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THE NEW INDIAN AESTHETIC: Manjri Varde, Samanjri

Posted by
on November 07, 2015 at 04:17 PM

Art, Design, Interior Décor, and Fashion have all evolved and blended and reached a level of aesthetic globalization – under the larger umbrella of Lifestyle. The extension of art to clothing and accessories, creates inspiring designs. Manjri Varde, a commercial art graduate from Sophia Polytechnic, is an avid painter; in a passionate relationship with culture, colours and calligraphy. The combined fascination for these extended to digital printing on fabrics – anything that can be draped – sarees, scarves, stoles and skirts! Taking Sanskrit chants from the Bhagwad Gita, or quotes by Kahlil Gibran or the famous Afghani Sufi saint Rumi, Manjri writes them in English using the AumAkshar – a unique font she invented to write English in the Devnagari style!

Today Samanjri’s designs are storming the scene of fashion and lifestyle. Sold online and all over the world, the contemporary ethnicity of the designs infuses a stylish charm in the garments. Exploring facets intrinsic to themes such as Vakratunda and Subhanallah, she creates a whole range of garments with that inspiration.

In conversation with the versatile artist:

© Courtesy of Manjri Varde, Samanjri

Cover pic: Gayatri Mantra

What is the role of tradition in contemporary art and design?

Tradition has everything to do with what we are and who we are. The country, city, religion, social background of each of us is what eventually defines us. ‘Sanskar’ as it was told to us, as children, is what we followed and still follow, consciously or subconsciously. Being born a brahmin, hindu, gujarati, in Bombay, then, Mumbai, now, my parents, grandparents, a convent education…..these all count as traditions. I am an amalgamation of all these and then, what i have chosen from them. Thus, what I design, in contemporary form, is what has been a derivative of who I am……..traditionally.

What is your philosophy of life and art/design?

Beauty! It has to appeal to me on this one front, absolutely. It has to be something, which, when finished, must evoke a sense of, an utterance of, beauty.

Tell us about your foray into the world of art. Where and when did the journey begin?

My father was a theatre actor. So, when I had the requisite grades to take up science and maybe, become a doctor, I chose Commercial Art, I was allowed. So, that was the beginning of freedom for someone who loved to draw and paint.

What are the factors that influence your art?

Colours, form, balance, concepts, figures, nature, music, words and much more, work on various subtle levels to produce a painting, a saree, a chair, a scarf. Indian beliefs of yoga, shiv-shakti, Sanskrit chants, all find a place within me and my offerings.

What is the concept of ‘Samanjri’? How did it evolve?

I painted almost everyday. My home, canvases, paper, and almost any blank surface I would encounter. It started to pile up in my little home. My son suggested I try it on sarees. ‘Women will always wear sarees…’ was his advice. I did not enjoy painting on fabric. It gave me no resistance as did the other media. So, digital printing was a good option and I have now entered my third year of apparels.

Striking patterns/forms and vibrant colours mark your work. What do colours mean to you?

Colours are the mainstay of my works. I have a mad, spontaneous relationship with them. Though, personally I am an extremely cautious, introverted person. In my work, I have no fear of colours. I can use every colour invented on one work and not even hesitate. Forms and patterns follow the same rule. The bolder, the better.

Calligraphy, and inspirations from ancient Indian culture vividly manifest themselves in your fabric art. Please explain. 

Like most Indian artists, I was interested in Ganpati as a form. But then I read somewhere, that the word, is more abstract and maybe more powerful than a form. I had come upon a CD of chants by Stephan Devassey. It was a fusion of sorts and unimaginably beautiful to me. I took some of his compositions and wrote them on my canvas.

How did the concept of writing the English alphabet in the Devanagari script evolve?

I wanted to write shlokas and mantras and poems and couplets in English. Great quotes by Sufi saint Rumi, Walt Whitman and many others inspire me. I devised a font, AumAkshar, which, while reading in English, had to have the appearance of the Devanagari script. It worked beautifully for me in all my paintings and apparel.

SuryaAshtakam, Narayani, GayatriMantra … are these sarees exclusive and one-off pieces? How do you sell them?

All the above mentioned mantras were of great importance to me. The Narayani, was on us, women. 16 verses extolling us as the nurturers and preservers. The SuryaAshtakam was an ode the the most primal energy of the sun. and so on. I wanted to share these with women. Spread their positivity and energy and maturity. I make them in small numbers and sell online, at home and with women who appreciate them.


Do you work on a range of different items (e.g. sarees, scarves, stoles, skirts) within the concept?

Yes, I slowly graduated to other items of clothing which are draped or worn. They all follow the concept that inspires me.

What are your inspirations?

Everything in the Universe! Good and bad, beautiful and ugly, quiet and loud. Everything that is manifest and unmanifest. Everything that I do understand and some that I don’t. People, birds, trees, relationships, energies, yoga…..!

What do you feel about the new international aesthetic that is so rampant in the world of design? Does it compromise the local essence of design? Please share your thoughts.

Not at all. One global community is who we are. The perfect amalgamation of tradition and contemporary ideas and energies would eventually benefit humanity as a whole. Sharing is spreading the values that we believe in. Choices will finally define us.

What are your aspirations and dreams?

To have a quiet, standalone somewhere and offer my beliefs to the world at large.

Your Design Mantra:

Creating a compassionate consciousness!


Pic:1,2,15. Manjri Varde of Samanjri, with her creations; Pic: 3. Tam Suryam; Pic: 4&5. 99 Names of Allah; Pic: 6. Subhanallah; Pic: 7. Vakratund; Pics: 8-12. Sarees-  SuryaAshtkam, Tam Suryam, Seven Chakras, Narayani; Pic: 13. Myriad box frames; Pic: 14. ShivShakti

Designer : Manjri Varde, Samanjri
Photography :Courtesy the designer

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