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What is attar ?
Attar perfume is the natural, undiluted form of a perfume created using a process of distillation. In these perfumes, no alcohol or any other man-made additive is used in combination with the natural elements that make up the perfume. The oils that are used to make this type of perfume typically come from flower petals, but the leaves of a flowering plant may also be used.
The word "attar" comes from the word `atir, which in the Persian language means "sweet or fragrant." This type of perfume may also be called "otto" or "ottar" perfume. These words can be used interchangeably; all three derive from the same Persian word.
An attar perfume is often confused with an essential oil. Attar perfumes and essential oils can each be made from a single scent, but attars are generally composed of a combination of flowers to create a unique and original fragrance. In general, these two types of fragrant oils are made through different distillation processes, although that is not always the case. Most often, though, essential oils are obtained through steam distillation while attars are procured through water distillation.
A true attar is a perfume oil made from flower petals distilled in water using low heat and pressure. Some attars also contain exotic woods, spices and resins. Over several weeks, the steam containing the fragrance oils is collected into a container of mild sandalwood oil. There, the oils blend together until the sandalwood is completely saturated with the fragrance of the flowers.
In the art of perfumery, sandalwood oil is used as a 'base', or 'fixative'. It binds with the molecules of the fragrance oils and allows their subtleties to develop and last longer than if the flower oil was worn by itself. There is alchemy at work here! Like a fine wine, a true, sandalwood-based attar actually improves with age.These Itras / perfume oils are the purest non-alcoholic fragrances which are enduring and soothing. These natural fragrances are very pleasant, easy to use and very stirring.
Uses of these Itra:
One drop on some cotton wool in your wallet can last for a couple of months. Very good for use on sensitive skin as a body perfume, only a few drops will last the whole day.
• These rare herbal fragrance perfume are used in charging Yantra's and liked by all Gods and Godesses.
• It is applied to Idols or Deity frames and pictures after giving them a bath.
• They are also used for Aromatherapy.
The History of Attars
Archaeological digs have revealed round copper stills, used for making attars, that are at least five-thousand years old. These stills are called degs. Following the seasons of the flowers, traditional attar-makers, with their degs, travelled all over India to make their attars on-the-spot. Even now, rural areas often lack good roads to quickly transport the harvested flowers, and a few traditional attar-makers still travel with their degs to be close to the harvest. Their equipment has changed little, if at all, in the last five thousand years. It is one of these traditional attar-makers, a man of impeccable reputation, who makes the attars I carry.
How are Traditional Attars Made?
Attar-making is a labor-intensive process, requiring great talent, skill and patience. It can take over two weeks to make a small batch of a single attar. Anywhere from twenty-five to three-hundred and fifty pounds of flower petals are collected and placed inside a deg. From the deg, a long bamboo pipe leads downward to a copper recepticle that contains sandalwood oil. Water is added to the deg, and the lid is sealed down with a mixture of cotton and clay. The deg sits over a fire and contains no modern guages or thermostats. As the steam collects, it condenses and flows into the receiving vessel.
The fire must be constantly monitered to keep the correct temperature. Too much heat will burn the flowers. It will also create too much pressure which can explode the clay seal around the deg. The low heat and pressure preserves the fragile fragrance oils better than the hotter steam distillation method used to obtain essential oils.
The receiving vessel sits in a pool of water and is continually rotated by hand to blend the oils and keep them from overheating. Throughout the day, the master distiller monitors the deg and receiving vessel by feeling them with his hands and listening to the sounds from inside. When necessary, wet towels are rubbed over the vessels to cool them down.
At the end of the day, the distillation is stopped. Overnight, as the oil cools down, the water separates from it. In the morning, the water is poured off from the oil and put back into the still. Freshly picked flowers are added, and the process begins anew. This process will be repeated for fifteen to twenty days, until the sandalwood oil is completely saturated with the fragrant oil of the flowers.
Rarity of True Attars
Over the last decade, sandalwood has skyrocketed in price to $1,500 per kilo in India. Prices are doubling every six months. Sadly, most of the folks doing genuine work have had to close their operations. Of those still producing attars, most have cut costs by using petroleum-based paraffins instead of sandalwood oil, and synthetic fragrances instead of real flowers. Most so-called natural attars, when analyzed, prove to be adulterated with synthetic ingredients, and the word 'attar' is increasingly being used to describe any cheap perfume. The attars I carry use only wildcrafted natural flora and sandalwood oil. They are made under special contract to the highest standards by a man of impeccable character.
Because of the high cost of materials and labor-intensive nature of this process, traditional attar-making is fast becoming a dying art. We do not know how much longer they will be available. It is up to us, the consumers of attars, to support the few remaining natural attar makers so their traditions will not be lost forever. By purchasing their attars, we let them know that their work has value, and we encourage them to continue their tradition.
The attars are manufactured traditionally ‘Degs & Bhapka system’, which is a hydro distillation process. The still is heated form below by lighting a fire with the help of wood or cow dung. The temperature and speed of the distillations controlled by regulating the fire. The distillation is managed by highly skilled/experience, workers called ‘Dighaa’. He knows when the correct quantity of vapours have condensed inside the receiver by feeling the round part of the receiver under water. The water in the tank is change continuously to prevent the temperature rising too high. Managing the still is highly skilled job, as the operator must keep the boiling in the still at a level that matches the condensation in the receiver, in order to keep the pressure under control. When the desire quantity of vapours have condensed, the Dighaa rubs a wet cloth around the body of the still for a temporary pause in distillation and the filled receiver is replaced by another receiver. If necessary, the second may be replaced by a third receiver. The receiver is then allowed to cool and may remain idle for one or two days depending on the pressure of work. The mixture of oil and water is then separated either directly form the receiver through a hole at the bottom or pouring the whole mixture in an open trough, After the oil and water have separated into two layers, the water is removed from an opening in the bottom, and the same is cohobated. The base material remains in the receiver. After desired concentration of the attar has been reached, then same is poured into leather bottles for sedimentation and removal of moisture. Sometimes liquid paraffin is used for the manufacture of cheaper attars. The mouth of the receiver is sealed by wrapping coarse cloth around the bamboo pipe and pushing it inside the condenser. The receiver may contain up to 5-10 kilos of base materials and is kept in a small water tank.
RAW MATERIALS AND THEIR SOURCES
Base Material : Sandal wood oil, Di-octyl Phthalate (DOP) & Liquid paraffin.
Floral Material : Flowers of Gulab, Kewra, Bela, Mehndi, Kadam, Chameli, Marigold, Saffron & Maulshri.
Herb & Spices : A number of hersbs and spices are used in this industry which includes Oakmoss, Sugandh mantri, Laurel berry, Juniper berry, Cypriol, Indian valerian, Jatamansi, Hedychium spicatum, Daru Haldi, Sugandha Bala, Sugandha Kokila, Kulanjan, Javitri/ Jaiphal, Cardamom, Clove, Saffron, Ambergris & Musk.
The above materials are available in the different parts of the country as :-
Sandal Wood Oil - South India
Rose - Aligarh (U.P.), Palampur (H.P.)
Kewra - Ganjam (Orissa)
Maulshri, Jasmine, - Kannauj, U.P
Spices and herbs - North-East and South India, Madhya Pradesh
Saffron - Jammu & Kashmir
The attar manufacturing for floral type takes place in remote places because the flowers are required to be processed quickly after plucking. The apparatus & equipment’s used for manufacture of attar are light, flexible, easy to repair with a fair degree of efficiency, keeping in view the above facts, the traditional Deg & Bhapka process is being used for centuries and even now
The details of equipments are as follows :-
(i) Deg or Still
The process is carried out in copper stills called ‘ Degs’ as was done centuries ago. These are all direct fire heated stills and their capacities can range from 10-160 kilos of floral/herbal materials. The lid of the still is called ‘Sarpos and is also made of copper having opening for connections to one or two receivers.
(ii) Bhapka or Receiver
One of the peculiar features of attars distillation is that no separate condenser is used. The unique odour of attars is obtained by condensing vapours into the base material, mainly sandalwood oil. The receiver is built of copper and is of round shape with long neck, for case in connection with Deg via chonga. It is known as Bhapka and it acts as condenser as well.
(iii) Chonga or Bamboo Condenser
The still and receiver are connected by a Chonga. This is a hollow bamboo pipe wrapped with twine for insulation.
(iv) Traditional Bhatti or Furnace
Normally wood or coal is used for heating. Heat is controlled manually.
(v) Gachchi or Cooling Water Tank
This is the place where Bhapka, or receiver is kept and used for cooling the distillate from Deg.
(vi) Kuppi or Leather Bottle
These are the bottle made from leather of animals. The reason for making these bottle is their semi-permeability towards water. It is used for removal of moisture from attars. The leather allows water to move-out and attar to be remain, as such, thereby separating the moisture from attar.
Copper has been the main structural material for Deg and Bhapka because it is malleable , good conductor of heat & easy to repair.
TYPES OF ATTARS
The attars may be broadly categorized into following types on the basis of raw materials used.
Floral Attars – Attars manufactured from single species of flower are coming under this category. These are :-
(i) Gulab ex Rosa damascena or Rosa Edword
(ii) Kewra ex Pandanus odoratissimus
(iii) Motia ex Jasminum sambac
(iv) Gulhina ex lawsonia inermis
(v) Chameli ex Jasminum grandiflorum
(vi) Kadam ex Anthoephalus cadamba
Herbal and Spicy Attar
Attar manufactured from combination of floral, herbal & spicy materials are coming under this category. Hina and its various forms viz., Shamama, Shamam –tul –Amber, Musk Amber and Musk Hina.
The some attars which are neither floral nor herbal and are coming under this category. Attar Mitti falls under this category and is produced by distillation of baked earth over base material.
The Indian attars in the past has been utilized by elite class of the society particularly kinds & queens on their body. With the span of time kingdoms got abolished and hence the kings & queens. But, attars industry got a new dimension form the field of fragrance to flavour and now a days it is used in the following areas;
1. Pan Masala and Gutka is the largest consumer of Indian attars. The reason for using it is it’s extraordinary tenacity along with characteristic to withstand with tobacco note. The attars used are rose, Kewra, Mehndi, Hina, Shamama, Mitti, Marigold etc.
2. Tobacco is relatively smaller segment for attar consumption as compared to above industry. The attars used are mainly kewra & Rose. Alongwith Pan masala & Gutkha it contributes to more the 75% of attar consumption.
3. Betlenet is relatively smaller segment for attar consumption as compared to above two industry. The attars used are mainly Kewra & Rose.
4. It is used by people as a personal perfume, particularly by Muslims due to absence of alcohol.
5. Attars does have the application in pharmaceutical industry too.
6. Attars of Rose & Kewra are used in traditional Indian sweets , for imparting flavour.
SOURCES OF EQUIPMENT
The equipemnts which are used in this industry are designed and fabricated in and round Kannauj & Farrukhabad districts of U.P. by the local fabricator. The equipments are easy to be fabricated and are made of copper. They can be made by any good fabricators after getting design from any authentic source.
INTERNATIONAL & NATIONAL MARKET POTENTIAL
The attars does have a good market potential in Middle East countries where they are using it due to absence of alcohol. Simultaneously, if properly packaged and marketed in the name of natural fragrance there does exists a market potential in other countries as well. The attars can have a good market potential in international market if consistency in quality and supply is ensured. They can found a good use in high class fragrances, cosmetics and even for aromatherapy as far as National market potential is concern, the prevailing one is in Tobacco, Pan masala & Gutkha industry but, its horizon of market can be widen if surety about quality and assurance about consistency in supply could be made. It could found a lot of use in herbal products and in aromatherapy. There also exists a good potential if they are packaged in small packing in marketed in attractive manner. If, there national & international potential are properly harnessed there, exists a good future for Indian natural fragrance & attars.
The cost of one unit capacity 100 kg. raw materials would be around Rs. 40,000/-. This unit consist of one Deg and three receiver (Bhapka) capacity 15 liters waters each.