The first rains in India are always a pleasant surprise. Not only because it finally ends the scorching Indian summers, but also due to that musky, earthy fragrance it brings along with it.
That gili mitti ki khushboo brought by the first rain of monsoon is called petrichor. But guess what? There's a city in India that has been successfully using a century-old process to recreate that loamy smell of the first shower, as a perfume.
A small city by the name of Kannauj in Uttar Pradesh specializes in what they call the Mitti Attar (basically the smell of first rain), which is produced by cultivating the soil from the region, using a centuries-old technology.
The city extracts the Mitti Attar through a long process that involves cultivating the clay, baking it, distilling it and capturing the steam it lets off when contained in the deg bhapkas ( copper cauldrons) .
A cow-dung fire is then lit underneath the cauldron and the vapour travels through bamboo pipes to condense in receivers, over a base of oil, to form the attar. This process is called hydro-distillation.
However, this clay used for the purpose is baked exactly like a chapati. First, it is made into a soft dough, then flattened into discs, which are baked at a fairly high temperature to prepare them for hydro-distillation.
These Mitti attars are sold in the form of a freshner, perfume or air purifier in the very city of Kannauj. They are also used for the tobacco industry.
This aroma of petrichor is known to refresh the mind, body and soul and also signals the beginning of the most awaited season.