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