Forests Belong to Everyone, Women Too Can Trek to Agastya Mala

Forests Belong to Everyone, Women Too Can Trek to Agastya Mala

My Report

Video Editor: Deepthi Ramdas

“Forests are not anyone’s private property – neither Adivasis’ nor ours,” Femina told me as we decided to trek to Agastya Mala in Kerala.

It is never about being stubborn or going to a place which is forbidden. I see my journey to Agastya Mala as an opportunity to know nature closely and enjoy it.

If you ask me why Agasthyarkoodam (or Agastya Mala), all I can say is that I have been trekking since a young age and have gone on many trekking trips. I don’t see Agastya Mala as any different from these treks.

Women have traditionally been prohibited from trekking to the peak because a primitive Adivasi tribe called Kanikkars resides in the region. Based on their tradition and belief, women shouldn’t go there as their temple houses the celibate Agastya saint. It is said that these people are asking women not to enter the area.

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For me, the trek is about the experience of nature.

Going to the Sahyadri (Western Ghats) is always special – to experience its biodiversity, to know the flora and fauna. Even the breeze there is said to have medicinal properties. All these are unique to Agasthyarkoodam. Why would a sage like Agastya choose this mountain for his ascetic life? He is mostly associated with medicine and naturopathy. This means the mountain ranges have a special connection with nature and medicine.

As Femina puts it:

“In a place that has not forbidden the entry of women by law, be it a forest or mountain, you cannot stop women who are a part of nature, in the name of a deity, spirituality or religion. I don’t understand the objective behind this nor do I agree with it.”

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