On the way, as they were about to reach the bank of the Ganges, they could observe a beautiful, serene ashram that seemed to be deserted by inhabitants. The ashram looked so tranquil with rare species of flowers and fruits seen nowhere else.
Unable to contain curiosity, the boys asked:
“Pious Master, whose ashram is this? It looks deserted. Why is that so?”
Vishvamitra then unveiled the story of Ahalya.
Ahalya was the most beautiful lady of Brahma’s creations. Na + halya = Ahalya. One without a spot of blemish. So perfect. So immaculate. This rare specimen among faultless ladies was given in wedding to saint Gautama and they lived a happy and peaceful life in their ashram. Gautama was very happy with Ahalya because of her virtues, chastity and devotion.
Indra, the King of gods also had a soft corner towards Ahalya. One day as Gautama went for morning ablutions, Indra took the guise of Gautama and approached Ahalya.
When Gautama reached the Ganges he knew that it is not yet time to do his morning rituals. He returned. When he reached his hermitage Gautama saw a strange incident. There was somebody in his duplicate self with his wife!
“Who are you wretch? Tell me the truth. I shall curse you to powder.”
The trembled Indra said:
“O saint, have mercy on me. Due to my foolishness all these infamy happened. Please pardon me.”
“May you turn to be Sahasrabhaga (one with a thousand penises all over) and undergo the fitting punishment for your sins. ”
Then he turned to his wife.
“What a pity!” he lamented. “How could you, a noble birth, think of such heinous crime? You should turn into a rock and live here alone and abandoned suffering from the heat, cold, rain and dust.”
Thus cursing his wife Gautama turned to move out. Ahalya fell on his feet and craved for mercy, for; the mistake was not knowingly committed and that she was tricked into perfidy.
“But my curse must take effect. You lay here in the form of a rock and chant relentlessly the divine name of Sri Ram. In the Trethayuga, Sri Ram will come this way and he will liberate you. When the dust of his feet smears on you, all your sins will be nullified and you can rejoin me.”
Thus saying Gautama vanished.
“Rama…” ordered Vishvamitra. Bless her. All these years she has been contemplating on you and has been chanting your mantra without fail. All her sins have been washed-off. Liberate her.”
Sri Ram, with love, affection, sympathy and respect approached the meditating lady. He lifted his right hand and placed it on the centre of her head and said:
Ramo Aham, I am Ram.
The moment Sri Ram touched Ahalya, she came back into being. She praised Sri Ram, saluted him, washed his feet with tears of repentance, kissed his feet again and again and bid adieu.
Causing all these incidents Vishvamitra was placing Sri Ram to realise his own worth, his self awareness, an ideal teacher’s first duty towards his pupil.
By killing Tadaka, by finishing Subahu off, by making Maricha run in panic to protect himself, by giving liberation to Ahalya, Sri Ram was taught. KK Shanmukhan (To be concluded)