The rains are what many of us profess to be magic but there isn’t quite another charm than that worked by the one accompanying instead the first spells of monsoon. Lingering in the oddly familiar first breath of the earth that comes alive in a fresh new lease of life from its soul parched till then of all longings and of life itself, imbuing therefore the very air through which it permeates is what is essentially the whiff of a peculiar comfort emanating from the soil just drenched by the tremendous love poured unto it by the heavens.
That very distinct smell of a peculiar emotion, resident not just in the fragrance of its being but also in the realisation of what it endows upon lives in general is what magic should be like if it had an aroma of its own to waft through around the world. Not so much perhaps in ebullience as in nostalgia though, this particular hit upon the olfactory has us awakened and intoxicated at the very same time. As the smell emanating from the earth in as much earthiness, this is an aroma redolent with emotions galore that we deeply seek to draw into our senses with long drawn breaths of what imbibes indeed a romance as being a charming element of the inexplicable. Petrichor as the scientists decided to call it, is indeed one of the many worldly senses that allows a leeway for heaven and incorporates in it as much of the beauty in language as it does in essence. The term itself though is relatively recent but the feeling is one that is timeless and universal and definitely precious in all its complex simplicity. But we are not here today with yet another etymological class on the intriguing. It instead is the ‘smelly’ still essence of this one specific trail leading upto the nostrils but permeating the inner confines of the soul, that perhaps would not be ordinary to anyone despite its more than commonplace occurrence and prevalence that presents itself as an even more exciting, intriguing and beautiful indeed assertion of what it has always been.
In the ancient city of Kannauj in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, this delight that petrichor has been inducing in generation after generation of earthlings courtesy its distinct pleasantness in aroma isn’t just a sensation dependent exclusively on the vagaries of nature to get underway. The earthy leaning in fact is rooted in the very existence of this place known worldwide for its famed distilling of some of the most exquisite scents emanating from nature. Known as the perfume capital of India is this city, the namesake identity of which is what the Geographical Indication status granted Kannauj Perfume protects in all its unique wonderfulness. And it is the very trails of this exotic perfumery wherefrom emerges what would indeed be one of the most coveted of aromatic creations on earth.
Famous for its many a perfume made from flowers and such other natural resources of tantalising aroma, Kannauj however stands out in the brilliance of what it produces as the mitti attar. Replicating to immense measure of the charm availed out of the popularly peculiar perception of petrichor is this mitti attar emergent from within the confines of a land churning out seasonal specialties and forever favorites with panache and perfection. Recreating that loamy, ethereal almost hit of a whole medley of chemicals that though deliver the feels in very real a manner of evoking the ultimate bliss in us humans still bound to the rustic charm of the earth is the traditional attar making industry of Kannauj that has been deriving from the essence of petrichor long before its coinage as a term only recently in 1964.
Mitti attar is essentially therefore the essence of petrichor captured in a bottle which though is not just an artistic way of delivering nature’s choicest blessings to anyone seeking them out. Also intertwined as much with the history and heritage of Kannauj and therefore summing up a legacy of it in such expression that is unique in an intimate assertion, in availing of personal longings and reminiscent of universally individualistic preferences is this mitti attar known also as itr-e-khaki. Colloquially indeed the earth’s perfume, derived also in as ‘earthy’ enough means of its sourcing and production and bottling is the trance inducing charisma of petrichor that which is so impeccably delivered by Kannauj in a celebration befitting indeed of its centuries long tryst with teasing the tentacles of smell.
From curating the most unmissable of fragrances to suit the regal indeed preferences of the royalty or catering to the demand for scented oils the Mughal rulers were so enticed by or lending instead to a booming trade scene along the historical scent trade route that brought perfumes from India to the Middle East, the perfumes pertaining to Kannauj had always been harbouring of more than just scents and aromas, but also fame and fortunes and artistry and legacy that continues even to the present century in as traditional modes of manifestation. A highly labor intensive, time consuming and ancient hydro distillation process is what sets Kannauj Perfumes apart from similar such offerings stemming from elsewhere in the world. Exalted as the Grasse of the East is this city that resides in a vibe permeating also of every essence that inevitably draws from some aspect of this ages old tradition of potpourring up exquisite scents almost wafting from the fragrant reaches of heaven.
But while each and every offering emanating from the Kannauj eminence is distinctive enough in both its making and its receiving, it still is the mitti attar that enjoys indeed a luxurious elevation of its own. And why not indeed? As a scent that draws upon nature and dwells in nostalgia, in emotions, in an inexplicable longing for what makes up life on earth and what conjures up feelings in soul, the subtle but unmissable whiff beckoning from within the tiny vial of glass that harbours the power to satiate immensely an endless craving for petrichor is what elevates mitti attar to the heights of perfuming glory. The fame of the fragrance is indubitable no doubt but also as interesting is the premise from which it emerges making the itr-e-khaki indeed the enigma it is across every single molecule of what makes it up.
It obviously is the earth itself that goes into making the scent that classify as being the mitti attar, and indeed the epitome of petrichor at that. But it isn’t just about any clay that can lay claim to lending itself to this accurate invokation of the earthy essence of what the rains bring upon the world. The secret lies with a special half baked clay called khapra which is harvested somewhere near the city. Placed in degs where the process called deg bhapka is initiated is what results in the petrichor to take form. After putting them into the deg, the shards of half baked clay are covered with water and sealed with mud and allowed to infuse the essence of them by lighting a fire underneath. For some six to seven hours this process is let to continue by which time all the aroma of the clay is steamed out of it for the final product that can range anywhere from a few bucks to a couple thousand some for a mere 10 ml of it. The process itself sounds equally intricate but even more complex is the way in which it is required to work out in all precision, as everything from the right way of mixing the ingredients to the exact moment of collecting the fragrant oil commands the ultimate exercise of expertise attained indeed through years of experience.
The mitti attar sounds already very exquisite and even when it is no more or no less a harnessing of the many potent smells and allure of nature to exact measure by the magical indeed awareness perpetuating through almost every being of Kannauj, this lure of what the earth holds in all its embrace of the richeties so profound an expression of the monsoons is indeed a distinctive enough offering. No wonder the tiny vials of mitti attar make for the most in demand whiffs of best sellers emanating from the famed premises of Kannauj, catering to burgeoning local and international demand with equal passion. For it is passion indeed that has seen the magic worked out by the rains upon the earth translate into also as magical an experience crafted by the master magicians of Kannauj over the course of hundreds and thousands of years. Beyond this intangibility of the mere charm that these petrichor driven bottles of delicate delight deliver, the mitti attar though is encapsulating also of more profound miraculous essences. In its calming, curative, cathartic almost vibe, this smell of the earth associated with what can very well be interpreted as a therapy played out to the tunes of the pittering and pattering rain has been used as a cure for mentally unstable patients for long. An exquisite element of aromatherapy today, even when it has been growing in popularity of its specific existence only recently, the fresh notes of what the mitti attar carries in its every drop of luxury is a certain calm that appeases the senses and indulges the soul, driving one to such bliss unfathomable out of any place outside the natural dominion. And yet, in delivering to intoxicated sniffers and generous breathers a convenient dose of what one of the most subtly potent smells in the history of the world has always been harbouring of, Kannauj Perfume stands up to every reiteration of its esteemed legacy and prideous pursuit through means of this particular petrichorsque prevalence of the musky, muddy and multifarious in the mitti attar.