Most of us travel to experience stunning locales, the culture and the food of the place, to meet new people and encounter new things. How about travelling for the smell? Some Indian cities have a distinctive aroma which can give you a good idea about their history and industries.
So lift up your olfactory senses and head towards some of the most beautiful smelling places in India.
1. Pampore, Jammu and Kashmir
Pampore is located 13 kilometres south from Srinagar on the Jammu and Kashmir Highway. Saffron has been cultivated in the Kashmir valley for hundreds of years and Pampore is often referred to as the ‘saffron town’ of Kashmir. Pretty purple flowers bloom in early November, marking the onset of winters. Vast areas of land in Pampore are under the cultivation of saffron, the world’s most expensive spice. You can see purple flowers containing the saffron stamens on either side of the highway with the strong smell of saffron drifting in the valley air.
There are a number of shops on the highway itself selling saffron and other spices and also dry fruits. But please make sure to check a few shops and bargain before purchasing. And when you get a little tired of the journey or the haggling, stop by at any local stall and sip on some deliciously prepared kahwa (Kashmiri tea) which again, is infused with the smell and taste of saffron.
2. Kannauj, Uttar Pradesh
Kannauj is one of the largest manufacturers of ittar/attar (essential oil) in the country. It is located on the banks of River Ganga, roughly 160 kilometres away from Lucknow. Families in Kannauj for generations have been in the business of fragrance. There are huge areas of land dedicated to growing fragrant flowers such as rose, mogra, rajnigandha and champa. The ittars are not just made of floral undertones; the town also produces a variety of other aromas such as lemongrass, sandalwood and the very famous mitti ittar that uses the scent of clay.
Ittar is being produced in this town for centuries and the makers have tried to adapt to the changing tastes of urban consumers by offering newer fragrances, but the process of extraction and bottling still remains the same. They say that the legacy of ittar is on a decline and the business isn’t of much profit anymore but still take a lot of pride in telling tales of how it was a Kannauji in Akbar’s court who first discovered ittar. Take a walk in the market gullies and your olfactory senses will urge you to take bottles of perfumed water back home. The city is filled with manufactures, wholesalers and retailers of ittar with inviting smells drifting away from their shops into every corner of Kannauj.
3. Coorg, Karnataka
Coorg or Kodagu is a hill station, a five hour drive from Bangalore. It is the largest coffee producing place in the country and has thousands of acres of coffee estates, where white coffee flowers bloom in late December to early January. These flowers give away a strong aroma that lingers long in the misty hills.
Coorg is also famous for its oranges and cardamom and at various turns you will find yourself breathing into a cocktail of aromas that only enhances the beauty of the quaint little town. You can spend your morning talking a tour of the coffee estates and learning about the various grades of coffee produced, hand-picking coffee pods and knowing the process of drying them and grinding them into fine powder. Your winter evening can be spent at a local coffee shop sipping some fresh filter coffee while breathing in the natural aroma.
4. Mysore, Karnataka
Remember the round, orangish brown scented soaps in your mother’s bathroom? Yes, I am talking about sandalwood soaps. Visit Mysore, and you’re bound to find that very same aroma filling the air.
That’s because the essence used in those soaps is from the country’s largest producer of high quality sandalwood–Mysore. There are lands after lands, rows after rows and trees after tress of sandalwood here. Various factories extract sandalwood oil and make numerous beauty, medicinal and lifestyle products with it. Mysore is also famous for crafts and artefacts made of sandalwood. So, the next time you visit the City of Palaces, breath in the fragrance of sandalwood when you are crossing a forest or a local marketplace. You can also pack some and take it back with you.
So while all your friends are posting and sharing pictures about that tree house in the hills or a small town with European architecture, you can be different and surprise them with your stories about naturally fragrant places in India.
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