Context: India is the world’s largest exporter of attar (perfume or fragrance), but the olfactory art and science inspired by Nur Jahan’s love for the damask rose has changed in its profile from a high-end personal indulgence to an industry additive.
About Attar and fragrance and flavor industry
- It is distilled extract of flowers and herbs in a base of sandalwood oil.
- Perfume produced in Kannauj received GI Tag.
- Kannauj attar is of two types: (1) Pink damask rose -native to the region (2) Earthy petrichor -made for the occasion and presented in embellished glass bottles.
- About 2000 varieties of rose grown in India out of which only two Rosa Damascena and centifolia are used in attar.
- Zighrana: First perfumery and the only one so far from Kannauj to position the traditional product as a brand in the global market.
- The Ministry of Micro, small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) pegs the worth of India’s fragrance and flavor industry at 10,000 crores annually.
- India holds 10 % of global market in flavor and fragrance Industry, remains largest exporter of attar, sending it to 71 countries.
Historical background of Kannauj and fragrance industry.
- Local lore’s talks about 7th century Kannauj as Kusumpura, the city of flowers.
- Gangetic rivers aided the trade the trade since Harshavardhana’s empire.
- During Mughal period, Jahangir patronized the art of perfume making (Attar). It is believed that Nur Jahan had fired the imagination of perfumers to create rose attar.
- The Britishers were fascinated with it, hence it flourished during colonial era.
Challenges to Attar industry
- Central government restricted the availability of sandalwood in the 1990’s which formed the base of perfume (about 95.98% of the product), causing shutting down of distilleries.
- Attar faces competition from various rival perfume products like liquid paraffin, jojoba oil, low quality sandalwood grown in Australia and Egypt.