This is a true old folklore that many of 21th century haven’t heard. It is one of the first feminist acts in India started by a strong powerful women called Nageli who was born in a low caste of – Ezhavas-toddy tappers (who laboured in that awkward gap of society fashions ) and she went create history that will forever be remembered in history of feminism in India.
It took place in the early 19th century at a princely state called Travanacore in a simple village called Cherthala in heart of Kerala.
A breast tax (mulakkaram) was imposed by the Bramin king on lower caste Hindu women. The women were forced to pay the taxes if they wished to cover their breasts in public with a shawl(long piece of scarf).The tax varied from women to women as it was assessed on proportion to the size and shape of their breasts. The purpose of the breast-tax was to maintain a strict caste structure. If a women failed to she was punished by being hanged to death.
Women were forced to pay up or become a prey to the perverted eye glare of the sophisticated high class men. It was a burden forced on girls as soon as they reached adolescence. They silently wept and criticized their fate, shame building upon shame under the gaze of men for whom the right to dignity came with a price.
Nageli was forced during her younger years to be taxed. This women was already in shackles of poverty. The village inspector came to find out that Nageli was not abiding by the rules. He went to her house to collect the money. He forced her to pay up.She proclaimed in order cover her dignity she was not going to throw money to protect it. She just cut her breasts from her own body with a sickle knife ,her two lumps of bleeding meat in a palatine leaf and she handed it to him. Her husband found her bled to death on the floor. At the pyre funeral the husband out of emotions jumped into the flames of her funeral and died.
Which was the first male sathi in India. Sathi- Its a barbaric practice in which the widowed women voluntarily or forced to burn herself to death in the flames of her husbands fire at the funeral. What makes this story completely unique is that a male -( Nalgeli’s husband) for the first time in history scarified himself to death out of love for his wife in era where women practiced saithi.
In a land where Goddesses are worshiped to find this bitter heinous acts forced on women is appalling. The truth had the villagers flabbergasted and led them to fight against this law. The rulers out of shame abolished this horrible law.
Nageli was the village super women. She died protecting her rights of as a women but her death didn’t go in vain as she put a end to a 100 years of disgusting tradition forced on women at gunpoint to her grave . Her act was a selfless and her pride and dedication for equality knows no bounds. She fought in a era when women were oppressed and were not allowed to talk to boldly. She had the courage and guts to say was wrong. Also the story of first male sathi in a land of Gods where female sathi was followed
This story covers the aspects of many hardships of just being a women living in unimaginable circumstances. Nageli was true to her motive till the very end and has sent ripples of moment through entire village to stand up against this harassment .Not only she motivated others but also inspiration to all the women out there in the world that we women should always be true to our pride. Our bodies are embodiment of life and we should cherish it.
Her story is retold by men and women of many generations seeking inspiration and courage . And they too have recast her sacrifice, celebrating a tale that would have been alien to the protagonist. Nangeli has been reduced from a woman who thrust a dagger into the heart of society to one who died to preserve those artful shackles that many of us know as ‘honour’. Nangeli’s sacrifice was an ultimatum to the order, so they remodelled her as a virtuous goddess, one who sought to cover her breasts rather than one who issued a challenge to power.She is a topless Queen, a rebel that forbid to throw money fro her dignity. She owed herself and for a girls of today she will forever be a total badass.
The spirit of her rebellion is buried alive in the core of the hearts that read and tell her story…