Kannauj— The Perfume Capital of India

Kannauj the perfume capital of India by stolen maps

Kannauj, (a small town in Uttar Pradesh, India) also known as The Perfume Capital of India has been extracting natural fragrances & putting them into bottles. For thousands of years, Kannauj has been manufacturing & trading a variety of uncommon fragrances.

Nearly 75000 people in kannauj are involved in the ittar industry in one way or another. The skill of making natural perfumes has been passed down for many generations. Most ‘recipes’ are secret & not disclosed to outsiders.

Monsoon in a bottle

The main reason behind popularity of this town is its mitti ittar— the sweet, mesmerizing scent of rain we all love. Just imagine capturing the aroma of rain and wet soil afterwards in a bottle. For people who love rains, it’s monsoon in a bottle.

definition of Petrichor
Definition of Petrichor ©source

The town has been turning rains into perfumes for thousands of years. Kannauj has a history of trading premium ittar with midddle eastern countries about 300 years ago under the reign of Shah Jahan in India.

Making of perfumes in Kannauj

Ittar (perfume) in Kannauj are made from flowers like white jasmine, agarwood, rose, sandalwood, etc. Aromas like camphor, saffron & musk are also added to several perfumes.

traditional way of making ittar perfume in Kannauj
Traditional way of making ittar/perfume in Kannauj ©source

Being naturally manufactured means no alcohol or chemicals can be used in any of the perfumes. Use of such natural substances & (somewhat) rare flowers is the reason behind extremely high costs of these perfumes.


These perfumes are stored in bottles made of camel or buffalo skin, called Kuppis.

Kuppis making perfume extracts concentrated
Kuppis for making perfume extracts concentrated ©DavidPrasad

These bottles are allowed to stand in sunlight so that excess water evaporates and only the true essence is left behind.

also read: List of Popular Indian Handicrafts: Gujarat


Costs of rare fragrances are extremely high. For instance, cost per liter of pure Agarwood (oud) ittar is about INR 30 lakhs [$46,000 USD].

shelf of perfume in glass bottles
A shelf of perfume in glass bottles

There are many cheap fragrances also available for people to buy (that ‘normal’ people can afford). Some of the are Keora (Kewra), Gulab (Rose), Chameli (Jasmine), Ratrani (night-blooming jasmine).

also read: Heritage Hotels in India: Luxury Redefined

How to buy perfumes form Kannauj?

Kannauj trades its best products to more than 50 countries including USA, UK, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, France, UAE & Singapore.

You can buy ittar (or attar) online from shopping sites like Amazon in your country. If you’re in India, there are some exclusive stores across the country. You should visit Kannauj and witness our aromatic past and a lot of outlets are there to buy ittar from.

also read: List of Popular Indian Handicrafts: Rajasthan

A humble request

Natural perfume making industries are the basis of life in this town. With increasing popularity of chemical based perfumes and deodorant products, demand for natural fragrances is going down day-by-day. Culture and importance of this town is slowly fading away. I implore all the readers to buy some natural ittar bottles when in India & take with you a souvenir of our history.

Well, there you go! That’s all I had to share. Don’t forget to drop a comment down below if this post helped you in some way or if you’d like me to write about something or maybe just to say hi!

Comments (4)

Never heard of it .. nice article .. are they organic ?

Rohini, thanks for reading.
Yes, most of them are. Almost all of them are naturally made from plant products (except a few developed in recent years).
Btw just visited your blog, loved your tips on minimalist packing!

Great post stunning photos I love your site.

I’m glad you liked it.

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