Coir Retting By Travancore Women – Old Photo 1870

This is an old 1870 photo of coir retting by Travancore Women in the 18th century. Retting is a process in the making of coir finished goods. Notice the women bare-chested arranging the coconut husks before soaking them underwater.

After a time, the husks are removed from the water. It further undergoes various other processes finally despatching it to the many coir factories in the vicinity. From the 17th century or before, there was a repressive law in Travancore that women should not cover their upper body.

They would otherwise be forced to pay breast tax. This evil law was fortunately banned by the British in 1865. But despite the ban, this practice continued for many more years due to the fear of repercussions.

However, this practice gradually stopped by the early 20th century, women started covering their breasts. Today the women of Kerala of all strata are the most educated in the whole of India. The Princely states of  Travancore, Cochin, and Malabar regions were joined to form the state of Kerala in 1956.

Read more- Kerala’s Casteist Breast Tax And The Story Of Nangeli.

Did you know- Kerala today is the most progressive state among all the states in India. It has a high literacy rate, high health, low infant mortality, low population growth, higher life expectancy, and so on. Comparable to European standards, if not better.   

From the collection- Kerala Backwaters & Cargo Boats – Old Print 1922., Century In Malabar Peirce Leslie & Co – Old Book.,  Antique 1865 Photo of Life In British India Era., Page From Rare 1713 Latin Book on Calicut


Photo Details

Year -


Photograph Size -

6 x 4 inches

Photographer -

Unknown British Indian photographer