Woman treks Agasthyarkoodam, breaking decades-long ban

Woman treks Agasthyarkoodam, breaking decades-long ban

Breaking the decades-long ban on women in the name of faith, a woman on Monday ventured to trek the 1,868-metre Agasthyarkoodam mountain peak, about 40 kilometres from Thiruvananthapuram.

Dhanya Sanal, a deputy director with the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and defence spokesperson in Thiruvananthapuram, has become the first woman to trek the mountain in the wake of a recent Kerala High Court order lifting the ban on women. A group of around 30 members of the Kani tribal community staged a non-violent demonstration.

The ban on women at Agasthyarkoodam mountain peak was based on a faith that is similar to the Sabarimala Ayyappa temple. Alike Lord Ayyappa of Sabarimala, the Kani tribal community members considers the presiding deity of the Agasthyarkoodam mountain peak, Agasthya Muni, as a celibate. Hence, women were being denied permission to trek the mountain. A couple of women's forums approached the HC against this and the court ordered that if men are allowed to trek, women should be also allowed.

Earlier, following a similar HC order, women were allowed to trek up to the Athitrumala base camp but not to the hilltop. However, no woman visited.

Apart from Dhanya, about 100 other women had also obtained passes from the Forest Department. Before entering the forest route from the Bonacaud entry point, Dhanya, aged around 40, told reporters that it was her passion towards trekking that prompted her to take on the venture. She said that she had no intention of breaking the faith of the Kani tribals and that she would not go to the temple on the mountain peak.

Trekking is allowed for only about 45 days during January to March every year. This year, the trekking dates are from Jan. 14 to March 1. There are 100 people daily that will be allowed to enter the forest path in separate batches from Bonacaud. Each batch will take two to three days to complete the trek. Facilities for night camps are arranged in the forest.