38-year-old Dhanya Sanal from Kerala has scripted history by becoming the first woman to scale the Agasthyarkoodam peak in Kerala. The 1,868 metres (6,128 feet) tall peak in southern Kerala was considered as a sacred mountain and restricted for women to climb it. On November 30, 2018, Kerala High Court passed the order allowing women participation in the annual trekking programme to the Agasthyarkoodam peak. Amid protests from conservationist groups, Dhanya Sanal braved the rough terrains and reached the summit on January 17, after an extremely strenuous two-day hike, reported The Hans India.
Sanal, who is an officer with Indian Information Service (IIS) and works in the Defence Ministry, was accompanied by 99 male trekkers. Two women forest rangers guided the group as the Forest Department has ensured to provide all forms of assistance to the women trekkers of this expedition season.
History behind the mountain
The mountain, named after the mythological saint Agasthya, is considered holy by the Kani, an aboriginal tribal Hindu community. Twenty years ago, they even installed a statue of Agasthya atop the mountain to showcase its religious worth.
ചിട നീണ്ട വഴിയളന്നും പിളർന്നും കാട്ടു-ചെടിയുടെ തുടിക്കുന്ന കരളരിഞ്ഞുംചിലയുമമ്പും നീട്ടിയിരതിരഞ്ഞും ഭാണ്ഡ-മൊലിവാർന്ന ചുടുവിയർപ്പാൽ പൊതിഞ്ഞുംമലകയറുമീ നമ്മളൊരുവേള ഒരുകാത-മൊരുകാതമേ ഉള്ളു മുകളീലെത്താൻ..With Mridul Jacob,Ajay Krishna ,Manu Mangalassery,Swaroop Kottakkal,Muhammed Aslam,Arun S Aghori
Posted by Dhanya Sanal on Wednesday, January 16, 2019
Speaking to The Hans India, Principal Secretary of the Kerala Forests and Wildlife Department, Dr V. Venu informed that the tribal men obtain some rare, medicinal herbs from this mountain. Since the task of gathering these herbs is predominantly performed by men, it had become an unsaid custom to not allow any women beyond the base camp at Athirumala.
Protests against the HC verdict
For the last few years, many women have come forward to protest against the discriminating norm leading to the final judgement by Kerala HC. The much-talked-about verdict that struck down this age-old custom was met with a series of protests all over Kerala, much similar to the ongoing Sabarimala controversy. Agasthyarkoodam Kshetra Kanikkar Trust and Antharashtriya Hindu Parishad (AHP) organised protest marches to prevent the women from climbing the peak, even after it was approved by law.
Notwithstanding the controversies, around 100 women have already registered for the 2019 trekking expedition, alongside 4600 men. The highest number of women (16) in a single batch will perform the trek on upcoming February 14.