The Unsung Hero

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There, in the erstwhile Travancore, 

Lived Nangeli and Chirukandan. 

A happy couple that they were, 

But were bound to the rules of the Pravathiyar.*

Women, of the lower castes, 

Couldn’t cover their breasts, 

Shouted the rule, oh! Wasn’t that injust? 

If they wore, they paid a tax, 

Called the Mulakkaram*.

Nangeli couldn’t bear this

And she resolved to revolt. 

The day the parvathiyar came with his men, 

To collect rice, oh! That was the tax, 

A resilient Nangeli went inside, 

And on two big plantain leaves, 

Chopped her breasts and laid them on. 

Marched like a possessed woman, 

She thrusted them onto the taxmen’s hands. 

Trembled they in fear, 

And she fell down smiling. 

Chirukandan, sobbed and jumped along, 

And doused himself in her pyre.

Her valor was praised and

Brought in the change of law. 

She became the unsung hero, 

Of the oppressed lot. 

Pravathiyar – village chief
Mulakkaram – breast tax
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