So I’m in the middle of R.K. Narayan’s condensed version of the Ramayana — one of the great Indian epics — and I have to re-print the amazing story of Ahalya, Gautama and Indra. It’s too amazing.
Now Ahalya was gorgeous. Like, insanely gorgeous.
Brahma had created her from the ingredients of beauty, itself. Of course this led to problems.
Even after Lord Brahma had married her to the pure-of-heart Sage Gautama, the King of the Gods Indra kept stalking her.
Indra… often came in different guises near to Gautama’s ashram, waiting for every chance to gaze and feast on Ahalya’s form and figure; he also watched the habits of the sage and noticed that the sage left his ashram at the dawn of each day and was away for a couple of hours at the river for his bath and prayers. Unable to bear the pangs of love any more, Indra decided to attain the woman of his heart by subterfuge.
One day, hardly able to wait for the sage to leave at his usual hour, Indra assumed the voice of a rooster, and woke up the sage, who, thinking that the morning had come, left for the river. Now Indra assumed the sage’s form, entered the hut, and made love to Ahalya. She surrendered herself, but at some stage realized that the man enjoying her was an imposter; but she could do nothing about it.
Gautama came back at this moment, having intuitively felt that something was wrong, and surprised the couple in bed. Ahalya stood aside filled with shame and remorse; Indra assumed the form of a cat (the most facile animal form for sneaking in or out) and tried to slip away. The sage looked from the cat to the woman and was not to be deceived. He arrested the cat where he was with these words:
“Cat, I know you; your obsession with the female is your undoing. May your body be covered with a thousand female marks, so that in all the worlds, people may understand what really goes on in your mind all the time.” Hardly had these words left his lips when every inch of Indra’s body displayed the female organ.
The King of the Hindu gods, covered in a thousand vaginas!?! REALLY??? You have got to be kidding me.
Indra’s predicament became a joke in all the worlds at first, but later proved noticeably tragic. He stayed in darkness and seclusion and could never appear before men or women. This caused much concern to all the gods, as his multifarious duties in various worlds remained suspended, and they went in a body to Brahma and requested him to intercede with Gautama. By this time, the sage’s resentment had vanished. And he said in response to Brahma’s appeal, “May the thousand additions to Indra’s features become eyes.”
And that’s how Indra became known as “the thousand-eyed god.”
Narayan, R. The Ramayana: A Shortened Modern Prose Version of the Indian Epic (Penguin Classics) (p. 20). Penguin Group.