Dhanya Sanal made history on Tuesday as the first woman to summit the Agasthyarkoodam peak in southern Kerala, where women were previously forbidden, the BBC reported.
Female outdoor enthusiasts have been prevented from attempting the trek in the past because the peak is home to a statue of Agastya Muni, a Hindu sage associated with celibacy.
Members of the local Kani tribe, who live at the base of the peak and worship at the statue, had said that women cannot approach the statue and, therefore, the peak, which is the second-tallest in the state. However, a high court ruled that access to the trekking trail could not be restricted based on gender in November.
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Sanal told local media that she is an avid trekker and was only interested in climbing the peak, not visiting temples or interfering with the customs of the locals in the area. Still, she said she was prepared to turn back if she encountered resistance from Kani tribe members. And while there were minor protests at the base of peak, Sanal was able to complete the trek without incident.
#Kerala: Defense PRO Dhanya Sanal, first woman to trek to Agasthyarkudam peak, after 2018 Kerala High Court order that women cannot be excluded from trekking to the peak. Sanal says, "I'll stick to take the pathway¬ go into prohibited areas&hurt the sentiments of the tribals." pic.twitter.com/Kb4Vy4z3gr— ANI (@ANI) January 14, 2019
The 38-year-old was the only woman among a group of 100 trekkers who attempted the rough trail, according to the BBC, though two female forest officials accompanied the adventurers.
A literal trailblazer, Sanal was the first woman to reach Agasthyakoodam’s peak since the restrictions were lifted, but she won’t be the last.
More than 100 women have already registered to attempt the arduous trek over the new few weeks, officials told the BBC.
Sanal’s feat represents a win for women in India, particularly in Kerala where the issue of gender equality has been in the spotlight since Jan. 1.
On New Year’s Day, millions of women joined arms to create a 385-mile “wall” stretching from one end of the state to the other in support of gender equality and in protest of the religious ban on women of menstruating age entering the holy Hindu Sabarimala Temple because they are considered “impure.”
While Sanal’s trek is a major personal accomplishment and sets an example for her community, it’s clear there is still work to be done to advance gender equality in India and globally.