KOCHI:For several years, Jannet el Firdaus was the synonym of "Attar" for Malayalees. ( As per Islamic belief, Jannet el Firdaus is the garden in paradise where Adam and Hawwa dwelt) . Times may have changed, but Arabic perfumes, Oudh and Attar are still the favourites of many. (Attars are a blend of different aromatics while pure oud oil is a concentrated fragrant itself). The ancient belief is that the magical fragrance of attars attracted angels and dispelled evil spirits. Brought from the Middle East, it soon became a popular sign of nobility among the Nizams and Mughals of India. Realising the everlasting popularity of Attar and Oudh, many deodorants are now coming with base notes of Oudh.
In Kochi, there are a lot of shops offering Attars. The standard measure is one tola, a tiny 12 ml bottle, and the price can be anywhere between Rs 200 to Rs 20,000. Stored in elegant crystal cut bottles, 'Attar' is a broad name for all non-alcoholic fragrances that were traditionally made from natural ingredients like musk, firdous, ruh gulab, jasmine and amber. "Sweet, strong and light notes are available starting at a price Rs 400. However, one tola of good quality Attar will be Rs 3,000 and above" says a vendor in Broadway.
'Oudh' which gives out a darker, woody smell is made from agarwood. When the Aquilaria tree gets infected with a certain type of mould, a dark resinous substance is produced, which is distilled to make oud. Around 70 kg of wood will yield not more than 20 ml of the oil, making oud costlier than Arabic attars. "One Rubue (3ml) costs around Rs 3,000 rupees. Age of the tree determines the intensity of the fragrance and also its price. Indian Oudh from Assam and Tripura are considered the best quality Oudh followed by those sourced from Cambodia and Malaysia" says Abdul Rashid hailing from a family of fragrance merchants in Mattancherry.
Besides its use as a body fragrance, oud wood or bukhoor is also largely consumed as a room freshener. "Just apply a drop of Attar /Oudh in the pulse areas like neck, wrist or behind the ear. When the body produces heat, the oils start projecting the smell," added Rashid.
The goodness of attar does not end with the captivating aroma. They also have medicinal properties and are used at different times of the year. Warm notes of hina, amber, musk, oud, and saffron helps to increase the body temperature during winters. Whereas during summer, the cool attars of Jasmine, Ruh Gulab, and Khus bring some cooling effect on the body.
Meanwhile, realising the popularity of deodorants, some attar vendors sell fragrance oils which will have the base notes made out of aromatic chemicals replicating the smell of branded perfumes. "While branded perfumes are too costly, fragrant-oil bottles are pocket-friendly, non-alcoholic and the smell lasts for 5-8 hours. They are easy to carry around in the makeup kit as well", said Arunkumar, a customer at one of the perfume shops on Broadway.