Ramayan Ahalya Udhdhar : Explanation of Ahilya’s story in the light of symbolism behind it
I heard some people cursing Ramayana on the story of ahilya that why Indra did adultery with her then why only she was cursed by her husband Gautama saint but no body knows that ramayan is a great scripture of wisdom and spiritualism which need deep study to understand.
I read a very learned explanation of the same episode, piling off layers of symbolisms behind this mythological story. As we know, Hinduism is one of the world’s oldest religions and it has seen many cycles. With time, much of knowledge was lost, especially at the times of dominance over Bharat Varsha by foreign invaders and foreign faiths. Today many Hindus feel we are on the path of Hindu renaissance. I feel all our religious concepts along with mythological stories need a review. We have only to gain and nothing to lose by being critics and analysing concepts deeper, even at times challenging them.
Here is the explanation of Ahilya’s story in the light of symbolism behind it.
After Ram-Lakshman killed all the demons and successfully protected the Yagna, they got the news about Sita-Swayamvar. Vishwamitra tells Ram that there is a very age old holy Shiv Dhanush at Mithila. They should go there to have darshan of that. They will also take part in Sita-Swayamvara. During the journey, they found Gautam Ashram which was completely deserted. Vishwamitra tells them about story of Gautam muni and Ahalya. As the story says, Indra disguised as Gautam and did adultery with her. Gautam cursed both Indra and Ahalya. Some reference says he cursed her to do Tapas to remove materialistic desires. Some says she was made into a stone. Vishwamitra tells this story and told them that she is waiting for someone. When Ram asked waiting for whose coming? Vishwamitra replied: “One who can uplift the fallen. All know how to judge, blame and punish someone but the redeemer of sin who raises the fallen is rare indeed. Touch of such a great soul’s feet redeem all sins”. Then Ram touched the stone with his feet and Ahalya got freed.
One may think that Ahalya did not know that it was not Gautam and she should not be blamed for that. However, Gautam muni understood it. Why he cursed Ahalya was because they were living an austere life there. Getting materialistic desires is considered as a setback in their spiritual sadhana. He asked Ahalya to do austere penance in rectitude so that she can come out of her desires. The symbolic meaning of this tale is quite deep.
Indra having adultery with her should not be taken in literal sense. Indra represents our five Indriya and Mind. Here adultery means mind and Indriya took control of Ahalya. When instead of your consciousness your mind runs you, materialistic desires can haunt you anytime. Once our spiritual power becomes weak, any novice sadhak feels the attraction of materialistic pleasures to be greater that spiritual joy. Sadhak gets carried away with it and it requires more sadhana to come back to same stage. Thus, Gautma muni advised her to do more sadhana and went for hermitage.
The symbolic story that she became a stone says that she took all the Indriyas inside her such that she became as inert as a stone. A materialistic mind always reacts. A stable mind watches. A Sthit-pragya Sadhak has all its Indriyas in control of oneself. One can then see how mind plays all the tricks in making you believe all that it wants. Ahalya was doing this sadhana for quite a long time. When Ram comes to meet her, she met them and realized that her penance is completed. She might have had some satsang with Vishwamitra and Ram-Lakshman. Ram was embodiment of love and wisdom. By the touch of him, Ahalya realized that she has become pure now. She then left to meet Gautam Muni.
Who is Indra?
Many of us don’t even know that Indra is a position and it doesn’t refer to a permanent god. Indra is the god of war and weather, and also the King of the gods or Devas. Indra’s position is temporary, based on his conduct, karma and punya. One Indra leaves and another replaces him, and there have been many Indras. It is a perfect system: if another devta does greater tapas than the reigning Indra, he would occupy his position. And if Indra corrupts himself by doing wrong things, he would certainly come down from his position.
Where else would you find such a beautiful system: even devtas not being spared of wrongdoings? If we humans do good, we can become a devta, and if a devta does maintain himself, he can become the Indra. No one is “100% perfect” and whenever Indra proves him unworthy of his position, he is brought down and another Indra takes over. And not to forget that Indra is also subject to the curses of Rishis.