Ahalya

This week, take a peek into Hindy mythology, while I connect it to feminism.

Human beings turning into stone?

Well, folklore says that Ahalya, a beautiful woman did, aeons ago. She was the wife of a sage, Gautam Rishi. God Indra was captivated by her beauty, and went to meet her in the disguise of her husband, Gautam Rishi. The husband returned home to see his wife with someone else, and immediately, turned her into stone, with his supernatural powers.

As most of the curses in Indian mythology go, there was a reversal rider attached. She would come back to her original form, if another God (Ram, the reincarnation of Lord Vishnu) touched her. The logic has always baffled me. It is a classic depiction of male hegemony. Ironically, the man who rescues her, ends up being unfair to his wife, in the same epic story of Ramayana. The seducer, Indra, escapes unscathed.

AHALYA, a short film by Sujoy Ghosh

In 2015, came a short film by Sujoy Ghosh, a work of fiction in a contemporary setting, with the characters bearing the names Gautam, Ahalya and Indra. Here, the storyteller turns the male characters (Indra and others), who seduce Ahalya, into stone. It was an attempt to provide justice to Ahalya’s  maligned character.

THE LIBERATION OF SITA

In 2016, a feminist book by Volga, “The Liberation of Sita” revisited the tale. Here, Ahalya says that her husband had no right to do whatever he did, even if the adultery episode had been her choice, not a trickery by Indra.

Her message to the young Sita is

“Never agree to a trial, and do not bow down to authority.”

The Liberation of Sita – a book review

The story has been evolving as per changing perspectives and cultural shifts. I would love to see the husband, Gautam Rishi, in remorse or sentenced to suffering of some kind. Did he know the magnitude of his crime? Did he realize that his wife was not an inanimate piece of property, but a living being with an independent will?

BOY TURNING INTO STONE

This is a news article from UK, of February, 2017. A child is reported to be ‘turning into stone’, due to an unidentified, rare disease.

Boy turning into stone

It leads me to think. Did the disease exist way back then, and could it be induced by evil powers? Was the horror akin to chemical warfare, or destruction by nuclear radiation? Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Union Carbide tragedy in Bhopal, India all loom into imagination. Will there be legends built around the horror stories?

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