Dhanya Sanal creates history by scaling Agasthyarkoodam Peak
Dhanya Sanal creates history by scaling Agasthyarkoodam Peak

 Thiruvananthapuram: Dhanya Sanal has created a history by becoming the first woman to climb Agasthyarkoodam peak. This sacred mountain was out of reach of women until a court lifted a local custom in November that barred females from scaling the peak.

On Tuesday, Dhanya Sanal reached the summit of the 1,868 meter-high (6,128 feet) Agasthyakoodam in southern Kerala. She told that the two-day hike was on "extremely tough terrain that demands extra physical fitness." 

Dhanya Sanal, 38-year-old is an Indian Information Service (IIS) officer working with the defence ministry started the trek to the second highest peak in the state, along with 99 male trekkers, from the base camp at Athirumala. Two women forest rangers also accompanied the group.  
The achievement comes in the middle of a fractious national debate about gender restrictions, religion and the limits of the law in India that has flamed into deadly street violence.

The mountain is named after the Hindu sage Agasthya which is considered sacred to the Kani. Kani is a tribal Hindu community who inhabit the forests around the mountain. Though it is not a traditional place of worship, a statue of the sage was placed on the mountain about 20 years ago.

Dr V. Venu, Principal Secretary of the Kerala Forests and Wildlife Department said that the Kani tribes are traditional healers and the community has a long tradition of collecting herbs and preparing the medicine.

"They considered the rock phase of the peak as sacred and they used to go to obtain some very rare herbs," he said. This job was traditionally a role for men in the community, and it became convention that women were not allowed to trek past base camp (just below 1,000 meters), Venu added.

The custom was challenged by two women's rights organizations, Women Integration and Growth through Sports (WINGS) and Anweshi. 

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