English Commentaries

Gautama’s Curse 1.48.17-30

Ahalya realized that it was Indra who came in the guise of Gautama. The dull-headed Ahalya made up her mind to enjoy his company. Indra knew that by bringing impediments to Gautama’s penance as he desired, he may face the curse. The curse that Ahalya shall turn into a stone is not uncommon because such curses of turning one into stones until the end of the kalpa are well-known in the puranas. Some believe this is a contradiction. How can one turn into a stone and yet live on air’. But the sense is, Ahalya remained invisible in the real form but she was visible in the form of stone. Therefore, there was no disappearance of conscience. There can be feelings of hunger and thirst and, therefore, living on air was possible. However, she remained without food and was tormented on account of her misdeeds. There is no contradiction because she was not reduced to ashes. The curse of Gautama to Indra is characteristic of the venerable sage. The commentator refers to Padmapurana in this context. Ahalya will be redeemed from the curse when Rama comes to this region and touches her with his feet. She will be purified and as a result of her purity seen by the sages.
Why did Indra, the upholder of dharma, engage himself in this sinful act? He did this mission of the gods, otherwise Gautama would have taken away all the places of gods by means of his severe penance. Gautama rejected Ahalya. This was also the purpose of the gods. When Gautama curses her, his power of penance would be taken away. Had he not cursed, there would have been no loss of penance. In fact, Indra’s mission was to arouse anger in Gautama, which would destroy his penance.
Though Kataka believes that 1.49.31 and 32 are spurious slokas the commentator holds that half of 1.48.32 is original commencing with evamuktam.
The next question is, whether Rama will enter the hermitage of Ahalya like the one he entered when he encountered Tataka. This might be his thinking. So Viswamitra uses the word, ‘devarupinim’ or divine form while referring to Ahalya. Now that the period of the curse is over, she will be restored to divine form by the touch of his feet. At the time of entering the hermitage, the sin of adultery was removed by the touch of Rama’s feet. Released from the curse, Ahalya who was invisible to the gods and demons appeared in divine form before Rama. And Rama saw her exactly in the same radiant form as Viswamitra described her. At the time of her transformation she was visible only to Rama, Lakshmana and Viswamitra, but she could not be visualized clearly because her husband who would redeem her from the curse was not there. She was looking like fire covered by smoke. Why? Because the curse was, she would not be visible to the three worlds. But with the expiry of the periods she became clearly visible to every one. The commentator quotes Padmapurana in this context. He also disagrees with Kataka. Gautama had said, ‘By the worship of Rama who arrives at my hermitage, you will have my relation again’. As she abandoned her stony form she knew that it was Rama. She fell at his feet. Some observe that Ahalya held the feet of Rama and Lakshmana. This is not correct because she addresses Rama in singular. It was Rama who was primarily a guest of honour and being released of her sins, she worshipped him. Ahalya had become purified by austerities and consequently had the fortune of the touch of Rama’s feet and became devoted to Gautama for life. Gautama knew the arrival of Rama by means of his yogic power and with the same power he arrived at the hermitage at the same time.