Of the various types of perfumes in the world, Attar holds a unique place due to its deep cultural significance, rich history, and mesmerizing scent. Attar is a non-alcoholic perfume made from various natural ingredients. It’s Non-alcoholic nature is one of the reasons why it’s loved by Muslims. The use of Attar, especially in mosques and during Salah (Islamic prayers), is also a longstanding tradition that continues to permeate the air with its enchanting aroma.
In this article, we hope to share with you everything there is to know about Attar – its roots, its symbolic and practical importance in various cultures, and its unique usage in mosques. This aromatic journey will not only enlighten you about the origins and production process of Attar but also guide you on selecting and purchasing the perfect fragrance for your personal collection or as a thoughtful gift. Through understanding the significance and appreciation of Attar, we hope to bring you closer to this time-honored perfume, further enriching your aromatic experiences and cultural insights.
The History of Attar
The word ‘Attar’ or ‘Ittar’, derived from the Persian word ‘itr’, means ‘perfume’, ‘scent’, or ‘essence’. Attar’s production dates back several thousand years, making it one of the oldest forms of perfume that humanity has ever known.
Throughout its long history, Attar has been employed in various ways across different cultures. In India, it was used for its fragrance, as well as for medicinal purposes in Ayurveda. In ancient Egypt, Attar was involved in the mummification process, while the Greeks used it for therapeutic benefits. Yet, Attar holds a particular significance within Islamic culture.
Islamic tradition cherishes Attar for its fragrance and its spiritual connotations. It is believed that the Prophet Muhammad greatly appreciated fine scents, and the use of perfume is encouraged within Islamic teachings. Attar became a prominent part of the Islamic world during the golden age of Arabic perfumery, from the 8th to the 14th centuries, when Arabian chemists pioneered methods of extraction and distillation. The ritualistic use of Attar in mosques for cleansing and purifying the environment is a testament to this enduring tradition.
Attar’s journey from the ancient world to the present day has seen it secure a central place in various cultures. The allure of its fragrance, coupled with its historical and religious significance, continues to make it an important part of spiritual and everyday life, particularly within Islamic tradition. Its usage in mosques, especially, symbolizes purification and the divine connection between humans and their creator.
The Process of Making Attar
The traditional method of creating Attar, known as ‘Degs & Bhapka’, involves hydro-distillation. This process begins with the collection of the raw materials. Fragrant plants, such as roses, jasmine, or sandalwood, are handpicked and then placed in a large copper still called a Deg. The Deg is filled with water and heated over a slow, wood fire. As the water heats up, it extracts the aromatic compounds from the plant materials.
The steam carrying the aromatic compounds rises into a hollow bamboo pipe, called a ‘Chonga’, connected to a copper receiving vessel called a ‘Bhapka’. This Bhapka is immersed in a cooling tank with water, which condenses the steam back into a liquid. This liquid is collected in a leather bottle, known as ‘Kuppi’, which allows the water and oil to separate naturally due to their different densities. The oil that floats on top is the precious Attar.
Modern methods have somewhat mechanized this process while still aiming to retain the quality and integrity of the traditional practice. Techniques like steam distillation, cold percolation, and solvent extraction are common in contemporary Attar production.
The sheer variety of Attar comes from the diverse range of ingredients used, each contributing a unique scent profile. Floral notes like rose, jasmine, and lotus are common, as are earthy scents from ingredients like sandalwood and vetiver. More exotic Attars may use the aromatic resin of the agarwood tree, producing what is known as Oud Attar, one of the most expensive perfumes in the world.
The process of creating Attar is a labor of love, requiring meticulous attention to detail and a deep appreciation for the artistry involved. Each drop of Attar carries the essence of this rich tradition, making it much more than just a perfume—it is an aromatic celebration of history, culture, and craftsmanship.
Popular Varieties of Attar (And Where to Purchase)
Each variety of Attar has its own unique characteristics that make it an enjoyable experience for the senses.
Rose Attar, known as ‘Gulab Attar’, is one of the most popular varieties, carrying the timeless, classic scent of roses. Its sweet, romantic fragrance is universally loved and used extensively in various ceremonies and occasions.
Another popular variety is Jasmine Attar, also known as ‘Motia Attar’. Its fragrance is intensely floral and sweet, with a slightly herbal undertone, making it a favorite for those who enjoy strong, invigorating scents.
For those preferring a woody, deep, and intense aroma, Black Oud Attar is an excellent choice. Derived from the resin of the agarwood tree, Oud is a precious and highly prized scent in the perfume industry. Its rich, complex fragrance is both captivating and enduring.
When it comes to purchasing Attar, the most important aspect is authenticity. Due to the labor-intensive and time-consuming process of creating pure Attar, it can be quite expensive. Consequently, the market has many synthetic alternatives that do not offer the same quality of scent or the longevity of genuine Attar.
It’s recommended to purchase Attar from reputable outlets that ensure the quality and authenticity of their products. One such outlet is Alhannah.com, an online store well-known for its extensive range of authentic Attars. When selecting a fragrance, remember that Attar is a concentrated perfume, so a little goes a long way.
Choosing the right Attar is a deeply personal experience. It’s about finding a scent that resonates with you, a fragrance that tells your story and enhances your individuality.
With its usage in mosques, Attar symbolizes spiritual purity and connection, infusing the atmosphere with an aura of tranquility and divinity. Its enchanting scent speaks of timeless tradition, connecting generations and enhancing spiritual experiences.
Whether you are drawn to the sweet scent of Rose Attar, the invigorating scent of Jasmine Attar, or the intense complexity of Oud Attar, each drop of this precious perfume carries a piece of history and a whisper of the divine.
We encourage you to delve deeper into this aromatic world and appreciate the heritage, craft, and cultural significance of Attar. After all, in each bottle of Attar, there lies a story waiting to be discovered and a scent waiting to be cherished.
Which variety of Attar has piqued your interest, and which one are you planning to buy? We’d love to hear about your choices and experiences in the comments below!