Spirituality and Mythology

The story of Ahalya and Indra: Was it really adultery?

Married off to an ascetic old man, Ahalya ‘sinned’ with Indra in disguise; was that a sin or was it but natural?

Once when Rishi Gautam leaves for his morning ablutions, Indra comes in his guise and has sex with Ahalya. On his way out, he meets the sage who had sensed something was amiss and returned early. He curses Indra to have 1000 marks of what he covets the most on his body, and as the woman who couldn’t distinguish the touch of her husband was no better than a stone, curses Ahalya to turn into a stone herself. The gods intervened and the 1000 marks are converted into eyes, sahasra-aksha, and Ahalya would be redeemed when Vishnu visited her as Lord Rama. Ahalya is never asked to give her side of the story, nor does she make any effort to explain. She maintains a stony silence.

Ahalya is created by Lord Brahma out of water as the most beautiful woman in order to break the pride of Urvashi, the foremost celestial nymph. Then Brahma places her in the care of Rishi Gautam until she reaches puberty. When the sage returns Ahalya, Brahma, impressed by the sage’s sexual restraint and asceticism, bestows her upon the sage himself. Lord Indra, believing that all beautiful things on earth are meant for him, resents Ahalya’s marriage to the forest-dwelling ascetic.

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