There were many glorious women who sacrificed their lives in world history as they sacrificed their own lives for the freedom of their motherland. But this is a different story about a lady who made sacrifice in history. This is a tale of Nangeli whose story was written with blood not gold because she was the first woman who dared to challenge the social injustice by sacrificing her own life.
A time when women from lower caste were bound to pay breast tax
Can you think of a time when tax was imposed on human organs like breast? Such a time was when women belonging to lower castes in Kerela were not allowed to cover their breast. The tax was called mulakkaram or the breast tax.
Women who were not born in high caste were victims of this tax. It had been imposed by the king of one of the 550 princely States that existed in British ruled India. “The sole purpose of the breast-tax was to maintain the caste structure.
There was a lady named Nangeli who belonged to the Ezhava caste which was considered as a lowest caste. Her community used to pay the tax along with other lower castes.
All women were scared to challenge the tax because those ladies who violated the rule were harassed and heavy penalties were imposed on them.
Many ladies used to keep them in four walls of their house because they were humiliated to go out of the house without covering their chest.
Nangeli decided to fight against this tax
She decided to defy the orders of the state. One day, when the official tax collector then called the parvathiyar came to her house to collect her pending breast tax. Nandeli asked them to wait and it is believed that instead of placing the money in a plantain leaf, she chopped off her breasts with a sickle knife and presented them to him.
The tax collector fled while Nangeli succumbed to excessive bleeding. She died the same day at her doorstep.
When her husband Chirukandan came home, he found his wife lying dead and mutilated. Out of grief, he also jumped into her funeral pyre.
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 in his book ‘Oru Desathinte Katha, Kayarinteyum.
The legend of Nangeli’s mutilation of her own body in protest against oppression has been handed down through generations.
The place where Nangeli made her sacrifice is known as Mulachipa rambu, which means ‘the land of woman’s breasts’ in Malayalam.
Watch Video: BBC short Documentary-The woman who cut off her breasts to protest a tax
Nangeli is an unsung & forgotten heroine of the history. We cannot forget that she is one of those women who laid down the very first bricks for the foundation of equality.