Kannauj is a city in India that is comparable to Grasse in France. The perfumery town blew me away from the moment I read about it to the day I decided to tour it and I landed on Kannauj soil. It is full of heritage, art, culture and heavenly scents that invoked every sense of feminism in me. I felt so alive like I had been teleported to ancient attar making days. The city is filled with woody sandalwood odor and sweet fragrances and the distilleries are found in every street. It has managed to maintain traditional perfume making despite the immense technological advancements and fragrance commercialization and that alone captivated me.
I saw men taking morning baths with water that had been disposed by distilleries but still had attar droplets; they believe that it cures skin ailments. I watched local farmers plucking bagfuls of jasmine, rose and scented petals for deliveries to nearby distilleries. It’s amazing the amount of dedication they have despite this small industry facing extinction through competition against other modern fragrance bigwigs. I was simply humbled! They mix flowers and water then heat this mixture in copper pots and this process could go for days; so much hard work put in.
Attar is still popular with enthusiasts who prefer natural, handpicked and quality fragrances that have less artificial or chemical interference. It was a major Indian trading center for silks, perfumes and spices. It’s still the main perfumery town to date though the number of distilleries has reduced from 700 to 150. I was impressed to know that Muslims form the larger attar market since Islam forbids usage of alcohol perfumes. Of course I got me an attar bottle to try out though I am still haunted every time I use it. It is something you’d want to keep as a precious lifetime souvenir, to simply smell and it shouldn’t ever run out. It’s pricey, of good quality, organic, kind on the skin, non-irritating and very natural.
The city is rich in tradition and this is what has kept it going and gained it international notice and constant tourism. This uniqueness, consistence and humility of the aged perfume makers totally moved me. Women are undoubtedly hooked onto scents and I am a sucker for fruity, flowery flavors. I got in touch with the softer, scent-keen side of me in Kannauj and discovered scented history. Any scent lover must make their way to India’s perfume capital to awaken their sense of smell like I did. I am sure that I will find my way back there to get me another attar bottle since I can’t get enough of the compliments and attention. I would definitely recommend my experience in Kannauj far and wide!