The wife of the RISHI Gautama, Ahalya was seduced by INDRA while her husband was taking his morn-ing bath. Indra took the form of her husband, and though Ahalya knew that Indra was not her husband, she consented to his advances. When the rishi was returning to the hut Indra took the form of a cat and escaped. The rishi, however, knew through his supranormal powers what had occurred. He cursed his wife, turning her to stone, and put a curse on Indra as well.
   In some versions of the Ahalya story Indra is cursed with the testicles of a ram; in other ver-sions he is cursed with 1,000 vaginas. In the later tale, Indra beseeched the gods to relieve the curse and the vaginas were transformed into 1,000 eyes. This colorful story explains how Indra acquired the epithet “thousand-eyed one.”
   In the RAMAYANA, RAMA comes upon the stone form of a woman, who, with the touch of his foot, becomes alive again. She is Ahalya. This well-known myth has generated many books and novels in contemporary Indian languages.
   Further reading: Wendy Doniger, Splitting the Differ-ence: Gender and Myth in Ancient Greece and India (Chi-cago: University of Chicago Press, 1999); Stephanie W. Jamison, Sacrificed Wife/Sacrificer’s Wife: Women, Ritual, and Hospitality in Ancient India (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996); C. Rajagopalachari, Ramayana (Bombay: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1962).

Encyclopedia of Hinduism. . 2007.

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