Folktales and Mythology Stories

Deliverance – The Story of Ahalya

ahalya indian mythology ravi varma
Written by Arunima

The Story of Ahalya is always told from two perspectives – that of the victim Ahalya – and that from the perspective of Lord Rama in Ramayana. The second version is often easily adapted for a younger audience. Here is the true story of Ahalya, suitable for a grown-up audience.

“Ahalya was Brahma, the Creator’s prized creation. She was the most beautiful female he ever created, into whose creation he poured all his creativity, and he gave her the name Ahalya, meaning “the one with no ugliness” in Sanskrit.
Knowing that Indra would invariably covet her, Brahma sent Ahalya to live in the hermitage of Sage Gautama until she reached puberty. When she grows up, Gautama returns her to Brahma. Pleased with the sage’s asceticism, Brahma bestows Ahalya upon him as his wife.

Indra is enamored by Ahalya and is thus jilted when she is married to Gautama. He plans his union with her. One day when Gautama is away, he enters the hermitage disguised as Gautama and requests intercourse with her. The sage returns in the meantime, catching the disguised Indra and Ahalya making love. Outraged, he curses Indra to be covered in a thousand female genitals and Ahalya to be turned to stone. Ahalya begs for his forgiveness. Moved, he grants her a boon that she would be released from her stone form when the sacred feet of the son of Ayodhya (Lord Rama) touch her. He reduces Indra’s curse as well, reducing the genitals to a thousand eyes.

Centuries later, Lord Rama, on his way to Mithila for Sita’s swayamvar passes through the hermitage, the dust from his feet touches the stone that is Ahalya. The curse is broken and Ahalya returns to her human form. Lord Rama touches her feet, proclaiming her innocence. Gautama is moved when he hears Lord Rama’s proclamation and takes her back as his wife. Ahalya is thus delivered at the hands of Lord Rama.”

The story of Ahalya has been considered to reek of patriarchy by many. Victim blaming is a norm even today. While Ahalya may or may not have been the victim here (some versions of the story convey that she was aware of Indra’s disguise and decided to ignore it to satisfy her “curiosity”), the fact that Indra was equally to blame is often skimmed over. And it is Ahalya who ends up waiting centuries for her salvation.

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