Karna , Vali and Ahalya are some of the favorite characters that many like to hold on to , in their mode of victimisation. These characters, serve as a proxy for many to live out their own victimhood and “Christ Complex ” in their personal lifes.
So the sorry tale of Ahalya.
The poor victim of sexual exploitation , that was destroyed further by her compassionless husband. That’s the story people stick to these days right ?
Though there are many variations of the tale , let’s refer to the original version, Valmiki Ramayana.
In the tale , Vishvamitra is bringing a young Lord Rama and Lakshmana through the jungles and they come across many sacred hermitages , finally reaching that which used to be that of the Maha Rishi Gautama.
Vishvamitra narrates that Gautama Rishi had wedded a wife known the world over for her beauty. Once when he had gone to the river for his spiritual practice, Indra , the King of the Devas , took his ( Gautamas ) form and entered the hermitage, desiring to mate with Ahalya.
Being a Rishipatni , Ahalya actually knew that it was Indra and not her husband, but she too was
1) interested in mating with the king of the gods
2) prideful in her own beauty , that even the King of the Devas would resort to deceit to mate with her.
As opposed to common misconceptions, it was her own desire and pride that made her do the deed with Indra. A rishi patni , who was supposed to be an example to other women , behaved worse than what is expected of even normal human couples.
Valmiki mentions , she felt fulfilled in her heart of hearts and then she said this to that best god Indra, ‘I am gratified in complying with your wish, oh, best of gods, get going oh, lord, from here quickly, oh, ruler of gods, always safeguard yourself and me from Sage Gautama..’
Another common misconception is that Indra did it purely out of desire. In Valmiki Ramayana, when Gautama curses Indra for this deed by having his male parts drop off his body ( in Vyasa Maha Bharata the curse is instead said to be having a 1000 female parts on him ) , Indra mentions to the other Devas that his task has been accomplished, and by making Gautama curse him , he had attained his objective of making the Rishi lose his hard earned Tapas Shakti.
So while Ahalya and Indra were both at fault , for Indra it was also with the objective of removing Gautama’s Tapobalam while for Ahalya it was one purely of her own desire and pride.
In fact as opposed to the popular narrative that she is turned to stone , in the original Valmiki Ramayana, Gautama actually makes her invisible to all beings of the 3 worlds , until Rama Avatar.
He says to her , only after she receives Shri Rama , will she be cleanses of her Paapa and she will then be able to join him ( Gautama ) again.
Pretty compassionate of Rishi Gautama If you ask me.