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Caste Conflicts and Dress Change

Though were not a part of the Indian laws, India had distinction in dressing style according to the different castes. There were specific dress codes and eating habits for each caste and these codes had the force of law. So any change in the dressing style, threatened these norms which created violent social reactions.

There were a number of riots which took place because of a few changes which came into the dressing style. Even after the abolition of the slavery act, people were not allowed to dress like the people of the upper castes.

Let us look at few violent reactions by the upper caste Indians as the objected to the change in dress code for the lower castes

  • 1822: The Lower caste Shanar women of Travancore were attacked by the upper caste for wearing a cloth across their upper bodies. This conflict lasted for over a decade. 
  • 1820s: Shanar women who converted to Christianity, under the influence of the Missionaries, started wearing tailored blouses. These women were attacked by the upper caste people. 
  • 1829: The government of Travancore proclaimed an order stating that lower caste women should not cover the upper part of their body.

According to custom those days the Shanars should not cover their upper bodies and should not carry an umbrella.

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