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Ahalya’s tale: A case of Agony and Atonement

When the supreme creator Lord Brahma created the most beautiful lady ever Ahalya, he never had an inkling of how arduous a task it would be to find a suitable groom for such a pretty lady. After much thought and sincere search, he finally decided to get her married to Sage Goutam. Sage Goutam was a wise man no doubt; but age was not on his side then. He was an old man, so was never an ideal match for the damsel in Ahalya, for whom the whole male lot of the universe was ready to do the impossible if they could win her hand.

Ahalya too was unhappy with that decision of Lord Brahma; but she didn’t have a way to oppose her creator’s wish. She took that as her destiny and agreed for the marriage.

But Lord Indra was so blind in love for Ahalya that despite her marriage to Sage Goutam, he kept his desire of winning Ahalya alive. He kept an eye on both Ahalya and her husband’s daily activities. He sensed he was quite close to his goal when he got to know that Sage Goutam used to walk far from his ashram early in the morning to take bath in the river and meditates there for quite some time after the bath. Lord Indra shamelessly approached Lord Chandra to do him a favour by misleading Sage Goutam about his early morning schedule. Lord Chandra was hesitant initially, but later gave in to Lord Indra’s request and made a rooster’s crowing sound hours before it was dawn, hearing which Sage Goutam started for his bath.

Little later, Lord Indra came inside the ashram in the guise of Sage Goutam and approached Ahalya for making love. That was quite an unusual thing for Ahalya, so she had strong doubts in her mind. She meditated, and divinely created as she was, she could know about Lord Indra’s identity. But her physical desire to make love with a debonair male like Lord Indra overpowered her conscience. She gave in to Indra’s wishes, and immediately after the immoral act, she felt ashamed and pleaded before Indra to desert the place. As luck would have it, Sage Goutam reached the ashram at that moment, and by his supreme intelligence, could make out the whole incident.

A wise man’s fury is a dangerous thing to deal with. In the height of his anger, he cursed all involved in the incident. He cursed Lord Chandra to have black marks on his body (which we can see even now, the black mark visible on moon). He wished Lord Indra to have his body full of thousands of vaginas and become impotent. He wanted Ahalya to be converted to a mere stone idol, and she hung her head in shame for the wrong deed and owned the curse. But little later, the husband in Sage Goutam realized the pain that a young lady like her had gone through by agreeing to marry her, and so asked her to wait for the divine touch of Lord Bishnu in the avatar of Lord Rama to get rid of the curse.

Lord Indra felt so much ashamed of his physical change that he hid himself in deep forest. As a result of his prolonged absence, there was chaos in heaven. Knowing this, Lord Brahma asked Lord Indra to seek the blessings of Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva, being happy with Lord Indra’s thousand years of meditation, converted the thousand vaginas into thousand eyes and returned him his potency.

Ahalya kept lying like a neglected stone until Lord Rama’s arrival. Lord Rama along with Rishi Biswamitra and younger brother Lakshmana was going to Mithila when he kept his feet on the stone idol of Ahalya. That touch gave back Ahalya her original beauty and then she sought the blessings of Lord Rama to join her husband Lord Goutam in the Himalayas.

Lessons learnt:

  • Own your mistakes, and do what you can, to atone for the wrong you have done.
  • Practice forgiveness. It might not change the past, but it does change the future.