Ittar ( Hindi/Urdu), also known as Attar, is an essential oil derived from botanical sources. Most commonly these oils are extracted via hydro or steam distillation. They can also be expressed by chemical means but generally natural perfumes which qualify as ittars are distilled with water. The oils are generally distilled into a wood base such as sandalwood and then aged. The aging period can last from one to ten years depending on the botanicals used and the results desired.
Ittars are highly concentrated and therefore are usually offered for sale in small quantities in decorated crystal cut bottles or small jeweled decanters. Ittars are popular throughout the Middle East and the Far East of India as well as Bangladesh and Pakistan. Ittars have been used in the entire Eastern world for thousands of years. They are free of alcohol so the problems faced in the West by perfume lovers are irrelevant to most Eastern perfume lovers. Ittars are affordable because they are so concentrated that a small bottle will last the regular user several weeks or even months.
Technically ittars are distillates of flowers, herbs,spices, and other natural materials such as baked soil over sandalwood oil/liquid paraffins using hydro distillation technique with Deg & Bhapka. Deg & Bhapka techniques is being use even today at Kannauj in India. This is one of the oldest natural fragrant materials, nearly 5000 years old. Some of the first lovers of Ittars were the Mughal nobles of India. Jasmine ittar was the favorite perfume of the Nizams of the Hyderabad state. Traditionally in the Eastern world, it was a customary practice of nobility to offer ittar to their guests at the time of their departure. The ittars are traditionally given in ornate tiny crystal cut bottles called as itardans. This tradition of giving a scent to one's guests continues to this day in many parts of the Eastern world. Among Sufi worshipers the use of Ittars during meditation circles and dances is quite common.
Most ittars are alcohol-free and are used by many Muslim men and women. Ittar has long been considered one of the most treasured of material possessions and the Islamic prophet, Muhammad has been compared to Ittar as one of the most beloved of gifts given to mankind.
Ittars are used by many Muslims on Friday, for the Jumma Namaz or on the occasion of Eid.