Ahalya- 3 things that Redefine, why she can be a New Inspiration for Modern Indian Women?

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“She Believes she could and She did”

The Modern Indian Women- I believe this is high time, the role of Indian women shall be re-defined in society. It is time to restructure the preconceived notions of the role of Indian women in Society, in terms of duties, commitments and equality.

This write up is a continuation of my Sati Series. This series is written to re-evaluate the journey of the most controversial women of Indian mythology and what should modern Indian women learn from their stories, in order to improve their personality, character, and integrity.

Ahalya“The one thing with no Ugliness” .

picture credit- Ahalya by Raja Ravi Varma

She is the daughter of the creator of the mother earth, Brahma, and the wife of the sage Gautama. She is often regarded as the head of the Panchakanya.

Ahalya is often described to be created by the Brahma, as the most beautiful woman in the entire universe, but also sometimes as an earthy princess of the Lunar Dynasty.

To keep her safe, Bramha placed her in the care of Gautama, until she gained puberty. When sage Gautama returned her to Brahma, he was impressed with him and finally get her married to the elderly sage.

The Supreme Creator did not even find it necessary to ask her, whether she wanted a husband who had been a father figure to her?

But the twist in the story begins when the king of heaven, Indra, was infatuated with her beauty. One day Indra came in disguise as Rishi Gautama when the sage was away, and requests her for physical relationships.

Now the question is, did she know about the disguise or not!!!

In the Ramayana, Ahalya sees through his disguise but still complies out of “curiosity“. In later versions, Ahalya falls prey to Indra’s trickery and does not recognize him. In all narratives, Ahalya and Indra were cursed by Gautama.

Ahalya is cursed by her husband to become a stone for centuries and regains her human form after she is brushed by Rama’s foot.

Indra was cursed to be castrated or to be covered by a thousand vulvae that ultimately turn into a thousand eyes, on request of all the devatas.

picture credit- DeviantArt

But Ahalya is the one, who went through the most suffering. She went through severe penance while remaining invisible to the world. She is purified by Lord Rama like everything becomes pure by the touch of a divine soul.

The bottom line is- whether knowingly or unknowingly, did Ahalya deserve the punishment she got?

So if I have to decipher this story- Hindu mythology is somewhat patriarchal, is it because it is created by men. I am not questioning the caliber of these Maha Rishis, who gave us such knowledgeable Granthas but it always raises questions though- “why the woman always been blamed for everything

According to all the theories, there are three prospective to this incidence-

Brahma, Creating the most beautiful woman in the entire universe, yet get her married to a much older sage, who cannot take care of her needs. Was it justified?

Indra, who knowingly, being the God of heaven, tricked an innocent woman to fill his lust. Yet his punishment is not even remotely cruel compare to Ahalya’s.

Ahalya, if she did it unknowingly, then she is innocent she should not have been punished, if at all with such brutality.  In case she did it knowingly, have Sage Guatama gave it a thought, why his wife did so. Does he have a role to play in her adultery, by not giving the pleasure a wife wants from a husband?

It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have. James Baldwin

What is the moral of the story-

I am not a feminist, I am an equalist. I believe each individual has equal rights to live their lives and make their choices. There are things, which are morally wrong and should not be taken for granted.

What I learn from this mythological story-

Dig deep into the situation before forming any judgment. Punishing the weaker one is always easy but it’s not justice.

Justice cannot be for one side alone but must be for both. Eleanor Roosevelt

When I decided to write on this series- I had an idea in mind that, I will come up with the modern takeaway from these courageous women mentioned in Panchakanya to inspire today’s Indian women.

As I believe, Hindu mythology is created to help mankind, to guide us through dark periods of life, and take life’s decisions with its wisdom.

Before writing this, I had gone through many scriptures but still could not find the correct justification for this story.

I am leaving it to my readers with the following conclusions- take your pick-

Take 1– Ahalya becomes a stone for centuries until Lord Rama unleashes her from the curse.

This represents, the modern Indian women must be-

  • Strong like a rock in hard times
  • Shall never lose hope when things goes wrong
  • Must have faith in their integrity and ideologies

The truth will prevail for sure with or without Rama.

Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals. Martin Luther King Jr.

Take 2– Ahalya should have fought for the justice, instead of taking the punishment silently.

The thing is when you don’t raise your voice against the injustice that happened to you, people will start taking you for granted. So, it is very important to fight for justice, even if takes courage to fight against the most powerful and influential people.

There is a higher court than courts of justice and that is the court of conscience. It supersedes all other courts. Mahatma Gandhi

I would like to add a fresh take on this topic by Sujoy Ghose, I am delighted to praise this creation- This is a very creative way of representing this age-old story with a new prospective.

“Sooner or later in life, we will all take our turn being in the position
we once had someone else in.”

Another interesting take on this topic is Ahalya’s Awakening written by Kavita Kane– if you enjoy contemporary writing on mythological characters, you will definitely enjoy this book.

This book talks about Ahalya, not really as a culprit or a victim, but a woman who lost and found herself in the whole process. She gained her salvation all by herself, by realizing it’s not about the world but it’s about one’s own integrity.

This book gives a whole different perspective to Ahalya’s story.  The fact that women alone gets punished in any infidelity is pointed out very delicately. Whereas Indra getting his curse reduced with the intervention of Devas and Gods but no one supported the honest feelings of Ahalya or questioned the ignorant Gautham who is the reason for Ahalya’s act, despite her love and loyalty towards him.

AHALYA, By Koral Dasgupta- Another Novel on this topic is high spirited depiction of Ahalya as brave, fierce, strong headed yet desirable. We see another angle of Ahalya’s story. More than a woman who got cursed for her infidelity, this book willl make you see a wise, hardworking, determined young woman, who is unapologetic about her sensual desire. The clash of Ambition agaisnt Intigrity.

Qoute in this book says- “Go woman, find your world yourself. The joy you seek deserves to be discovered”

Though the story is known, the angle from which it is written is worth pondering.

I hope this write-up, enlightens my readers, please do give your feedback on it.

The Series will follow….

View Comments (4)

  • The narrative made by you really loosened the tight ropes of conservative fundamentalism. However, this level of understanding is not palatable to common people. Therefore we are bound by moral values and yes sanctity of relationship is to be maintained by both partner. I think I can't reach the conclusion immediately it may take some discussion.

  • Any revision to mythological story is a positive change in the progress of society. As mythology reflect and influence our culture and history. Nice work, keep it going