Indian Attar

Ittar or Attar or Itr is a type of natural perfume extracted from flowers (such as jasmine, rose or lotus), herbs, spices, or barks in to base oil such as sandalwood oil. It is very popular in the Middle East, South Asia, and parts of Africa. Ittar is the most common form of concentrated perfume. Ittars are natural perfumes for daily use, and it is not injurious to health as alcohol can be and is suitable for both men and women. It contains about 20% to 50% concentrated perfume. It is a blend of various extracts and usually takes a period of about 5 to 10 years. The most well-known essential oil is probably Rose Ittar.

Since ancient times, many peoples have used ittars as a perfume. If you prefer natural products, ittar is a natural perfume in its truest form. Owing to natural origin it is suitable for all types skin. It is also useful in treating various skin diseases, various cosmetics, as it helps in improving skin tone and texture.

It was particularly popular with Mughal nobles of India. Jasmine ittar was the favourite perfume of the Nizams of Hyderabad state. It's customary practice in nobility to offer ittar to their guests at the time of their departure. The ittars are traditionally given in ornatetiny crystal cut bottles called as itardans. Because of its concentrated form, Ittar is sold in tiny bottles.

Most ittars are alcohol-free and are used by many Muslims, as one of the most beloved of materialistic things of this world to The Prophet Muhammad was ittar. They are also used among Hindu priests, and are offered as prasad and sprinkled on the devotees.


The word 'attar', 'ittar' or 'othr' is basically an Arabic word which means 'scent'; this in turn is believed to have been derived from the Sanskrit word Sugandha, meaning 'aromatic'.

The story of Indian perfumes is as old as the civilization itself. Archaeological evidence shows the earliest inhabitants of the Indian subcontinent held plants in great reverence. With the passage of time, scented oils were extracted by pressing, pulverizing or distilling aromatic vegetable and animal produce. Such processes led to the development of the art of alchemy, the earliest indications of which are available from the perfume jars and terracotta containers of the Indus Valley civilization. That the art has survived for centuries speaks volumes for the Indian perfumes.

Archaeological excavations (Indus valley civilization) have revealed round copper stills, used for making ittars, that are at least five-thousand years old. These stills are called degs. Following the seasons of the flowers, traditional ittar-makers, with their degs, traveled all over India to make their fresh ittars on-the-spot. Even now, a few traditional ittar-makers still travel with their degs to be close to the harvest. Their equipment has changed little, if at all.

A large number of references to cosmetics and perfumes in Sanskrit literature were found like in the Brhatsamhita is a 6th century Sanskrit encyclopedia by Varahamihira (505 AD – 587 AD). Cosmetics and perfumes making were mainly practised for the purpose of worship, sale and sensual enjoyment. Gandhayukti gave recipes for making scents. It gives a list of eight aromatic ingredients used for making scents. They were: Rodhara, Usira, Bignonia, Aguru, Musta, Vana , Priyangu, and Pathya. The Gandhayukti also gave recipes for mouth perfumes, bath powders, incense and talcum powder. The manufacture of rose water began perhaps in the nineteenth century AD. The earliest distillation of ittar was mentioned in the Ayurvedic text Charaka Samhita. The Harshacharita, written in 7th century AD in northern India, mentions use of fragrant agarwood oil.

In ancient India, ittar was prepared by placing precious flowers and sacred plants into a water or vegetable oil. Slowly the plants and flowers would infuse the water/oil with their delicate fragrance. The plant and flower material would then be removed and a symphony of their aromatic beauty would be held in the ittar. These ittars were then worn as a sacred perfume or to anoint.

Ittar figures into some of the romantic stories of a bygone era. Its patrons included great poets like the legendary Mirza Ghalib. When Ghalib met his beloved in the winter, he rubbed his hands and face with ittar hina. In Ain-e-Akbari, Abul Fazal, has mentioned that Akbar used ittar daily and burnt incense sticks in gold and silver censers. A princess’s bath was incomplete without incense and ittar. A very popular ittar with the Mughal princes was ood, prepared in Assam.

Situated on the banks of the sacred River Ganges, 80 km from Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh, is the now almost forgotten town of Kannauj, well known in ancient time as 'Harsha Vardhan City'. Today it prides itself as the 'Attar City' or the perfume city of India. Kannauj in Uttar Pradesh India is a major producing city of ittar. Here, there is a legend on how the first ittars were made in the area. The forest dwelling Faqir's and Sadhu ascetics used certain perfumed jungle herbs and roots in their bonfires during the winters. The shepherds who grazed their sheep in that region, found the perfume lingering in the burnt wood, long after the ascetics left the place. Word spread about this incident and some enterprising people, searched and found the fragrant herbs and roots. Then the experiments on ittar began and the first ittars to be made were Rose and Hina.


NoNameScientific NamePart Distilled
1.Rose ittarRosa damascenaFlower
2.Motia/Jasmin ittarJasmine sambacFlower
3.Mitti ittarBaked eartharth from river
4.Kewda ittarPandanus odoritissimusFlower
5.Saffron ittarCrocus sativaStigma
6.Agarwood/Oud ittarAquilaria agallochaVarious parts
7.Gul Hina ittarLawsonia albaFlower
8.Genda/Merigold ittarTagetes minutaFlower
9.Champa ittarMichelia champacaFlower
10.Bakul ittarMimusops elengiFlower
11.Blue Lotus ittarNymphaea caeruleaFlower
12.Pink Lotus ittarNelumbo nuciferaFlower
13.White Lotus ittarNelumbo nuciferaFlower
14.Tuberose/Rajniganda ittarPolianthes tuberosaFlowers
15.White Water Lily ittarNymphaea amplaFlower
16.Zafari ittarTagetes spFlower
17.Shamana ittarcompound of fragrant spices, herbs, woodsVarious parts
18.Amber ittarPinus Succinifera----
19.Chameli ittarJasminum GrandiflorumFlower
20.Gulmohar ittarPainciana RegiaFlower
21.Juhi ittarJasmine AuriculatumFlower
22.Islamic Bakhur ittarMelaleuca Alternifolia/td>----
23.Frangipani ittar/td>Plumeria Ruera----
24.Khus ittarRootsVetiveria ZizanoidesLeaves
25.Mogra ittarAbelmoschus MoschusFlower
26.Loban ittarStyrax BenzoinVarious parts
27.Nakh Choya ittarCitrus BigardiaFlower
28.Davana ittarArtemesia PallensLeaves

Types of Ittars

Ittars may be broadly categorized into following types on flvaour or ingredients used.

Floral Ittars – Ittars manufactured from single species of flower are coming under this category. These are:-

  • Gulab ex Rosa damascena or Rosa Edword
  • Kewra ex Pandanus odoratissimus
  • Motia ex Jasminum sambac
  • Gulhina ex lawsonia inermis
  • Chameli ex Jasminum grandiflorum
  • Kadam ex Anthoephalus cadamba

Herbal Ittars - Ittars manufactured from combination of floral, herbal&spices come under this category. Hina and its various forms viz., Shamama, Shamam –tul – Amber, Musk Amber and Musk Hina.

Ittars which are neither floral nor herbal also come under this category. Ittar Mitti falls under this category and is produced by distillation of baked earth over base material.

Ittars can also be classified based on their effect on human body such as

Warm Ittars' – Ittars such as Musk, Amber, Kesar (Saffron), Oud, are used in winters, they increase the body temperature.

Cool Ittars' – like Rose, Jasmine, Khus, Kewda, Mogra, are used in summers and are cooling for the body.


The Indian ittars in the past was used by the elite, particularly kings and queens. Also it is used in Hindu temples. Today it is used in numerous ways:

  1. Pan Masala and Gutka is the largest consumer of Indian ittars. The reason for using it is its extraordinary tenacity along with characteristic to withstand with tobacco note. The ittars used are Rose, Kewra, Mehndi, Hina, Shamama, Mitti, Marigold etc.
  2. Tobacco is smaller segment for ittar consumption as compared to above industry. The ittars used are mainly kewra & Rose. Along with Pan masala & Gutkha it contributes to more the 75% of ittar consumption.
  3. Betel nut is smaller segment for ittar consumption as compared to above two industry. The ittars used are mainly Kewra & Rose.
  4. It is used by many people as a personal perfume, particularly by Muslims due to absence of alcohol.
  5. Ittars have the application in pharmaceutical industry.
  6. Ittars of Rose & Kewra are used in traditional Indian sweets, for imparting flavour.

Safety & Application of Ittar

Alcohol (common solvent for most perfumes) causes the perfume to evaporate much faster sometimes unto as much as 10 - 15 times faster. This causes the first impression of the perfume to be overwhelming to human senses, but it soon evaporates and loses power. Given its natural derivation, ittar lasts a long time. Body heat only intensifies its smell.

A major difference between synthetic perfumes and ittar is that the oil-based ittar is worn directly on your body. The inside of the wrist, behind the ears, the inside of elbow joints, back of the neck and a few other parts of your anatomy are directly dabbed with ittar.

A small drop is enough to be used as a fragrance on the body. A few drops can be added to water and used with aromatic vapor lamps. A few drops of some ittars are used with cold drinks, such as milk, to give fragrance.

Storage & Shelf life

Ittar has a permanent shelf life and some ittars become stronger and smell better when they are older.

Medicinal Uses

Ittar oils are free from alcohol and any preservatives or chemical additives. They balance the Doshas (Vata, Pitta & Kapha) and promote the energy of the Chakras.

Lemon oil taken internally or sniffed is good for diabetes, asthma, boils and varicose veins. Three drops of sweet marjoram taken with a little jaggery cures migraine and hangovers. Nausea and vomiting are immediately controlled by petitgren oil. The simplest example of aromatherapy is ittar Gill or Itr-e-khaki, (sondhi mitti) drawn from mud, which has the aroma of the first monsoon showers and can cure blood pressure and the flow of blood through nose owing to intense heat.

Indian ittar is increasingly being used for aromatherapy these days. The floral extracts with oil base can be extensively marketed for aromatherapy. Jasmine extract is useful in cases of stress, hypertension and treating skin ailments. Inhaling sandalwood oil lessens stress and can stop vomiting. Applying it on the chest and throat cures dry cough. Its curative properties extend to skin ailments as well.

Marigold extract is an old medicine meant to heal stubborn wounds. It has excellent antiseptic properties. Heena is known for its heat inducing qualities and if used on quilts during winters, it is known to provide extra warmth.

Rose (Gulab) ittar's aroma wards off depressions and brings vibrancy to the user. In Ayurveda, Rose is known as “The Queen of Flowers,” for its romantic and feminine properties that are said to symbolize pure love. The scent is truly reminiscent of fresh cut roses complemented with pure sandalwood as a base. The rose comes originally from Asia Minor, where it is cultivated mostly in Bulgaria, Iran and India. Rosewater was prepared by the Arab physician Avicenna (AD 980-1037) during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance; the rose was esteemed as a remedy for various ailments. The essential oil is used in aromatherapy. Rose petals also have the ability to maintain healthy cholesterol levels and rosewater is mildly astringent and makes a valuable lotion for inflamed and sore eyes. “The Queen of Flowers” has benefits for women on a physical, emotional, and spiritual level, and is truly deserved by every woman. This ittar is widely used in puja of Lord Ganesha. It also ignites a desire for romance and love. People unable to come to terms with loss of a loved one may carry sadness in their heart for years. When the body (heart or mind) are out of balance, we become more vulnerable to illness. Gulab ittar may help gently dissolve blockages and feelings of disappointment and pain.

Pink Rose – ‘Eternal Love’: Queen of the essential oils; a soft fragrance, opens the heart centre, gives a sense of security and spiritual unison. Reduces anger. Balances all Doshas.

  • Simultaneous on the physical, emotional and spiritual realms-uplifting, Cleansing and purifying liver · It helps to ease depression, frigidity, nervous tension, Headache, Relieves shock, Palpitations, Poor circulation, Nausea, Mildly sedative, Antidepressant, Anti inflammatory remedy, Enhances immunity, Helping to restrain the development of infections through their cleansing action, Runny nose and blocked bronchial tubes, restoring effect on the nervous system, Relieur insomnie, de fatigue, soothe irritability. Rose oil gives a feeling of well being and happiness, it helps a nervous mind, can be helpful on the respiratory tract, for digestive problems, for skin care.

Gulab Ittar, the essence of roses, dominates the heart chakra, the fourth house – evoking euphoria, love and passion. Ever popular as an aphrodisiac in India, it is known to cure depression and melancholy by dramatically soothing and strengthening the heart. Gulab Ittar promotes the energies of the fourth (heart) and seventh (crown) of the chakra houses. The heart chakra is the middle chakra in a system of seven. It is related to love and is the integrator of opposites in the psyche: mind and body, male and female, persona and shadow, ego and unity. A healthy fourth chakra allows us to love deeply, feel compassion, and have a deep sense of peace and centeredness. The seventh chakra or the crown chakra relates to consciousness as pure awareness. It is our connection to the greater world beyond, to a timeless, spaceless place of all-knowing. When developed, this chakra brings us knowledge, wisdom, understanding, spiritual connection, and bliss.

Amber Heena – ‘Dynamic’: For ceremonies, prayers, clairvoyance and protection from disturbing influences. Promotes the energy of the 3rd Chakra.

  • It is known to provide extra heating.
  • It provides relief to the user when one suffers with insomnia

Musk Ittar is derived from the juice of mixture of flowers. It is used mostly in tantrik rites. Diyas containing this ittar mixed in oil are lit to attract goddess Laxmi. This ittar is also used successfully by males who want to woo the opposite sex. This is said to give an unfair advance to a male

Champaka, also known as Frangipani is a tropical flower of the genus Plumeria. The small yellow-white flowers are beautiful and are often used in Hindu worship. Champaka trees are often grown in temple compounds and are also called temple trees or pagoda trees. The champaka flower is particularly sacred to Lord Krishna who often wore champaka garlands. According the Hindu legends, champaka flowers, along with Ashoka flowers, also adorn the hair of the Mother Goddess Lalitambika. The five petals of the champaka or frangipani flower represent five qualities necessary for psychological perfection: sincerity, faith, aspiration, devotion and surrender. As sacred as they are in Hindu lore, champaka flowers, however, are never to be offered to Lord Shiva. Ancient legend has it that Lord Shiva loves champaka flowers so much that he can bestow his blessings to anything, whether it is ethical or not, if champaka flowers are offered to him. His weakness for the flower’s fragrance compels him to grant his blessings to anyone asking him for anything. Champa Ittar begins with sweetly innocent top notes, then evolves into a rich, magnolia-like floral with hints of spice. Sandalwood base notes help to ground the sweetness, giving it a refined balance. Wear Champa Ittar as a lovely perfume, and also for meditation. Nag Champa, one of India's traditional fragrances has gained wide acceptance in the United States in both fragrance and incense form. Nag Champa has a strong, fresh, floral fragrance interspersed with a green note. Nag Champa has been appreciated for decades as an exceptional incense perfect for deep calming meditation and for creating your sacred space.

The documented use of Sandalwood goes back 4000 years and caravans from India to Egypt, Greece and Rome were a familiar sight. Many temples were built from Sandalwood and the Egyptians used it in embalming. Sandalwood is much in demand as incense; it had a calming effect during meditation. This relaxing oil could be useful for tension, depression, and nervous exhaustion. The fragrance is soft and woody.

Mogra/Jasmin Ittar is‘Divine’: A vibrant fragrance, developing a sense of balance, confidence, attractiveness and mental stimulation. Promotes the energy of the 5th and 6th Chakras. ‘Peace’: A calming fragrance that increases intimacy and friendship. Promotes the energy of the 4th & 5th Chakras. Ittar of (Motia)(Mogra) (Jasmine) is used during the worship of Lord Shiva. It is considered to be connected with the aroma of deep forests of lower Himalaya region where Lord Shiva used to move with his followers. A rich Jasmine perfume with sweet top-notes and hints of green. Deep, mellow, fruity wondrously complex. Its smell helps in reaching the inner self and is thus used during meditation to get deeper within fast and for lasting peace with one’s own self. Called "The King of Flowers," Jasmine symbolizes innocence, purity and nobility. While morning-blooming Jasmine invokes the essence of dawn, night-blooming Jasmine invokes the fragrances of a moonlit grove on a warm summer night. People suffering from sleeplessness use it to get rid of their problem and are able to sleep fast. Men are automatically attracted towards women who use this ittar. The Jasmine flower has a beautiful and pleasant fragrance that has gained universal appeal. Its sweet, cool, floral scent has a soothing and calming effect. One of our most popular oils. Soothing, mood enhancing and invigorating, jasmine has been used for centuries as an exotic perfume and room freshener. Unarguably an important sensual aphrodisiac. Jasmine is a scent associated with romance and seduction. The waxy snow white blossoms of Jasmine/Mogra flowers produce a sweet intoxicating aroma that is stronger at night than by the day. Although the flower looks delicate, the oil extracted from it is potent. This ittar has a captivating fragrance. A sweet, cooling and uplifting scent that calms and strengthens the nervous system. Oil from Jasmine flowers attracts the opposite sex and is a potent aphrodisiac.

The Lotus flower is India's national flower and is used in religious ceremonies. The fragrance of the lotus flower's essence is seen as a spiritual elixir. It helps in meditation by calming the mind; promoting peace, serenity and improving concentration, hence quickening spiritual evolvement. Additionally, lotus flower essence hastens recovery from illness by enhancing healing on every level of the human body. The scent of the lotus flower essence also helps correct emotional imbalances by encouraging gentle release of emotions. The fragrance of Lotus we have presented is a strong floral, fruity, delicious note. White Lotus ittar is truly special - a delicate and refined floral with soft earthy notes, overlaid on Sandalwood. White Lotus ittar is both an elegant perfume and a powerful aid to meditation, working directly on the Crown Chakra. The fragrance of White Lotus helps us transcend our earthly bonds and experience our Divinity. With its roots in the mud and its flower floating high above, the Lotus teaches us that no matter what we are going through, our spirits can soar to great heights. Green Lotus is the most Sacred & Spiritual Oil in the world! Green Lotus ittar is a subtle, earthy, flowery scent and revered as God's favorite flower. A lovely delicate fragrance that helps us transcends our earthly bonds and experiences our Divinity. With its roots in the mud and its flower floating high above, the Lotus teaches us that no matter what we are going through, our spirits can soar to great heights. Green Lotus is an elegant perfume and a powerful aid to meditation, working directly on the Crown Chakra. These Lotuses are grown for ceremonial use in temples in genuine lotus ponds found in the back country of Southern India. The Green Lotus fragrance is said to help one find the healing power from the soul and build ones self esteem and confidence. White Lotus is the most Sacred & Spiritual Oil in the world! White Lotus ittar is a subtle, earthy, flowery scent and revered as God's favorite flower. A lovely delicate fragrance that helps us transcends our earthly bonds and experiences our Divinity. With its roots in the mud and its flower floating high above, the Lotus teaches us that no matter what we are going through, our spirits can soar to great heights. White Lotus is an elegant perfume and a powerful aid to meditation, working directly on the Crown Chakra. Lotuses are grown for ceremonial use in temples in genuine lotus ponds found in the back country of Southern India. The White Lotus fragrance is said to help one find the healing power from the soul and build ones self esteem and confidence.

Future of Ittars

Due to increasing cost of Indian Sandalwood and high cost of production of ittars has had an ill effect on existence of this industry. Competition comes in the form of chemical based perfume products, which are cheaper, compared to natural ittars.