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Nangeli is believed to have been an Ezhava woman who lived in the early 19th century at Cherthala in the erstwhile princely state of Travancore in India who is known for having cut-off her breasts in an effort to protest caste-based "breast tax".[1] Her tale is however not officially recognised as a historical account.[2]


The Kerala monarchies of the time kept huge populations of "lower" Castes exploited under their rules.[3] These "lower" caste peoples had to pay a range of taxes from wealth and property tax to taxes on their jewellery, their right to grow moustaches, wear footwear, to even a tax where women of lower castes were required to pay the king of Travancore if they covered their bosom in public.[4] If they did so, they were taxed heavily.[5][2]

At this time, Nangeli, a poor Ezhava woman, protested this mulakkaram (breast tax system). Nangeli refused to both uncover her bosom and pay the breast tax. When the pravathiyar (village officer) of Travancore, came to her home repeatedly asking her to pay tax, she became frustrated at the unjustness of her harassment.[6] To maker her protest known, she chopped off her breasts and presented them to him in a plantain leaf.[5][2][7] She died the same day due to loss of blood.[7][8]

Nangeli's husband, Chirukandan, seeing her mutilated body, overcome by grief, jumped into her funeral pyre committing suicide.[5][2][7] His act is also a unique protest against both the breast tax and Brahminical patriarchy which always required the death of a husband be followed by the wife jumping into his pyre.[9][10] Following the death of Nangeli, a series of people's movements were set off and the breast tax system was ultimately annulled in Travancore.[11] The place she lived came to be known later as Mulachiparambu (meaning land of the breasted woman).[5][7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Surendranath, Nidhi. "200 years on, Nangeli’s sacrifice only a fading memory". The Hindu. Retrieved 2017-06-05. 
  2. ^ a b c d "The woman who cut off her breasts to protest a tax". BBC News. July 28, 2016. 
  3. ^ Nair, Adoor K. K. Ramachandran (1986-01-01). Slavery in Kerala. Mittal Publications. 
  4. ^ "Re-reading Tribal and Dalit Conversion Movements: The Case of the Malayarayans and Pulayas of Kerala". Retrieved 2017-06-05. 
  5. ^ a b c d Surendranath, Nidhi (October 21, 2013). "200 years on, Nangeli’s sacrifice only a fading memory". The Hindu. Retrieved April 15, 2017. 
  6. ^ Pillai, Manu S. "The woman who cut off her breasts". The Hindu. Retrieved 2017-06-05. 
  7. ^ a b c d Singh, Vijay (March 7, 2016). "She died fighting 'breast tax', her name lives on". Times of India. Retrieved April 15, 2017. 
  8. ^ Adhikari, Subhrashis (2016). "India during Vedic Era". The Journey of Survivors: 70,000-Year History of Indian Sub-Continent. Partridge Publishing India. ISBN 978-1-4828-7335-1. 
  9. ^ Surendranath, Nidhi. "200 years on, Nangeli’s sacrifice only a fading memory". The Hindu. Retrieved 2017-06-05. 
  10. ^ Jayan, Jayasree K.; Sankaranarayanan, K. C. (2017-04-10). "Divine Gender Inequality: A Study of Mythological Degradation of Hindu Women in India". Rochester, NY. 
  11. ^ Kuniyath , Sankaranarayanan, Jayasree K , K. C. (March 2017). "Amoralities Give Rise To Social Reform Movements Of Kerala – A Study Of Nambuthiri, Nair And Ezhava Women Analogous Vows" (PDF). International Journal of Innovative Research and Advanced Studies (IJIRAS). 4 (3): 82–86.