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The general outline of the story as popularly known is as follows: Ahalya, a great beauty, is the wife of the sage Gautama, living with him in their ashram in the forest. Indra, lord of the heavens, however, is determined to have her. One day, when Gautama is away, the god takes his form, misleading Ahalya who welcomes his embrace. But the trick is caught—Gautama curses both Indra and his wife. The latter turns into stone, waiting for the day Rama, the hero of the Ramayana, to lift the curse. In this painting, he accidentally brushed the stone, thereby purifying her and restoring her to human form. Rama is not visible in the painting, but the blue light that falls upon Ahalya symbolizes his presence. Ahalya in this account is a pious, devout wife, who has been tricked by Indra, and cursed by her husband for no fault of her own. She is a forthright, confident, strong woman, who has a past but who does not carry it with shame or as a burden. She was brought into existence by Brahma, the creator, himself, and was not born of mortal parents: that incandescence and personality come across in her gaze and posture. To some, she is tarnished, to others a layered complicated being but of one thing we can be sure: when Ahalya, branded a rule-breaker, returned, she was as beautiful, splendid, and as full of force as before. Her inner worth was unaffected, and as the story goes, even the gods showered flowers upon her from the heavens.

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