On January 15, Dhanya Sanal became the first woman to summit Agasthyakoodam, a 1,868-meter peak in the Neyyar Wildlife Sanctuary of the Western Ghats range and the second highest mountain in Kerala, India. Sanal undertook her climb after a high court lifted an informal ban that prohibited women from climbing Agasthyakoodam.
Along the route of the two-day trek is a sacred site of the holy deity of “Agastya Muni,” sage protector of the Kani people—a Hindu tribe. The Kani live in the mountain range. Park rangers have prohibited women from trekking through tribal living areas along the trail, in order to avoid aggravating the Kani, who are upset with the court’s ruling. Sanal and her group were met with protestors in Bonacaud as they set off on their trek. Over 100 people gathered, singing folk songs, which demonstrated their traditional beliefs and cultural values against allowing women on the mountain.
Sanal, a spokesperson for the Union Ministry of Defense in Thiruvananthapuram, was one of 4,700 people to register for a Agasthyakoodam trekking license this year. That the 38-year-old was the first and only woman on her particular trip was purely coincidence—over 100 other women will make the same journey before the climbing season ends on March 1.