of India. Kannauj in Uttar Pradesh, India, is one of the main producing cities of Ittar. Here, there is a legend about how the first ittar were made in the area. The inhabitants of Faqir and Sadhus of the forest dwelling used certain fragrant herbs and roots of the jungle in their bonfires during winters. The shepherds who grazed their sheep in that region found the scent that persisted in the burned wood long after the ascetics left the place. The word spread on this and some enterprising people sought and found fragrant herbs and roots. Then the experiments on ittar started and the first ittars to be realized were Rose and Hina.
Types of Ittars –
Ittars can be categorically divided into the following types of flavors or ingredients used.
Floral Ittars – Ittars manufactured by individual species of flowers fall into this category. These are Gulab ex Rosa damascena or Rosa Edword, Kewra ex Pandanus odoratissimus, Motia ex Jasminum sambac, Gulhina ex lawsonia inermis, Chameli ex Jasminum grandiflorum, Kadam ex Anthoephalus cadamba
Herb Ittars – Ittars manufactured from the combination of floral, herbs and spices fall into this category. Hina and its various forms are: Shamama, Shamam -tul – Amber, Musk Amber and Musk Hina.
Ittars that are neither floral nor herbal fall into this category. Ittar Mitti falls into this category and is produced from the distillation of terra cotta on basic material.
Ittars can also be classified according to their effect on the human body as
Hot Ittars – Ittars like Musk, Amber, Kesar (Saffron), Oud, are used in winters, increase body temperature.
Cool Ittars – like Rose, Jasmine, Khus, Kewda, Mogra, are used in summers and are cooling for the body.
The Indian perfumes in the past were used by the elite, especially kings and queens. It is also used in Hindu temples. Today it is used in numerous ways:
1. Pan Masala and Gutka are the biggest consumer of Indian perfumes. The reason for using it is its extraordinary tenacity along with the characteristic of resisting with the tobacco note. The perfumes used are Rose, Kewra, Mehndi, Hina, Shamama, Mitti, Calendula etc.
2. Tobacco is a smaller segment for fragrance consumption than in the higher sector. The perfumes used are mainly kewra and rose. Together with Pan Masala and Gutkha it helps to increase 75% of the consumption of perfume.
3. The betel nut is a smaller segment for the consumption of perfume than two higher sectors. The perfumes used are mainly Kewra and Rose.
4. It is used by many people as a personal perfume, especially by Muslims due to the absence of alcohol.
5. Perfumes have application in the pharmaceutical industry.
6. Rose and Kewra perfumes are used in traditional Indian desserts to give flavor.
Security and application of Ittar
Ittars security and application –
Alcohol (a common solvent for most perfumes) evaporates the perfume much faster at times up to 10 – 15 times faster. This causes the first impression of the scent to be overwhelming for the human senses, but soon evaporates and loses power. Given its natural derivation, ittar lasts a long time. Body heat only intensifies its odor.
A big difference between synthetic perfumes and ittar is that oil-based ittar is worn directly on your body. The inside of the wrist, behind the ears, the inside of the joints of the elbow, the back of the neck and some other parts of your anatomy are directly buffered with ittar.
A small drop is enough to be used as a fragrance on the body. Some drops can be added to the water and used with aromatic steam lamps. Some drops of some ittar are used with cold drinks, like milk, to give perfume.
Conservation and duration –
Ittar has a permanent shelf life and some ittars become stronger and smell better when they are older. and they become very aromatic.
The future of Ittars –
Because of the rising cost of the necessary Indian sandal quote and the high cost of ittars production has had a negative effect on the existence of this sector. Competition comes in the form of perfume based chemicals, which are cheaper than natural ittar.