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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 claimed for having cut off her breasts in an effort to protest caste-based "breast tax". It is a village tale that is not officially recognised in any of India's historical accounts.[1]

In the Kingdom of Travancore, a breast tax or mulakkaram was imposed by the landowning Brahmin king of on lower caste Hindu women if they wanted to cover their breasts in public.[2][3][4]

According to the story, at this time, in the early years of the 19th century, Nangeli, a poor Ezhava woman from Cherthala in the erstwhile Kingdom of Travancore, protested the mulakkaram (breast tax system).[5] She 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 make her protest known, she chopped off her breasts and presented them to him in a plantain leaf.[7][8] She died the same day from loss of blood.[9]

Nangeli's husband, Chirukandan, seeing her mutilated body, overcome by grief, jumped into her funeral pyre committing suicide.[1] Following the death of Nangeli, a series of people's movements were set off and the breast tax system was ultimately annulled in Travancore.[10] The place she lived came to be known later as Mulachiparambu (meaning land of the breasted woman).[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "The woman who cut off her breasts to protest a tax". BBC News. 28 July 2016.
  2. ^ "A corrective to northern-focused histories of India". The Economist. 23 November 2017. Retrieved 24 November 2017.
  3. ^ Journal of Kerala Studies. University of Kerala. 2011. p. 93. Retrieved 13 October 2017. One of the many social ills that is worth mentioning to high- light the plight of a person in those times is the breast tax or 'Mulakkaram". The lower caste women were proscribed by their high caste masters from covering their upper part of the …
  4. ^ Kattackal, Jacob (1990). Comparative Religion. Oriental Institute of Religious Studies, India. p. 144. 'low-caste' men had to pay a 'head-tax', and the 'low-caste women' had to pay a 'breast tax' ('tala-karam' and 'mula-karam') to the government treasury.
  5. ^ Surendranath, Nidhi. "200 years on, Nangeli's sacrifice only a fading memory". The Hindu. Retrieved 2017-06-05.
  6. ^ Pillai, Manu S. "The woman who cut off her breasts". The Hindu. Retrieved 2017-06-05.
  7. ^ Surendranath, Nidhi (21 October 2013). "200 years on, Nangeli's sacrifice only a fading memory". The Hindu. Retrieved 15 April 2017.
  8. ^ Singh, Vijay (7 March 2016). "She died fighting 'breast tax', her name lives on". Times of India. Retrieved 15 April 2017.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ 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.