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The Breast Tax and the Upper Cloth Movement

Nangeli’s story, is it true?
A considerable furor seems to have been created by news reports detailing the legend of a lady named Nangeli who once lived at Chertala in Travancore. Some based their stories on the oral testimony of descendants of this hapless woman following which a few of my friends contacted me for its authenticity, but I must admit that my research did not prove conclusive. The story as I could see, spread in the last two years and seems to have formed an impression that Travancore and Cochin in the 18th and 19th century was going through a terrible period of casteism, an opinion which is not wrong, for it was indeed a troubling period. But what happened is that most newspapers who re-publicized the issue combined two subjects into one, the two subjects being the so called ‘Breast tax’ and the ‘upper cloth revolts’. These were two different issues relating to Travancore, with differing origins and backgrounds.
So it is perhaps the right time to revisit the topic in …

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