Friday, March 26, 2021

Ahalya in Ramayana

 Ahalya in Ramayana 

Rama was fifteen years old when Rajarshi Vishwamitra came to Ayodhya to take him away for the protection of his Yagya from two Rakshashas, Marich and Subahu who were acting upon the orders from Ravana. King Dasharatha knew the strength of Rakshasas, and therefore denied the request of the Rishi initially considering Rama’s teenage. Rishi Vishvamitra became angry. However, Brahamarshi Vashishtha thereafter explained Dasharatha that Rama was safe in the hands of Vishvamitra, he agreed to send his two sons Rama with Lakshmana with Vishvamitra. 

They traveled towards Anga, crossing Ganga. On the way, Rama killed Tadka, Vishvamitra blessed Rama with many divine weapons, Rama killed Subahu and other Rakshasas and threw Maricha hundred yojan away into the sea with the force of his arrows and protected the Yagya of Rishi Vishvamitra. It was Rama’s first encounter with Maricha.

After crossing Shonbhadra and Ganga rivers, they went to Mithila via Vishala to see the Bow of Lord Shiva which was in the custody of King Janaka. They reached to an Ashram located in the park area of Mithila. On inquiry of the abandoned Ashrama by Rama, Rishi Vishvamitra told him the story. 

It was Rishi Gautama’s Ashram who was doing Tapasya with his wife Ahalya. One day, when Rishi Gautama was away, Indra taking form of Gautama (मुनिवेषधारो भूत्वा) came to the ashram met Ahalya and demanded sex with her (ऋतुकालं प्रतीक्षन्ते नार्थिन: सुसमाहिते। संगमं त्वहमिच्छामि त्वया सह सुमध्यमे।). Ahalya knew that he was Devraj Indra but wicked she accepted his proposal of sex out of curiosity. (मुनिवेषं सहस्त्राक्षं विज्ञाय रघुनन्दन। मतिं चकार दुर्मेधा देवराजकुतूहलात्।). After the act of her satisfaction, she thanked him and advised Indra to leave fast before the arrival of Gautama. (अथाब्रवीत् सुरश्रेष्ठं कृतार्थेनान्तरात्मना। कृतार्थास्मि सुरश्रेष्ठ गच्छ शीघ्रमित: प्रभो।) Indra giggled at her and satisfied he too told her that he is leaving (इन्द्रस्तु प्रहसन् वाक्यमहल्यामिदमब्रवीत्। सुश्रोणि परितुष्टोडस्मि गमिष्यामि यथागतम्।). But in fear of Rishi Gautama’s arrival, he tried to escape faster and was caught in the eyes of Gautama. The Rishi saw him and realised what Indra did with his wife taking his form. He cursed and made him impotent. He further cursed Ahalya to undergo severe penance of invisibility and to live on air, without food for one thousand years (वातभक्षा निराहारा तप्यन्ती भस्मशायिनी; अद्रृश्या सर्वभूतानामाश्रमेडस्मिन् वसिष्यसि।). She would return to normalcy and life of purity when Rama comes and accepts her hospitality (...रामो दशरथात्मज... तस्यातिथ्येन दुर्वृते....)*.  Gautama thereafter left the ashram and did Tapasya in Himalaya. 

Indra thereafter urged all Devas, Siddhas, Gandharvas and Charanas to help him in freeing from the curse of impotency. The Devganas requested the Pitri Devas to transfer two testicles of Ram (sheep) to Indra (अयं मेष: सवृषण: शक्रो ह्यवृषण: कृत:; मेषस्य वृषणौ गृह्य शक्रायाशु प्रयत्छत). The Ram without testicles thereafter become the fruit for the Pitri Devas. The Pitri Devas accepted the prayer and transplanted two testicles of Ram to Indra in place of his thousand dropped by the curse and limited his sexual power.**

After telling the story, Rishi Vishvamitra lead Rama and Lakshmana to the Ashrama where Ahalya was shining with her divine tapas beauty. She was invisible to the world but after the Darshana of Rama she was freed from the curse. Rama and Lakshmana touched her feet with respect and accepted her hospitality as guests. Devas made divine sound and the event was celebrated by Gandharvas and Apsaras. Rishi Gautama felt very happy receiving his wife celestial Ahalya. Both resumed their Tapasya together again. 

Adultery was a serious crime in ancient India. 


27 November 2020

1. Srimadvalmiki Ramayana, Valkanda, Verse 48. 

* Ahalya was cursed to become stone regains her human form after she is brushed by Rama’s foot, was later alteration in popular version. 

** Annual sacrifice of Ram or He Goat was/is a common practice in some families in Bihar, Bengal and other parts of the country.


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