Ahalya (Sanskrit: अहल्या Ahalyā, Tamil: Akalikai, Thai: Kala Acana, Malay: Dewi Indera) was the wife of Gautama Maharishi. The word Ahalya means without any deformation. Her story is mentioned in the Hindu epic Ramayana. After she is seduced by Indra through trickery (by appearing in the form of her husband), Gautama cursed her to suffer tapas (austere penance); some versions of the story say she was made invisible or was turned to stone (Refer Tulasi Das version below). She was liberated by Rama.
Creation and marriage
Brahma created Ahalya as the most beautiful woman. All the Devas wanted to marry her. Brahma decided that whoever could go around the three worlds first could marry Ahalya. Indra used all his magical powers to go around the three worlds, finally reaching Brahma to take the hand of Ahalya.
However Narada mentioned to Brahma that Gautama had in fact gone around the three worlds even before Indra. Narada explained that as part of the daily puja, Gautama went around the cow at his hermitage. On one of the days when he went around doing his puja, the cow gave birth to a calf. As per the Vedas, the cow at the time of bearing a calf is equal to three worlds, hence Ahalya must be given to Gautama and not Indra.
Curse and liberation
Rama and Lakshmana first came across the hermitage of Ahalya on their way to Mithilapuri with Sage Vishwamitra. They inquired about the hermitage to the Sage who told them about Ahalya's story. He states that Indra tricked Ahalya into sleeping with him, but was caught by Gautama. What happened after this varies in different version of Ramayana.
Gautama cursed Indra to have marks of the female sexual organ (vulva) all over body. Indra did severe penance toward Shiva. Shiva gave him the boon to convert that mark of female organ to that of eye. From that day Indra is called sahasraksha, one with thousand eyes. Gautama turned towards Ahalya and cursed her to become a stone. After this Gautama left the hermitage.
Later after several years, Rama and Lakshmana while going to Mithilapuri with Sage Vishwamitra saw this hermitage. They enquired about the hermitage to the Sage who told them about Ahalya.
Rama and Lakshmana entered the hermitage and saw the stone in the mud. Rama touched the stone with his foot. The stone changed into the beautiful Ahalya who had become pure and understood her sins, and Rama blessed Ahalya.
- Valmiki Ramayan by Swami Jagadishwaranand Saraswati published by Vijayakumar Govindram and Sons publications.
- "Ahalya" The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. John Bowker (Ed.) Oxford University Press, 2000.
- Dictionary of Hindu Lore and Legend (ISBN 0-500-51088-1) by Anna Dhallapiccola
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