Growing Roses for Beautiful Scent and Society: An Interview with Saad Admani of the Indus Valley Rose Sustainability Project

Saad Admani is the managing director of Moonstar Admani Rose Gardens & the team head at the Indus Valley Rose Sustainability Project. The IVRSP) seeks not only to ethically grow roses and produce pure rosewater for domestic and international use, but also seeks to improve the region by practicing arts that are centuries old and intimately connected to the ancient cultures of the Indus Valley. He was kind enough to grant me this interview via email and provide the beautiful photos that accompany it. His understanding of the cultural significance of the rose combined with the practical needs of his village and beyond offers an inspiring model for balancing progress and tradition.

*You can help sponsor Saad Admani to Botanica 2018 in Brighton, England, and be in the running to win some amazing aromatic prizes. Visit Aromahead to learn more about their raffle to sponsor three worthy distillers from around the world, including Saad!*

Aromatica Poetica: Please tell us a little bit about yourself, and how you became involved in the Indus Valley Rose Sustainability Project?

Saad Admani: Along the River Indus, in the heart of the Indus Valley, the Moonstar Admani Rose/ Arabian Jasmine Garden creates magic. There in sweat & poetry grows the ‘Queen Of Roses – Indus Valley Rosa Centifolia.’

The Admani family has been associated with botanicals/ flowers since four decades, our grandfather started off as a collector of wild botanicals. The passion for wild botanical collection continues to run in the family to this day. With time we moved towards the long lost tradition of farming Indus Valley Rosa Centifolia in our village at our Moonstar Admani Gardens, which opened in 1989 to meet the demand of the domestic floral market.

Saad Admani picking roses early in the morning.

As a child, I played and worked part time on the farm after school, helping my grandfather in the pruning & weeding of rose plants. I spent four years away from my village to attain education in the field of economics as per my grandfather’s wish. Unfortunately, our village does not have a recognized university. Living in an ever-growing metropolitan city was an eye opener. We are surrounded by inferior / toxic chemicals. These damaging components are in our own household products.

This made me understand how important it was to protect the heritage while preserving our health & the planet. Hence, that is when I realized my love for these scentful wonders of nature. Upon graduating, I returned back to devote my time & energy to ethically grow the roses in a way to assure sustainability & promote the importance of reconnecting with nature for the wellbeing of our fellow farming communities in the region. We believe we must discern the healthy path in our section of both foods & aromatic products.

Today, me being the third generation of the family business, with the grace of god almighty, I have 550 acres (largest landholding in the region) of land cultivated under Indus Valley Rosa centifolia, Arabian jasmine (Jasminum sambac), marigold flowers (Calendula), tuberose (Polianthes tuberosa), and pomegranate flowers (Punica granatum). We are not only supplying fresh flowers to the domestic market but also exporting dried flowers & pure handmade floral hydrosols with no added chemicals–free of parabens, sulphites, synthetic coloring, and fragrance.

What is the Indus Valley Rose Sustainability Project? When and how did it begin?

Indus Valley Rose Sustainability Project (IVRSP) is an initiative to ethically revive the rose heritage of the Indus for the wellbeing of the small farmers in the region. As part of the IVRSP we are distilling 100% pure handmade I.V. Rosa Centifolia & Arabian Jasmine Hydrosol – COMPLETELY HANDMADE FROM OUR GARDENS TO YOUR SKIN. We are pleased to offer a health driven choice of hydrosols in the market backed up with the idea of widening the education system in the region through the IVRSP.

AP: What is the cultural significance of the rose, particularly Rosa centifolia, in the Indus Valley region?

SA: From the Indus Valley Civilization (2600 to 1900 B.C.) to the Mughal Dynasty (1526-1857), the Indus region has been known for distilling the I.V. Rosa Centifolia for hydrosol–an ancient beauty secret amongst women in the region. The cultural importance of I.V. Rosa Centifolia is determined by the love & affection Mughals had for this wonderful gift of nature. The Mughal Emperor Babar 1526-1857, was fascinated by roses to the extent that he gave all his daughters rose names. Mughal Emperor Akbar 1556-1605 is remembered to date for taking camel loads of roses to present to the wives of his allies. And so on.

Fresh Indus Valley Rosa Centifolia.

The love for I.V. Rosa Centifolia continues amongst the people in the Indus region today.

AP: Could you tell us a little bit about the process of growing organic roses for commercial use?

SA: Having learnt the traditional farming practices from our beloved Grandfather, we keep our Moonstar Admani Gardens as close to nature as possible. Ploughing, weeding, pruning is all done by hand. Using natural fertilizers: Cow dung & Chicken Meal. In case of severe pest attacks, we apply boiled neem seed water to act as a biodynamic pest repellant.

AP: Could you tell us a little about the farmers involved in the project and how this revival is helping their communities?

SA: We believe education is the biggest concern in the region–literacy rate being 54.9%. Only 14% of the poorest girls & 22% of the poorest boys can read a story in the native language. Poor girls receive on average only one year of education during their entire life. Furthermore, the quality of education is also affected by lack of infrastructure, teaching materials, & weakness/ negligence of teacher training & assessment systems.

Approximately 40% of the population lives below poverty line as they do not have enough qualification to attain employment. Who to blame? I consider it is the need of the time to invest our time, energy & resources for this cause. Hence, for that matter we believe our presence in the region is an opportunity to directly understand the need of the people & assist them as far as humanly possible for inner peace & satisfaction.

Children studying at school.

As part of the IVRSP initiative we are working with the Aman School (Aman means peace in the local language) which followed a traditional curriculum of schooling. In bits & pieces we are incorporating a formal English education system with lessons of science, English, history, general knowledge, & Islamic studies. In addition, basic hygiene, tolerance & respect for others is taught. In the evening, we offer sewing classes for women who’ve been confined to household tasks. We are working to provide better water, sanitation & hygiene to the students.

The IVRSP is an initiative to incline more people towards the cause. Ten percent of the total revenue is donated towards these efforts. Hoping to create equal opportunities for all.

AP: At Aromatica Poetica, we love rose hydrosol AKA rosewater! Please tell us about your distillation process and some traditional uses for this delicious smelling (and tasting) product.

SA: Real Rose hydrosol has oil in it- WE SUSTAIN IT. It is the sensitivity & time involved in the traditional distillation using handmade copper alembics called daig, which gives out an exclusive hydrosol of purest quality.

Before sunrise, the flowers of I.V. Rosa Centifolia are picked by hand from thorny bushes, & distilled on spot at Moonstar Admani Rose/ Arabian Jasmine Gardens. The manual nature of the distillation is a complex art that has been passed from father to son for generations. If the daig overheats, the resulting scent will be too smoky. Judging how long to heat the daig is critical. it is the complexity of the distillation process that makes the I.V. Rosa hydrosol valuable & recognized.

Traditionally rosewater has been used for skin care, hair conditioning, drinking & to treat depression & grief.

AP: Where can people in the US purchase Indus Valley Rose Hydrosol?

SA: Our floral hydrosols can be found through our IVRSP Facebook page. You can reach us there with additional questions. We offer international shipping.

Welcome to Moonstar Admani Rose Arabian Jasmine Gardens.You are welcome to visit us at our Moonstar Admani Rose/ Arabian Jasmine Gardens. Be our guest. Stay at our Admani residence with our Admani Family. Enjoy the South-East Asian hospitality.