Channar Revolt

Tiyya, a girl from lower caste community of Kerala (Edgar Thurston/1909)
Channar revolt (Channar lahala) refers to the struggle of Nadar climber women for the right to cover their breasts between 1813 and 1859. It is also referred as the Maru Marakkal Samaram, Habituation Walk, Mulamarapa Struggle, Moshela Rebellion and Nadar Mutiny in historical documents.

In the 19th century Travancore, women from lower-class communities were not allowed to wear the upper clothes and cover their breasts. It was seen as a sign of respect to the higher class community. In unrest with the status quo, a large number of Nadar embraced Christianity and started wearing long clothes. Later, when more Nadar embraced the Christianity, they also started wearing Nair-styled women upper cloth (sharf). However, this step met with resistance from Nair community.

From 1813 to 1829, there was a series of orders passed by the King of Travancore dictating dress code for lower caste community women, which ended with restriction on any kind of upper clothing for lower caste women by the Queen of Travancore in 1829. However, they continued to fight for their rights.

In October 1859, violence broke out in several places of Travancore as Nadar women were stripped of their upper cloths, houses were looted and chapels burnt. This event led to the 1859 proclamation issued by the King of Travancore under pressure from Charles Trevelyan, then Governor of Madras, allowing Nadar women to cover their breast either by jackets or a coarse cloth, not Nair styled upper clothing.

Until 1915-16, Nadar and other low caste women continued struggle for their right to wear upper clothing of their choice till they were supported by Ayyankali.