Attar is more than 50,000 years old in India. Attar perfumes are mentioned in our ancient Indian epics and Granths. According to the ‘Agni Purana,’ they bathed with approximately 150 different scents. Ittar was the name given to these scents. Kannauj, a small town in Uttar Pradesh, India, has a strong connection to the history of best attars. Through the Mughal Empire and Awadh Riyasa, this town is linked to the legacy of Attar from ancient times to the present. Kannauj’s floral perfume oil has a lengthy history, and the city has been trading perfume for thousands of years. Kannauj is renowned as “Perfume capital of India” because of its important role in perfume manufacturing.
The word ‘Attar’ or ‘Ittar’ originally comes from a Persian word called ‘attar’or ‘ottar’, that means perfume or fragrance. Deg and Bhapka method is a traditional Attar Ayurveda practice of manufacturing Attar perfume oils by extracting scent from flowers, herbs and other botanical sources still preserved by craftsmen and attar producers.
If you buy an organic Attar or Organic perfume, it is usually manufactured using the same Deg and Bhapka method of hydrodistillation. The aroma of the raw material is extracted by condensing vapours into a core substance, sandalwood oil. Other base materials, such as paraffin-based products, are sometimes utilized, but these modify the scent, making the attars smell different than those prepared with sandalwood oil.
Following are the tools used for manufacturing organic Attars traditionally.
- Deg : The deg is a copper still that holds the floral, herbal, and root materials. The degs can store materials weighing between 10 and 160 kg.
- Sarpos : It is the lid that sits on top of the deg. It features apertures for receiver connections. Normally, there is just one receiver (bhapka), but I’ve heard that there are two receivers on occasion (bhapka)Bhatti: This is a traditional furnace that uses wood or cow-dung cakes to heat it.
- Chonga : A bamboo pipe twine-wrapped for insulation serves tte purpose of a condenser. It connects the Deg to the Bhapka.
- Bhapka : It’s a receiver made of Copper and generally contains 5 to 10 kgs of sandalwood oil or any other base material. The Bhapka is sealed using a cloth and is pushed inside the Chonga.
- Gachchi : Is the water cooling tank. The bhapka is kept in the gachchi in order to chill the distillate from the deg.
- Kuppi : This is the place where our Indian Attar is allowed to settle down. It’s a leather container that absorbs moisture allowing it to evaporate, leaving only the attar behind.
The Deg(still) is filled with water and the requisite plant, flower, or root material (raw material).
A cotton and clay mixture is used to seal the Sarpos(lid).
Then wood or cow-dung cakes are used to light the bhatti (furnace). The temperature can only be regulated by adding or removing more wood/cow-dung cakes.
A leaf spring called komoni is inserted on the top of the Sarpos to keep it from blowing off during the boiling process (lid).
To keep the Bhapka (receiver) cool, the water in the Gachchi (cooling water tank) is changed on a regular basis.
The Dighoo stops the distillation process by wrapping a wet towel around the Deg’s body when the desired quantity of condensed vapours is obtained (still). A new Bhapka (receiver) replaces the old one (receiver).
The mixture of oil and water is separated in one of two methods after the Bhapka(receiver) has cooled: directly from the Bhapka(receiver) through a hole or by pouring the mixture into an open trough.
The water is returned to the Deg once the fragrant oil and water have been separated (still).
After achieving the desired concentration of attar, it is poured into the Kuppi (leather bottle)
If the appropriate concentration is not achieved, the attar is poured back into the Bhapka, which is then connected to the Deg (still), and the process is repeated.
This traditional Deg and Bhapka method of manufacturing attars, which does not require any mechanical equipment, dates back to the dawn of human civilisation, when people first began to feel comfortable and had time to enjoy themselves. Perfume used to be one of the best ways to pamper oneself, and it still is now.