Kannauj is not just another town. You could think so, and you would be forgiven. Located 80km from Kanpur, it seems like just another sleepy Uttar Pradesh town. Yet its appearance is deceiving. Kannauj has many secrets.

The town, situated near the Ganga, naturally attracted many to it. The 9th and 10th century was a time of great splendour for the region of Kannauj. Kannauj was the jewel everyone envied. According to many observers of the time, Kannauj went on to achieve ‘unprecedented glory’.

But the good times had to end soon. The envy did lead to Kannauj being razed by Mahmud of Ghazni in 1018. Plundered again in 1194, it was almost completely destroyed.

Kannauj has never returned to its glory days since. But not all the beauty is lost from it. Kannauj is now known as India’s Perfume Capital and carries on the ancient tradition of ittar making.

The ancient deg bhapka method - a way to extract essential oils from the flower petals - is still upheld in the small lanes of Kannauj. If you ever visited Kannauj and visited the Bara Bazaar, you would be engulfed in the heady scents that seem to hang all around.

But even in Kannauj, the city of fragrances, there is one scent that stands out head and shoulders above the others. Here they have found the ‘The soul of the rose’ or ruh ul gulab.

The rose has been a part of India since 5000 BC. The ancient Indians found the rose to be a miraculous flower. According to more modern research the Rose contains over 3000 biochemicals making it the most complex among aromatic oils.


In Ayurveda the Rose is one of the rare substances that balances all three doshas.

It balances the Sadhaka Pitta, which happens to be a subdosha of pitta that governs the emotions and their effects on the heart. The rose also balances the Prana Vata. This is the sub dosha associated with the governing of the brain, chest, head, and respiration among other things.

While the rose is cooling in nature, it also enhances the agni in our body. This is what makes the Rose unique. Essential Rose oils are now being researched on by modern scientists to understand how we can use these properties for our well being and in balancing our hormones. Since the rose can balance all three doshas, roses are used extensively in aroma therapy, tonics, water (as rose water), and spices. Roses are also used to cure and cool burns.

Jahangir said that “there is no other scent of equal excellence...it lifts the spirit and refreshes the soul.” Apart from the medicinal uses, the rose is also used to enhance beauty in myriad ways. The rose moisturises and tones the skin, it enhances the glow of the skin.

The rose enhances all seven dhatus, and therefore enhances inner beauty and helps to radiate an inner glow. Over time it will pacify the heat from our blood and keep imbalances from erupting on our skin.

The rose is also able to help certain ailments like amenorrhea, headaches and acne. Other things are sore throat, grief, nervousness among others.

The rose is truly divine. For that very reason we must ensure that only the best of rose be used.


Rose petals are first hand picked before sunrise and sent to the distilleries to be used the very same day. They are then collected in a copper container as per the grade and strength required.

The ‘grade’ refers to the type of flower (there are many varieties) and ‘strength’ refers to the ratio of flower petals to water. The container is then sealed off carefully.

There the petals are upended into large dhegs, or copper pots. A small amount of cold water is added to it.

A fire is then lit below this container which causes the distilled water to convert into steam. This is a crucial process. How hot the container is will define whether the outcome is as desired or whether it will be a waste of good roses.

This steam passes through the rose petals, and the roses slowly release their secret, their essence.

This steam then twirls and passes through copper pipes into another compartment which is cooled continuously by external channels of cold water. This compartment is completely sealed, and the cold water aids the process of condensation of rose water vapours , which are then collected at the bottom in specially created containers.

This rose water is then emptied out and filtered with UV (ultraviolet) rays so that all microscopic bacteria is destroyed and the product is fit for human use.

The maker of the perfume has a complex job at had. If the copper pots get too hot, the rose essence will come out smoky and unusable, too low and you have not extracted enough from the rose. These skills are acquired over generations, where the knowledge has been passed on from father to son as family heirlooms.

The perfumer's job is a complex one. If the dheg overheats, the resulting scent will be too smoky. Judging how long to heat the dheg is also critical. These skills have been passed down from father to son for generations.


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