Traditional sungudi gets a contemporary update at Tamarai Design Studio
The western part of India calls it Bandhani, while among the Sindhi communities across India and Pakistan, Bandhej implies the same thing—the tie and dye method from India. While the original textile form dates back to the Indus Valley Civilization of the 6th century, its lesser-known Southern variant called sungudi was brought to the cities of Madurai and Chinnalapatti by migrant weavers from Saurashtra and gained patronage from the Nayaka dynasty in the 16th century. Despite being the first geographically-tagged textile to the city of Madurai, it was on one of Swaroopa Rani’s trips to procure fabrics for her boutique, Tamarai, that the Coimbatore-based designer experienced first-hand what lack of patronage and dated designs could do to a once flourishing textile form. “There were streets in Madurai that were exclusively dedicated to sungudi weavers, but today these places are non-existent,” she shares.
With many ongoing efforts to make this traditional craft relevant, the 39-year-old entrepreneur is looking at novel methods of giving the textile form a contemporary spin—with her Sungudi collection featuring a mix of Indo-Western and ethnic silhouettes. This 15-year-old design studio that works extensively with running fabrics allows customers to pick a pattern, choose the colours and create an array of fits that range from cold-shoulder crop tops, skirts, dresses, palazzos to even sungudi saris. “The circular pattern — the dot or speck motifs— created using sungudi are much finer than what is produced in other states. The tying method across regions differs and this creates patterns that are thicker and bigger after dying. sungudi employs the use of small-grained rice or lentils for tying and sometimes even droplets of wax to create the pattern,” explains Swaroopa, who is a Biochemistry graduate from Shri Nehru Maha Vidyalaya.
Distinguished by its border that features tie and dye motifs of lotus, horses, elephants and paisley shapes, the hand-woven fabrics are customised specially for the boutique by introducing a range of non-traditional shades like bottle green, copper sulphate blue and orange. “Sungudi saris were only created from light-weight handwoven cotton. We’ve tried to change things up by employing eight artisans Madurai to create the designs on silk and crepe,” she says, adding that patterns are also created using block prints with stencils that she creates.
Beads, baubles & lace
In addition to her new tie and dye line, Swaroopa also launched a sari line featuring intricate French lace. A fusion line, the collection includes netted lace saris with pearl and Kundan work, silk saris with lace and khichdi sequinned borders and lace saris with Banaras or printed silk organza borders.
With fabrics like handwoven cotton from Andhra Pradesh, silks from Kanchipuram, crepes from Mysuru and Bengaluru among others, the design studio boasts of its ability to create bespoke pieces — saris and other apparel—using a blend of textiles. We particularly love the black Kanjeevaram sari, sans the zari work, that uses 163 patches of silk net, tissue Kota, silk organza, and Banarasi tissue in various shades of gold with a single strand silk embroidery and kundan work along its border and pallu.
Sungudi collection starts at Rs 2,000. At Tamarai Design Studio, Shivaram Nagar South, Sungam Bypass. Details: 9894893268