Sungudi sarees

A Mix of Tradition and modernity

Yuka Maruyama talks about her experiences of visiting one of the very oldest and established textile showrooms in Madurai. She discovers the aesthetic aspects of a Sungudi saree!

By Yuka Maruyama

Rangachari Cloth Store, Madurai

Kannan, the Manager















Sarees – the traditional clothing of Indians. You cannot travel around India without being attracted to this amazing outfit. The sarees carry beautiful designs on them and it is very beautiful to see Indian ladies dressed in this attire in cities as well as villages. These vivid colours impress ladies contrary to long black hair and the beautiful dusky completion and it feels as if they are a complete piece of art. Ladies express their own styles, interests and feelings too by wearing their favourite saree. Sarees are a part of the culture, custom and tradition of India.

Having spent almost three months in Madurai, I wanted to know more about the one word that I have been coming across when I visited any readymade shop and that is ‘Sungudi sarees.’ I was told that Madurai was famous for these. It is designed with many tiny dots in the main body, and detailed embroideries at the bottom, which they call the ‘border’ of the saree. The colour of the border is contrast to that of the body. They are thinner and lighter than the others and it is best to wear them during summer, as it is made of pure cotton and has the ability to absord the heat.

I was happy to visit Rangachari Cloth Store, which is famous for Sungudi sarees in the Temple City. It is located at South Masi Street in the city centre of Madurai. It is one of the local branches, and the head office is in Chennai. It was founded in1963. Kannan, (48), has been running the show in Madurai, for the past ten years. It felt really nice to talk to such an experienced person, as he provided a lot of insights into this, as it was new to me.

Sungudi Sarees- A Brief Description

Sungudi is a type of Indian saree which is 100% cotton, dyed by way of extracting natural colours from leaves. It does not cause any allergy. It is a normal characteristic that there are many dots and different colours in the border and it is longer than the other sarees. Sungudi sarees measure 48 inches, whereas the normal sarees measure 44 inches. These type of sarees have been around for more than a hundred years now. The creative minds behind this type of saree are the people belonging to the Sourashtra community. They wanted to find a new niche in the market for a new modern type of sari, and came up with this unique design. It is loved by a lot of people not just in Madurai but also all over India. It is being exported to other cities and it is so nowadays it is one of the biggest industries down South.

From left to right, Bandini, Sungudi and Bathik

The Dyeing Unit















The process

All Sungudi saris used to be weaved by hand in olden days, but today most of them are made by way of equipments that serve the purpose. At Rangachari Cloth Store, first they get in stock these plain sarees from Tirupur, the city in the northwest part of Tamil Nadu, and then they take these sarees to the dyeing centre to dye them with the beautiful vivid colours. Thanks of them, I visited the dyeing centre as well. I was surprised to see that it was being done in a single room. It carried with it a pungent smell of dye. It comprised of seven labourers. Some of them were putting the plain sarees into yellow dye while some others were folding and arranging them. The other workers were busy putting dye onto the borders of the sarees..


More about Sungudi sarees

In the past, women used to wear Sungudi sarees on festival days like Pongal or Diwali, but nowadays you can see them wearing it almost everyday. Especially summer is the best time for wearing Sungudi sarees. As it is made out of pure cotton, it absorbs the heat. Its popularity is getting increased with the years, so the prices are also becoming more expensive. Initially, the starting price used to be Rs.120 and now, one needs to pay Rs.250 to get a good one.

Variety of cotton sarees

There are some other types of cotton sarees in India. Bandini, mainly designed with different type of tiny dots from Sungudi sarees, are popular in North India. These dots are made by using a wooden device with which they hold that part of the cloth in which they want the colours to be applied.. Bathik is also one type of them, designed with wax on dyed cloths. These are also loved by a lot of Indian ladies.

As I told you at the beginning, Sarees serve as ones that define the culture of India.. As we know, tradition changes with time, culture and people, as new ideas emerge almost everyday. Sungudi sarees are obviously one of the changing traditions of India. I leave the store very happily, as I was able to know a lot about this type of sarees.I would really love to own one. I will get one before I leave Madurai!