Sugali is an Indo-Ayran language spoken in Andhra Pradesh, and a number of other Indian states, including Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Odisha and West Bengal. The language is also known as Lambadi or Lamani and has about six million speakers.
The Lambadas are the largest tribe in Andhra Pradesh. Lamabadas live in exclusive settlements of their own called Tandas, usually away from the main village, tenaciously maintaining their cultural and ethnic identity.
The traditional dress of the men comprises of the dhoti, an upper garment and bright coloured turban. The womenfolk wear langa coarse cotton prints, richly embroidered with several folds at the waist.
Lambada tribe is divided into five phratries. Each Phratry is an exogamous unit and one has to marry outside one’s phratry. Each clan is a patrilineal kin group. The girl loses the name of the clan of her parents as soon as she marries and acquires the clan of her husband.
Traditionally both families played a role in choosing the mates, determining the residence, controlling the property, watching the morals, and managing the affairs of the youngsters. The joint family was the norm in the early days among Lambadas but now it is gradually breaking into nuclear families. Marriage by negotiation is the only accepted way of performing a marriage, though sometimes marriage by service is also accepted. The married women wear ivory bangles or imitation of them above their elbows, which are referred as balia.
The Lambada are expert cattle breeders and largely subsist by the sale of milk and milk products. Originally nomadic, many have settled in modern times and have become good agriculturalists. The landless families are migrating to towns and cities and eking out their livelihood by driving auto rickshaws.
Lambada settlements are found in separate hamlets (tandas), nearer to hill areas or pastures where they could rear their cattle. They are mostly distributed in the Telangana region and are sparsely seen in Rayalaseema and coastal areas except in Srikakulam, Vizianagaram, Visakhapatnam and East Godavari districts. Lambadas are the major dominant tribal group living throughout the Telangana state.
The signature design for the Sugali script is made up of three parts. The top part is in the form of a diamond-cut mirror. Their women are very beautiful and are not to be seen by other men of the clan. They cover their heads and recognize their kith and kin by looking at the image in the mirror. The middle part is their sword, a symbol of their gallantry, while the lowest part is the crowbar, specifying their relation to agriculture.