Ahalya, With a Twist


V0045105 Ahalya leaning on tree. Chromolithograph by R. Varma.

Chromolithograph by R. Varma. Credit: Wellcome Library, London.

Indian mythology and the two epics The Ramayana and The Mahabharata, are full of stories about Hindu Gods, demi-Gods, Sages, kings and their prurient nature. While we worship many of them, I really wonder whether such behaviour would be ever tolerated if done by mere mortal beings even in modern times. They had a penchant for eloping someone else’s wife, abducting beautiful princesses and even they got engaged in incest relationships. The stories have striking similarities with Greek mythology in many cases.

However, one thing was similar to today’s world; that is, even then, most of the times, women were considered guilty while men were more into hedonistic pleasures and used the ladies to fulfil their carnal desires.

The stories, some say, are symbolic and allegorical and have much more in them spiritually than we understand at the first glance.

Still, I feel for those women of ancient times who tried to live life in their own ways and had to pay dearly for that.

Almost all of us are familiar with the story of Ahalya, Rishi Gautama and Indra. It’s, perhaps, one of the most famous (or, infamous) stories of Hindu mythology. One of the ‘panchakanyas‘, Ahalya, was an independent woman. While most of the versions say that she was raped by the King of the Gods, Devaraj Indra, it is also said, that she herself indeed desired Indra. And, what’s wrong in that? If men can have the desire and can shamelessly exhibit that, why the same is termed as adultery for women? Norms of patriarchal society, eh?

Here, I’ve depicted her story in my own way in the form of a poem.

in case, you are not well aware of the story or want to know more, you can follow the links given below.

Ahalya and Indra

Ahalya’s Story

images

She stood there, bodacious beauty,
Looked thin; more attractive (bound by duty).
Her husband, the sagacious sage
Loved her, but she was reared in a cage.
She wished to get touched by a real man
Of strength and valour, of the godly clan.

And, He was the King, the Almighty
Worshipped by humans, angels and deity.
He knew her darkest wish, the lady with grace
He dreamt of her, in his embrace.
But the Maharishi, the great sage
He couldn’t afford to burn in his rage.

So, one day, in the disguise of the sage
He, the Indra, the king of Gods, appeared onstage.
She stood there. Her mind, masked by desire
“Husband?” enquired Ahalya, “answer my prayer”!
They drank the elixir of love, to the lees
Together they felt, prurient bliss.

Gautama, the Maharishi, his wrath knew no bounds
Ahalya brought his reputation to grounds.
He Cursed his lady and didn’t spare the Lord
A thousand vagina he got, later, a thousand-eyed God
Ahalya, the invisible, had a miserable life.
Her independent attitude was the root of her strife.

The patriarchs of the society are still the same
Woman, you don’t dare to desire! It’s a shame!

 

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29 responses to “Ahalya, With a Twist

  1. Isn’t desire supposed to be a natural instinct to both men and women likely? If not desire exist at all, reproducing (a basic task to all animals) would meet an end? So why is it that we are so paranoid about expressing something that should rather be celebrated!!
    Your work in a mythological story is just commendable not just for your supremacy over words but for having the courage to actually write it.
    Just beautiful😊

    Like

  2. Women forevermore will be judged by their bodies more than anything else. How sad that it seems to be the norm even by today’s standards. I look at the misogynist in the White House, and I pity our country which has been misguided by a fool.

    Your potent poetry has stirred emotions within me, Mani. Very well stated.

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  3. Fascinating piece. Sadly the subjugation of women seems to have been around in many societies and not that much has changed overall. Until it does, many societies will continue to struggle.

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  4. PS.. now for some reason I get the whole of your post and you explained it already.. Yet when I first logged into the reader, I read only from the title of your poem.. 🙂 ..

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  5. Very well written poem!
    I can write at length about what you have highlighted but to be precise I would drop a quote: “Until Lions write their own history, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.”
    To be honest, when I stumbled upon the title of this blogpost, I honestly expected you to mention “your own” SUJOY GHOSH and his Bengali short film. Because he had already made a short film on this very subject and you both are on the same page…Like your poem, his modern take on Ahalya went viral when it was released triggering a debate on the issues you had mentioned….
    Please check it out..Its an all Bengali affair!!

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  6. Wow! Maniparna! I was speechless for a little bit after this read. Whatever I write in this little comment box is only a microscopic evidence of the praise and respect I have for you and your work. You’ve recognized the unfairness that travels silently amid every aspect and articles like these are much needed and resonant in this era too!

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  7. unfair is the word but apparently bestie women in those days were brought up to “please” men and take care of their homes. And why just India the more I read about other cultures, many are not different than India. Its a shame and God knows when we will be free of it. Your poem will be an eye opener for western world and a strong acknowledgement for us Indians.

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  8. You are a consummate genius di,Taking the Mythological plot and even when i knew this tale,despite of that your creativity lies in making these completely your craft,the last stanza is a bitter, ensanguined truth of the frivolous society, how we have stepped our foot outside this globe to another planet,but our orthodox mentality that teaches to behave a women in a certain way really forces us to question,we are ‘modern’,but some of the person’s brains are still manufacturing the medieval opinions.

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  9. This is the second reference I have read of Ahalya in the last week and I have to tell you, her story moves me! And instead of learning from it, as a society we have tried to impose the same boundaries on women. It is frustrating to see that the so-called Gods we worship, often end up setting horrible examples.

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  10. The Ahalya story finds a fetchingly poetic depiction here, Mani, almost as alluring as Raja Ravi Varma’s visualisation of her, adorningly heading your artistry and vice versa. Kudos…

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  11. Unfortunately, the patriarch system doesn’t want a woman to be herself in stoking desires within which they call as Sin. Draupadi fascinates me for secretly loving Krsna and Karna. One can always interpret the myth tales and one story that I have always wanted to reinterpret as a blog story is Ramayana with Sita and Ravan as siblings. Why not introducing another strong character, may be a beggar whose face sparkle as Sita’s lover. Guess, people will rip me apart for that in working on a duel between Ram and this new character.

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  12. Hello Mani,

    Nice. Well-done. I love reading such articles. Maybe because my generation grew up listening to such stories. 🙂

    Have a great week ahead!

    Like

  13. Superb! I loved the way you have given a new life to this mythological story Mani…so close to real life. What impressed me most is your language and the consistent rhyming scheme. Outstanding is a very small word to use for such a work. 🙂
    BTW, do you ever check your twitter account? Please do as I sent you a direct message.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Amazing Maniparna, I have always wanted to interpret Ahalya in modern terms and you did that brilliantly…I often relate Ahalya to Kunti, both of had relation with Gods which became a curse for them throughout their lives.

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  15. Mani, such a wonderful correlation of characters, the analogy between the imaginary characters of our mythological stories and the real characters of modern world…with all your mighty imaginative power and the choice of words the poem is magical in its manifestation. It touches and convey the message you wanted to reach us…

    The character off Ahalya so intriguing and the story is profoundly relevant even today where the man gets the preferential treatment and perhaps it has borrowed that man’s outlook towards woman from the mythological stories where kings and man in power attempts to depict their domination and demonstrate their physical superiority…why not woman can enjoy the fantasy and the hedonistic pleasures without inflicting pain on others and without breaking the broader norms of life and living, this should be given equal treatment at the disposal of man and woman, the desire of man and woman dichotomy is conspicuous in its presence.

    I love the way you have composed your thoughts in the poem through wonderful combination of words…”bodacious beauty”, “sagacious sage”, “elixir of love”, “prurient bliss”, and “dare to desire”…encompasses such beautiful spectrum of human emotions, feelings, reactions and response to the constant dialogue between evolving human relationships and primarily so the way man and woman behave and build their bondage and with age the fight for domination and distortion hasn’t changed in a significant way, we are still searching for the way out and means to get the outlook of man on woman corrected. Social justice and gender equality continues to elude us and we need to strive for balancing that imbalance that is inflicting our society for ages and we can only learn from the mythology how was life and how has life changed after years of human evolution…
    😀

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  16. Such a beautiful story and awesome narration by you Mani.

    We were the Gautama…. Ahaliya and Indra the same in the different forms.

    We do have similar desires. Moral and immoral had been living together since the nature exists.

    If you want to see society free from immorals. There is only one way remove the moral else both will survive.

    Opposite of every thing is mandatory that who whole is built.

    One who see pleasure and aversions as a two different sides of coin is wise.

    It’s human mind that divides every into 2 as opposites. The more you try to be moral opposite force will become equally prevalent.

    More you bring things under the law of society human mind will become more curious to experience the taste of it.

    You have escalated everything so beautifully. I never new Ahilya story but I am curious to read it some time from now.

    Thanks for sharing.

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  17. Beautifully written! Though I consider the curse of Ahalya a blessing in disguise as she was liberated from the curse by Lord Rama himself.

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  18. I totally loved the post!! Bold and clear 🙂 Feminism still needs to be carried on… even though women have got equal political rights, they need to be given that equal right to respect too! Social equality still needs to set in… hoping for the best 🙂

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  19. Maniparna! What a powerful composition. Loved it!
    Since centuries woman has always been subjugated by men and society. Today though we find woman more empowered, we still have a long way to go before all of our clan feel the same.

    Like

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