Story of Ahalya
Ahalya was the wife of Sage Gautam. Of the five glorious women who are regarded as worthy of being remembered every morning, the name of Ahalya comes first. The other four jewels of women are Sita, Draupadi, Tara and Mandodari.
Brahma caused the origin of a beautiful baby girl who was called ‘Ahalya’ for being free of ‘Hala’ (sin). Brahma kept this girl with Sage Gautam as a caretaker. After some time, when Ahalya grew to be a beautiful young woman, Gautam went to Brahma to return her to him. Brahma, pleased with the sense of pious duty and self-control on part of Gautam, got Ahalya married with him. They had a son named Shatanand, who became the royal priest of King Janak.
One episode that is famous is as follows. Indra, the king of gods, in cooperation with the Moon god, assumed the form of Sage Gautam and committed a sin with Ahalya. Ahalya, though she was devoted to her husband, could not recognize Indra. On learning about this incident, Gautam became incensed with anger and cursed Indra to beceome ‘Sahasrabhang’ and Ahalya to turn into a stone. Later, becoming pleased with Ahalya’s entreaty, he said to Ahalya that she would resume her original human form when, in the Treta-Yug, Sri Ram would touch her with his feet. Due to the curse, Ahalya continued lying in the form of a stone. When the time came, Shree Ram, traveling to Janakpuri with his guru Sage Vishwamitra, emancipated Ahalya, bringing her to resume human form.
The reason for Indra’s transgression was the fear the gods had of Sage Gautam and his severe austerities, which made him capable of setting the whole earth ablaze. The gods wanted to disrupt Gautam’s tapasya (austerities), which was possible only by raising fumes of rage in his mind. To disrupt Sage Gautam’s tapasya and to set his mind on extreme rage, Indra committed this sin under permission from the Devatas. The enraged sage uttered the curse, and this damaged the effect of his penance and austerities.
Devoted to her husband, always absorbed in serving him, Ahalya became a stone due to her husband’s curse; and Sri Ram himself brought her back to human life. Ahalya is most certainly one of the greatest women of Bharat (India).