Readers’ Blog

Nangeli and the breast tax

Viewed 3273 times 2016-6-21 19:34 |System category:Life| breast, false


 

Many books and histories have been written about caste oppression in Kerala and the men and women who fought the injustice. Yet the story of one woman’s protest has almost faded away from the collective memory of the State. Nangeli, who lived in Cherthala in Alappuzha over 200 years ago, gained her place in history as the woman who cut off her breasts to protest against the inhuman mulakkaram the breast tax that was imposed in the erstwhile kingdom of Travancore.

Kings of the time ensured the subjugation of the lower castes by imposing heavy taxes on them. Their wealth was built on some of the worst taxes imposed anywhere in the world. Besides the tax on land and crops, peasants had to pay taxes for the right to wear jewellery, the right of men to grow a moustache, and even the right of women to cover their breasts.

The heavy taxes ensured that the lower castes were kept eternally in debt, while members of the upper castes flourished. Nangeli was a poor Ezhava woman from Cherthala. Her family could not afford to pay the taxes and was in debt to the rulers,says D. Sugathan, advocate and former MLA from Alappuzha.

The tax collector, then called the parvathiyar, came to her house one day and demanded that she pay the tax, he says. The legend goes that Nangeli cut off her breasts and presented them to the parvathiyar on a plantain leaf. The tax collector fled in fear, while Nangeli bled to death at her doorstep.

Her husband Chirukandan came home to find his wife lying dead and mutilated. He is said to have jumped into her funeral pyre out of grief.

The incident happened in 1803. It created a lot of anger and the practice of collecting breast tax was put to an end here by 1812, says Mr. Sugathan, who mentions Nangeli’s story in his book Oru Desathinte Katha, Kayarinteyum.

While Nangeli’s sacrifice put an end to one form of caste oppression, the land where she lived came to be known as mulachiparambuthe plot where the woman of breasts lived.

Nangeli’s story is an articulation of a unique resistance and struggle against a Brahmanic patriarchy.The legend of Nangeli’s mutilation of her own body in protest against oppression has been handed down through generations.

Today, however, her tale is preserved only in the memories of a few old-timers and researchers. There are no memorials to her name, no books extolling her courage.

The name mulachiparambu too has been covered up, perhaps due to embarrassment. The plot, divided up between several owners, is situated near the SNDP office at Manorama Junction in Cherthala.

Nangeli gained her place in history as the woman who cut off her breasts to protest against an inhuman tax imposed in erstwhile Travancore.


(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)


Passing

Eggs

Flowers

Shake hands

Ray
Like 0 Share
8.03K

Report

Comment (0 comments)

facelist doodle Doodle board

You need to login to comment Login | register


Album

Recent comments

  • World’s First Human Head Transplant Will Take Place in 2017 2017-3-13 19:55

    HailChina!: Have you ever seen the old Russian video of dogs head that is sort of alive with no body?

    I am excited about this because if we can replace our bodi ...
    Agreed man.

  • World’s First Human Head Transplant Will Take Place in 2017 2017-3-11 06:25

    Have you ever seen the old Russian video of dogs head that is sort of alive with no body?

    I am excited about this because if we can replace our bodies then we can extend our lives and this kind of thing could lead to something close to immortality maybe. It would be good if the brain could be transplanted into a new body. We could grow clone replacement bodies and then just put the brain in when the body we are using gets old.

    I want a new body and I would also like a new head. A better looking one.

    I finished the first Metal Gear Solid on the playstation.

Star blogger

Anming

4124

views

Maierwei

2603

views

财神

4580

views

Most Viewed

Most commented

BACK TO THE TOP
Contact us:Tel: (86)010-84883548, Email: blog@chinadaily.com.cn
Blog announcement:| We reserve the right, and you authorize us, to use content, including words, photos and videos, which you provide to our blog
platform, for non-profit purposes on China Daily media, comprising newspaper, website, iPad and other social media accounts.