Answer :

All societies observe certain rules, some of them quite strict, about the way in which men, women and children should dress, or how different social classes and groups should present themselves. Styles of clothing also emphasized differences between men and women. The caste system clearly defined what subordinate and dominant caste Hindus should wear, eat, etc., and these codes had the force of law. Changes in clothing styles that threatened these norms therefore often created violent social reactions.

In May 1822, women of the Shanar caste were attacked by upper caste Nairs in public places in the southern princely state of Travancore, for wearing a cloth across their upper bodies. Over subsequent decades, a violent conflict over dress codes ensued. The Government of Travancore issued a proclamation in 1829 ordering Shanar women ‘to abstain in future from covering the upper parts of the body.’ But this did not prevent Shanar Christian women, and even Shanar Hindus, from adopting the blouse and upper cloth. The abolition of slavery in Travancore in 1855 led to even more frustration among the upper castes who felt they were losing control. In October 1859, riots broke out as Shanar women were attacked in Clothing: A Social History 169 Box 3 the marketplace and stripped of their upper cloths. Houses were looted and chapels burned. Finally, the government issued another proclamation permitting Shanar women, whether Christian or Hindu, to wear a jacket, or cover their upper bodies in any manner whatever, but not like the women of high caste.


The women belonging to different classes had different rules. While the upper class were allowed to cover their whole bodies, the women belonging to lower classes were attacked to cover upper parts of their bodies.


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