Only one woman was among the 100 trekkers who set out to scale Kerala’s second highest peak on Monday when it opened for the first time since the state’s High Court removed traditional restrictions on women from doing so.
More women are expected to attempt the trek in the coming days as the state forest department has received 4,700 registrations – 100 of them women, PTI reported. Agasthyakoodam is located in the Neyyar Wildlife Sanctuary. The annual trek lasts around 41 days.
K Dhanya Sanal, a spokesperson for the defence ministry in Thiruvananthapuram, began the journey to scale the 1,868-metre-high Agasthyakoodam on Monday through a 22-km forest path with the rest of the group. The group camped at Athirumala on Monday night and will scale the summit on Tuesday, according to The Indian Express. A woman forest official accompanied the group.
“The journey is to understand the forest more and share the unique experience with others,” Sanal told PTI.
The Kerala High Court had in November ruled that no restriction would be imposed on women during the trekking season that was to begin on Monday. The order came two months after the Supreme Court removed similar restrictions on women of menstruating age from entering the Sabarimala temple in the state.
The Kani tribe that lives on the foothills opposes women attempting the trek. The mountain range is considered the holy abode of celibate sage Agastya Muni. The tribe has protested against letting women climb the peak, but has not stopped anyone. Over 100 of them sang folk songs as a mark of protest.
“We staged the protest to express our pain and anguish at breaking the customs of the Agastya hills,” Mohanan Triveni, state president of the Adivasi Mahasabha told PTI. “We never attempted to check the trekkers, because we respect the court order.”