Coir Retting By Women In Travancore, 1870 Photo

Coir Retting By Women In Travancore, 1870 Photo

An 1870 photo of coir retting by Women in Travancore in the 19th century. Coir retting is making coconut husk into processed coir for use in making finished coir goods. The women are working on coconut husks in one of Travancore’s famous backwaters, what is notable is the women are bare-chested.

Travancore today comprises Idukki, Kottayam, Alappuzha, Kollam, and Thiruvananthapuram, major portions of Ernakulam district, etc. In the 18th and 19th centuries and possibly into the early 20th century women were not allowed to cover their breasts. A  law in Travancore ruled that lower-class women were not to cover their upper body. If not, a breast tax was liable to be imposed on women who broke this regressive law.

This evil law was fortunately banned by the British in 1865. But despite the ban, this practice continued for many more years due to fear and repercussions. Consequently, this practice gradually stopped by the early 20th century, women began covering their breasts. Today the women of Kerala are undoubtedly the most educated in India. The Princely states of  Travancore, Cochin, and Malabar form the state of Kerala.

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