Breast Tax: When Women Paid Tax To Cover Their Breasts in Kerala

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If you have to pay a tax to cover your breasts? Will that be fair to you? What if the tax depends on the size of your breasts? Read about the horrible tax system called 'Mulakkaram', that was introduced in Kerala against lower caste women.
Breast tax India-The Uncharted Minds
Censored Photo: A Thiyya/Tiyya family, 1900s. (Edgar Thurston)

Imagine a man coming to your house every month to measure your breasts so that you can be charged money for how big your bosoms are.

Will that be weird if you have to pay tax to cover your Boobs?

You cannot cover your breasts when people belonging to a higher castes are present. So, before you all start to type ‘Bloody sexist and Asshole’ in the comment section.

Let me take you on a magical journey to a land where caste systems were a bit weird and that involved ‘Breasts’.

The magical land of Travancore in the 1800s, present in the State of Kerala now, in India, where lower caste women had to pay a small tax to the Kingdom of Travancore to cover their Breasts. To show their bosoms was the ‘Sign of Respect’ that they had to give the upper caste folks. So, basically if you are in the lowest strata in the caste hierarchy, then you have to be naked all the time.
And the Namboodiri Brahmins, the highest in the caste ladder, barred their chests only to the images of the deities.

P.S. Gods do not want to see your breasts or man boobs because he was the one who made them.

Should we revise again for who can show their Boobs to whom?
For your easy understanding, the women had to uncover their breasts to the folks, who belonged to higher castes than them. So, to cover their boobs in public, the lower caste and Dalit women were expected to pay the government a tax called the Mulakkaram or Mula-Karam.

Lower caste women were denied to cover their Breasts

A pertinent question to ask is how much should be the tax?

First of all, the state officials had to maintain records of those girls who would be attaining puberty shortly. After attaining puberty, the ‘Breast Tax’ was in effect as soon as they started developing breasts.

To not sound creepier, the tax imposed on women was evaluated by the ‘Tax Collectors’ depending on the ‘Size of their Breasts‘. So it was expensive if you were poor and have big bosoms.

Let’s not get derailed from the topic at hand.
So, a lower-caste community called ‘Nadar’, who had to stay naked in front of higher-caste folks, embraced Christianity and started to wear “long cloths,” strengthened by their new belief system, which offered equal rights to all men and women. Seeing their Christians sisters covering their Breasts, the Hindu Nadar women started covering their upper body, with a cloth piece, that looked similar to the cloth being used by the upper caste women.

Boom! The upper caste people were offended and revolts started against the ‘Breast Tax’ and to allow them to cover their own bodies. Again a lot of state officials got offended because they thought that, allowing lower-caste women to cover their breasts would blur the very line of caste differences and would make everyone seems equal.

What a ghastly thought to think of? Isn’t it?
“This would create pollution if they (lower caste women) were allowed to cover up their bodies. This is outrageous to even think of giving them this right to cover their own breasts.”
Several schools and churches were burned in order to teach them a lesson but violence continued for nearly 4 decades.

The year was 1859 when two Nadar women were stripped of their clothes and were hung on a tree in public for covering their breasts. The Nadar community revolted and extreme forms of murders and looting were committed. The Kingdom was forced to accept the right of lower caste women to cover their Breasts as to bring peace to its reign.

‘You can cover your Breasts but do not copy the upper caste women.’ This was a statement that the Nadar women had to follow but off course they didn’t care.

Coming to the last part of this article as we have to end it somewhere.

Let’s end with a tale of a woman named ‘Nangeli’.

Nangeli protested against this tax and was forced to pay an even larger amount as to why she denied the tax unlike everybody else.
‘You got Breasts. You have to pay us to cover them.’ The state officials told her. When she denied paying them, the officer went to her house to collect it.

She elegantly cut off her breasts to protest against the caste-based Breast tax.
To help you make the scene more graphical, she amputated her bosoms with a sickle and presented them on a ‘Banana Leaf’ to the official.
She soon died from loss of blood and her husband seeing her mutilated body, killed himself by jumping into her funeral pyre. Thus, making him the first male victim of ‘Sati’.
Though this story is debatable and is widely considered a rumor. People believed in Nangeli and the place she lived was named Mulachiparambu (meaning place of the breasted woman).


That’s the whole story of how the women in Kerala fought to cover their own Breasts. In this whole context of imposing taxes on lower-caste women to cover up their breasts, I find it a little creepy.

Like you have to show your breasts if you want to show respect. That means, if you are in a higher caste, then you get to see a huge number of bosoms everyday and that’s amazing for a man to be in that era being in a higher caste. But at the end, that is a sheer ‘Crime’. Fortunately, this crime ended on 1924.

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Bhupesh Ray
Bhupesh Ray
3 years ago

Please provide a rough idea of the time period of this event.

Rahul Mishra
Rahul Mishra
3 years ago

It’s an unfortunate tradition and a heinous caste oppression strategy that a society should move from it and I am glad that it was abolished.

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