Gulab and Kevda Itr Aromatizing City Of Lakes
If you have ever passed by main road of Loha Bazaar/Chaman Pura and smelled a sweet but unknown fragrance which you cannot recognize then you are reading the right article. Unlike the majority of businesses in Loha Bazar there are few traditional old shops of non-alcoholic perfumes where you can get some of the most unique fragrances displayed in beautifully carved and colorful glass bottles.
If you have ever passed by main road of Loha Bazaar/Chaman Pura and smelled a sweet but unknown fragrance and you are curious to know about it, then you are reading the right article. Unlike the majority of businesses in Loha Bazar there are few traditional old shops of non-alcoholic perfumes where you can get some of the most unique fragrances displayed in beautifully carved and colorful glass bottles.
Ittar also called as itar/attar or itr, are natural perfumes made from botanical extracts. The word ‘ittar’, ‘attar’ or ‘othr’ is derived from Arabic which means scent. It is also believed that it is derived from Sanskrit word ‘sungandha’ meaning ‘aromatic fragrance’.
Ittar were one of the most popular cosmetics for Royals and Nobles of Middle East, India and Indian sub -continent. The aromatic fragrances of Ittar have ruled Kings and Kingdoms of Mughals, Arabs and Afghans. Though mostly used after bath, ittar was also used for welcoming guests.
In Udaipur, there are many families which are involved in the business of ‘ittar’ since generations. One of them is ‘Hakoba Perfumes’; they have been selling ittar from last 45 years. “Ittar are transported to Udaipur mainly from Kanoj and Haldighati (Khamnor). The price may vary from Rs. 20 per Tola to around Rs. 10000 per Tola (1 Tola= 10 grams)”, says Azim Attari, proprietor of Hakoba Perfumes. Another famous shop in Udaipur is H.H. Attarwala, which has the maximum variety of Ittar costing Rs.100 per Tola.
These special perfumes are prepared from a process called ‘Hydro Distillation’. It can take around 20 to 25 days in order to get a pure and smooth ‘ittar’ but it is quite an expensive process. Fragrant flowers, wood like sandal, oudh made from Agarwood is used. Agarwood is a rare resinous wood from the ‘Aquilaria’ tree. When affected by mold, it secrets a special aromatic resin, this results in dark resin embedded heartwood. Agar develops very slowly over a long period of time and is thus very rare and expensive. It has a distinctive fragrance and is therefore used as essence for oil and perfume.
Ittar are highly concentrated and are sold in small quantities, in beautiful glass cut type bottles and jeweled and decorated decanters traditionally known as ‘Ittradaans’.
Ittars are pure, alcohol and chemical free and are thus not only used as perfumes but are also used for religious and medicinal purposes. This quality of ‘Ittar’ being alcohol free makes it very popular and special among Muslims as Islam prohibits use of alcohol and related products. It has also been considered as the most precious materialistic possession and Prophet Muhammad has been compared to ‘Ittar’ – one of the most beloved gifts to mankind.
The choice of fragrance also keeps on changing according to the seasons. In summers, Gulab, Khas and Chandan are popular, in winters Hina, kesar, Musk and Hina musk are in great demand, while in rainy season Kewda and Mitti are preferred.
Ittar holds a special importance in both Hindu and Muslim religions and is being used for religious purposes as well. With changing time ittar became very popular for personal use as perfumes. Along with these, ittar are also used for medicinal purposes. Like, Rose ittar helps to ease depression, frigidity, nervous tension and headaches, inhaling sandal wood oil lessens stress and stops vomiting, applying it on chest and neck can also cure dry cough etc.
Ittar are also vey popularly used for adding flavor and aroma in Pan Masala and Gukta. The ittar used is rose Kewra, Mehndi, Hina etc. Ittar of Rose and Kewra are also used for adding flavor to traditional Indian sweets. A few drops of various Ittar added to water can be used with aromatic water lamps.
Because of its purity and lack of chemicals and alcohol the smell of ittar is long lasting and it has a high self life. The most popular way of applying ittar is to take a few drops of ittar in palms then rub it and apply it on clothes. Ittar are also used by Hindus as Prasad and are also sprinkled on devotees.
Now day’s attar is facing stiff competition with deodorants and perfumes. These are relatively cheaper than attar and are easily available. This has resulted in decline in the demand of attar especially among youths. But still there are many who prefer original pure attar mainly because of their long lasting smell as compared to perfumes and deodorants which lose their smell and fragrance within a short time after their application.
For all those, who love to indulge in the aromatic and mesmerizing smell of Ittar and would like to treat themselves with royal and classy experience, Ittar are readily available at Chamanpura, Hathipol, Delhigate and Bada Bazaar in Udaipur. Shops at these places offer a variety of Ittar, serving the demand of all types of customers.
Thus, these traditional and very old fragrances are not lost yet. Their method of preparation, their smell and fragrance, the absence of alcohol in them, still makes them a buyer’s delight. They may be a little expensive but for all those who have a fetish for perfumes and fragrances Ittar’s are surely a ‘royal’ choice.
Story covered by Sayeed Ahmed