Indian woman makes historic ascent to sacred peak once forbidden to women ages 10-50

A woman completed a historic ascent to one of India’s Hindu pilgrimage sites that until recently had been forbidden to females between the ages of 10 to 50.

K Dhanya Sanal, 38, climbed to the summit of Agasthyakoodam, the second highest peak in the southern Kerala state.

“The journey is to understand the forest more and share the unique experience with others,” Sanal told the Hindustan Times before starting on the history-making journey.

Sanal was among a group of about 100 climbers who set out to scale the 6,128-foot mountain that is known for its panoramic views and unique biodiversity.

In November, the Kerala High Court ruled that women could not be excluded from trekking to the peak, despite protests from tribespeople who oppose menstruating females climbing it because of a statue of a Hindu sage on top they say is celibate.

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The local tribespeople living in the foothills of the peak staged protests against permitting women to trek up but did not stop the trekkers.

“We staged the protest to express our pain and anguish at breaking the customs of the Agastya hills. We never attempted to check the trekkers...because we respect the court order,” one protestor told PTI.

The Kerala Forest Department, which organizes the treks, said a total of 4,700 people had registered this year - 100 of which were women, the Hindustan Times reported.

Sanal told the BBC that she was “ready to turn back” if tribespeople stoppered her.

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The terrain up to the summit is steep and rocky and inside thick forest. Sanal told the Times of India that it was “extremely tough terrain that demands extra physical fitness.”

Sanal’s climb comes just weeks after two women entered the Sabarimala temple in Kerala, sparking violent protests from locals. The Supreme Court lifted a 1972 ban in September on women worshipping at the temple.

The two women in their forties entered the temple and worshipped there, said Pramod Kumar, the state police spokesman. Officers escorted the two women to the hilltop temple because of "police responsibility to provide protection to any devotee irrespective of gender," Kumar said.

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One of the women is recovering in a hospital after her mother-in-law allegedly attacked her for entering the temple, the BBC reported.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.