Monday, August 11, 2008

Rose Attar (Attar Gulab)

The Rose, the Divine Flower of Love! India is a land redolent with aromatic plants. In each nook and corner of the country one finds various herbs, spices, woods, flowers, roots and grasses being grown for aromatic or medicinal purposes. Many of the plants that have a longer history in India also factor strongly into the cultural and religious lives of the country people. It is certain that this deep inner connection with the plants plays an important role in the emotional and spiritual well-being of the people and this in turn benefits their physical health. One of the flowers that has a relatively long history in the countries rich aromatic traditions is the Rose.

The rose or Gulab Attar of North India is mainly distilled from Rosa Damascena. Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan are the main areas where the Rosa Damascena is grown for distillation of both attar (bulk of the flowers) and Ruh. Now in the Kangra and Kullu Valleys there are a number of small distillation units set up for preparing the Ruh.

The process is fairly simple (at least in writing); the roses which are mainly harvested in the late April and May are placed in larger copper distilling vessels which are connected to the receiving vessel by a bamboo pipe that is wrapped with a special grass rope for insulation. The flowers sit in water which is heated and then the vapors pass over into the copper receiving vessel via the bamboo pipe. The receiving vessel contains sandalwood oil and the rose essence gets absorbed in the sandalwood over a period of 15-20 days with new flowers being distilled each day. The more in depth explanation of Gulab Attar production can be seen on the Fragrant Harvest Web Site.

Up until recently the majority of rose production has been for the production of attars (traditional Indian perfumes produced by the hydro-distillation of the flowers into sandalwood), garlands, and preparation of Gulkand (a special jam which is renowned for its cooling and digestive qualities) Small amounts of Ruh or Pure Essence of Rose have been prepared each year for many centuries but it has been a very rare item until quite recently.

Due to the fact that India uses a lot of rose essence in their indigenous fragrance industry there has been a concerted effort to produce it on a larger scale. It is being heavily promoted by government research institutions like Institute of Himalayan Bio-resource Technology which, I have visited a couple of times. They are engaged in both the cultivation of the plants and developing better and affordable distilling technology for production of the oil.

This beautiful Gulab Attar made with Rosa Damascena has graced our path with its simple and elegant flower, its beautifully, rich, fragrant and intoxicating aroma and often used as an aphrodisiac in ancient perfume aromatics and anointing oils.

Source: Indian Rose Attar, Attar

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