Pilgrimage to Agastyakoodam begins
TRIVANDRUM: The ‘pilgrimage’ to Agastyakoodam on the Western Ghats has begun. The Forest Department is issuing passes to about 100 persons a day for the three-day trek to the peak.

The trekkers have to start from Bonaccord estate in Thiruvananthapuram district with a guide from the Forest Department.

The first night is spent at a camp facility set up by the Department in the middle of the forests. Trekkers could reach the peak the next day and return to the camp the same day.

The 1890-metre-high peak is surrounded by shola forests. Other types of rain forests occur at lower altitudes. The environs of Agastyakoodam are known for its endemic species including rare orchids. They are part of the Agasthakoodam Biosphere Reserve, which covers parts of Tamil Nadu also.

The ‘pilgrimage’ is based on the belief that sage Agastya offered penance here. Sivarathri is a special day for the ‘pilgrimage’. The influx of pilgrims on the Sivarathri day, especially from the Tamil Nadu, sides has often caused destruction of forests and even fire. So the Forest Department has imposed a ban on lighting of fires for cooking and other purposes. Use of liquor has also been prohibited as a precaution against vandalism.

Environmental activists are concerned that the ‘pilgrimage’ would go out of hand leading to damage to precious forests. Agastyakoodam is an environmental hotspot.

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