Role of Ahalya in Ramayana

This is an adjunct to Husband’s Goals….Wife’s Roles (Panchakanya-3)

H as Ahalya any role to play in Ramayana? This blogger said No. But if Valmiki chose to include it, there must be a good reason for it. We must try discovering that reason, by conjecture!

Briefly the story is as follows:

Ahalya was Sage Gautama’s wife. She was very beautiful. Even, Indra, ruler of the celestial kingdom, got enamoured by her looks. One day he visited her when the sage was away. But he masqueraded as Gautama because he had an evil design. Anyone would mistake him for the real Gautama. His impersonation was thorough. Yet, Ahalya could identify him despite his meticulous replication. But vanity seized her. ‘See, even Indra is making advances for amorous sport with me’, she said to herself. She was flattered. She succumbed to the temptation.

The real Gautama returned when Indra was leaving after perpetuating the sin. First, Gautama was perplexed by his looks. Indra rushed out without greetings. Gautama understood the entire occurrence. He cursed Ahalya… “For the sin you have committed, I forsake you. Live here, alone, formless. Rama will release you from the curse, one day. Then, you would have atoned for the sin and you will get back your form!”

Now, back to probable reasons for inclusion Ahalya narrative in Ramayana:

. We say ‘Patita Pavana’ (Sita Ram). There is no other sequence in Ramayana where a person who had fallen in moral standards was resurrected by the Lord. So to include this anecdote became essential.
. Yet another important reason could be…This incident contrasts juxtaposed to what Rama did to Sita!
1. For the high moral standards of Sita, there was a severe test, after Ravana was defeated. She had to undergo fire ‘test’ to establish her credentials on morality. For the pure lady, the test only glorified her greatness. For Ahalya there was no ‘test’. Mere mercy of the Lord would suffice for Gautama to accept her back. [No doctor prescribes same medicine for all patients.]
2. Sita was in enemy’s control. He too tempted her and made advances to her. But because of her character she did not yield to temptations. This cannot be said of Ahalya. So inclusion of the story enables a comparative study.
3. Exam is for those who wish to ‘pass’ the exam and not for those who do not aspire for success. By contrast it is being established that legislations and policing cannot be substitute for exemplary character which women must assiduously practice to protect themselves, at all times.

This write up is not an argument to prove any point. But, it is certainly enlivening to ruminate on these matters and that joy cannot be denied, when we read these epics.
Contributed by M K Subramanian


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Pi Laminar
    Sep 14, 2011 @ 22:55:40

    A scholastic analysis from an scholar but you perhaps miss the last verse here it is

    gautamo api mahaatejaa ahalyaa sahitaH sukhii |
    raamam sampuujya vidhivat tapaH tepe mahaatapaaH || 1-49-21

    Even that great-resplendent Gautama is heartened when he reunited with Ahalya after a long, long a time, and that sage customarily reverenced Rama for actualising his solemn utterance, and that great-ascetic Gautama continued his ascesis together with Ahalya. [1-49-21]

    Gautama didn’t forsake her forever but reunited with her . You can explain it better.


  2. vivek
    Nov 05, 2011 @ 08:10:24

    Agree with Pi Laminar. Beautiful and apposite quotation which I will steal for my own blog!
    There are some good books on this topic.


  3. Venki
    Jan 16, 2013 @ 16:05:45

    It is clear from Gautama’s curse itself that Ahalya is going to get cleansed with all her sins because of Sri Rama. So, Sri Rama had very little to judge or decide on what should be done to Ahalya as the script was already set by Gautama.


  4. Rashmi
    Oct 04, 2014 @ 14:37:30

    There was lots of difference between Ahalya story and Sita . Ahalya was married to a much older man and he was like his father figure . Brahma had given Ahalya to sage Gautam to bring her up . Just imagine the plight of a girl who is made to marry her own guardian father. Besides he was a sage and was not interested in her . No one ever asked her if she wanted to marry him . Her status in the same home changed from daughter to wife . So please lets not compare them .


    • mghariharan
      Oct 05, 2014 @ 19:02:07

      What you say must be authenticated. Else anybody can say anything and make a story of its own So quote from where you are making this up. Hinduism tolerates sex unlike Christianity and Islam. We dont have to be apologetic about it. Manusmriti sats ther is no sin in alcohol drinking, Sex or meat eating But keep it moderate.


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