Upper Cloth Revolt | Breast Tax Revolt. ( 1813 -1859 )
Breast Tax Revolt. ( 1813 -1859 ) | Upper Cloth Revolt
Shanar were the fishermen community who lived in the coastal region of south Travancore. By then Travancore was a princely state.
In 19th century Travancore, women from underprivileged caste shanar ( later Nadar ) were not allowed to cover their upper bodies. A ‘Breast Tax ‘ was imposed on those who defied the rule. So the shanar community had started agitation against it. Thus nadar women started an upper cloth revolt or movement in 1813.
What began as a fight for women’s dignity took on more layers with the community refusing to do free labour for elite caste landlords. Thus it became a full-blown rebellion against caste oppression. Reprisals were brutal. Dominant caste men, enraged by the defiance of nadar women, attacked them and stripped them of the tailored blouses they had started wearing from 1820. The court of Travancore, which had in 1829 decreed that Nadar women should not cover their breast, was eventually forced in 1859 to permit them to wear a jacket like what Syrians Christians women wore and cover their upper bodies – but ” not like the women of high caste “