New Delhi :
The early centuries are remembered for some of the good times while history has also seen some of the barbaric laws when it comes to existence of women. Many oppressive practices prevailed then.
Breast tax was one of the most horrendous ones. This oppressive law meant that the early 19th century Travancore Dalit women had to pay tax as per the size of their bosom. This tax called (Mulakkaram) used to be collected from women if they wished to cover themselves with cloth in public.
This practice serves one of the manifestations of how the Dalits were oppressed and were subjected to many atrocities. Not only is it a violation of human rights but also degrading for charging tax if a person wish to cover themselves up or their private parts.
During those dark times, a woman called Nangeli, in her thirties did something which the world still remembers. The defiant Nangeli decided not to pay the humiliating tax to the king of Travancore. She was an Ezhava woman from Cherthala, who belonged to a family that could not afford to pay the prescribed taxes.
One day when the tax collectors of the province reached her place to collect their dues , Nangeli bravely defied them with a final blow. She chopped off both her breasts and nonchalantly presented it to the collectors in a banana leaf. Seeing the dreadful scene, the tax collectors fled in fear as Nangeli bled to death at her doorstep.
The place in Cherthala where Nangeli made her sacrifice is known as Mulachipa rambu, which in Malayalam means 'the land of woman's breasts'. Following the horrific death of Nangeli in this act of protest, the crown annulled the breast tax in Travancore.