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Expiation of sin

CHENNAI: Desire takes root in the mind and seeks fulfilment even at the cost of the ethical code. Similarly, one's ego can assume a puffed up enormity leading very easily to downfall. There is a price attached to every transgression and this is applicable to not only mortals but also to the celestials or the realised souls. The Ahalya episode exemplifies the extent of damage that desire (on Indra's part) and ego/pride (of Ahalya) wrought upon them, said Srimati Jaya Srinivasan in a lecture.

Sage Vishwamitra goes back in time to relate the painful incident in Ahalya's life to Lord Rama and Lakshmana when, on their way to Mithila, they reached a beautiful hermitage that permeated with an air of sanctity but was uninhabited. This hermitage had belonged to sage Gautama who had lived there with his wife Ahalya.

Ahalya was created by Brahma as a woman of flawless beauty and though many wished to win her hand, Gautama, one of the revered Seven Sages was chosen to be her husband. Among the many disappointed admirers of Ahalya was Indra, whose longing for her almost became an obsession. He hence waited for an opportune moment to ravish her.

While Ahalya and Gautama remained devoted to each other, Indra was unable to contain his desire for her. One night, he simulated the approach of dawn by imitating the cock's crow to lure Gautama to the Ganga for his morning ablutions. He then took Ahalya in the guise of Gautama. Ahalya was initially surprised at the quick return of her husband but was sharp enough to recognise Indra's disguise. Yet she acquiesced in to his desire. In fact, being conscious of her beauty, she was proud to have been desired by Indra himself.

An enraged Gautama, who divined this unacceptable deed, cursed both Indra and Ahalya. Indra lost his manliness while Ahalya was cursed to remain invisible in the hermitage along with the dust without food for thousands of years until such time when the curse would be lifted with Rama's arrival there. She would then honour Lord Rama as a guest and then regain her pristine purity and be reunited with Sage Gautama.

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