If Lord Indra is a "womaniser" as described as in the Puranic Literature, can anyone tell as to how many women fall prey to him?

Only Ahalya's story occurs to me. So we have to closely examine the only story available about Lord Indra's adultery.

The story of Ahalya and Indra was mentioned first in Srimad Ramayana. Sage Vishvamitra narrates the legend of Ahalya to Rama and Lakshmana.

Indra is infatuated with Ahalya and desires a union with her, for which she complies. However, Gautama catching them unawares curses both Indra and Ahalya.

With that curse, the testicles of the cursed Thousand-eyed Indra fell down onto ground at that very moment. And, Devatas replaced ram's testes to Indra, and from then onwards Indra has became one with the testes of a goat.

Vishvamitra while continuing the narration of the legend of Ahalya asks Rama to enter her hermitage where Ahalya is living unseen by anybody.

When once Rama steps into that hermitage she manifests herself from her accursed invisible state. She emerges with her divine form and accords guest-ship to Rama and Lakshmana. Sage Gautama also arrives at this juncture to accept his depurated wife Ahalya.

पुष्प वृष्टिः महती आसीत् देव दुंदुभि निस्वनैः |
गन्धर्व अप्सरसाम् च एव महान् आसीत् समुत्सवः || १-४९-१९

"There chanced an abundant floral fall form firmament to the drumbeats of god's drums, and the celestials like gandharva-s, apsara-s revelled in a splendid festivity that is superb. "

We will come across the story of Ahalya in Puranas also, but with some variations.

Now, let us examine the above story.

  1. If the "womaniser" Indra regained his virility after attached with the testes of a goat, why did not he try to woo another woman? Was he really a "womaniser". A Big NO!

  2. It was described in Bala Kanda that after Ahalya manifested herself with the entrance of Sri Rama, abundant flora fall on them and drumbeats of god's drums could be heard. What was achieved by Sri Rama at that juncture? Nothing.

  3. Was similar fall of abundant flora and occurrence of drumbeats of god's drums happened when Sri Rama eliminated Subaahu and threw Maaricha in the Ocean, in Siddhasrama? The description in Bala Kanda at that time was as follows:

    स हत्वा राक्षसान् सर्वान् यज्ञ घ्नान् रघुनंदनः |
    ऋषिभिः पूजितः तत्र यथा इन्द्रो विजये पुरा || १-३०-२४

    When Rama, the delight of Raghu's dynasty, has eliminated all of the demons that are the hinderers of Vedic rituals, the sages available there in that hermitage idealised him as Indra was idealised once, when he became victorious on demons.

  4. This is the style of Sage Valmiki. He described that the ascetics in Siddhasrama appeciated him and regarded him as INDRA.

  5. The description of fall of abundant flora and occurrence of drumbeats of gods' drums, in this type of occasions can be seen in Puranas only.

  6. So the conclusion is that the story of Ahalya and Indra in Bala Kanda is a PRAKSHIPTA, an insertion made at a later date, to degrade the fame and greatness of Lord Indra.

Am I correct?

  • Can you explain how to do it? Oct 15 '15 at 16:22
  • Can I edit the already posted question now in the manner you indicated? Oct 15 '15 at 16:39
  • 1
    @srimannarayana k v - How can you compare the the Vishnu - Tulasi incident to Indra- Ahalya. Even an insane man, will know. Indra always wanted to posses ahalya. In case of Vishnu - Thulasi, there is no such perverse intentions. It was to eliminate Jalandhara/ Shankhachuda, otherwise shiva was losing the battle and also Jalandhara had gone to the extent of parvati out of lust. So, such a demon has to eliminated...You are trying to compare oranges with apples.
    – user808
    Oct 20 '15 at 15:55
  • 1
    @Krishna: Did I mention about any of the Acharyas you are referring to? Why do drag them in to this discussion? I offered my opinion here, and if you do not like it, you can downvote it or leave it. Why are getting exited so much? Oct 20 '15 at 21:42
  • 1
    @srimannarayanakv The opening chapter of the Mahabharata says that the Jaya is 8800 verses, and it says that based on those 8800 verses Vyasa composed the 100,000 verses of the Mahabharata. It doesn't say that the Mahabharata only consists of 8800 verses. Oct 21 '15 at 15:35

The story of Ahalya is authentic. Here's what this chapter of the Shatapatha Brahmana of the Yajur Veda says:

  1. Thereupon he recites the Subrahmanyâ litany. Even as one would say to those for whom he intends to prepare a meal, 'On such and such a day I will prepare a meal for you;' so does he thereby announce the sacrifice to the gods. 'Subrahmanyôm! Subrahmanyôm! Subrahmanyôm!' thus he calls, for the Brahman indeed moves the gods onward. Thrice he says it, because the sacrifice is threefold.

  2. 'Come, O Indra!' Indra is the deity of the sacrifice: therefore he says, 'Come, O Indra!' 'Come, O lord of the bay steeds! Ram of Medhâtithi! Wife of Vrishanasva! Bestriding buffalo! Lover of Ahalyâ!' Thereby he wishes him joy in those affairs of his.

  3. 'O Kausika, Brahman, thou who callest thee Gautama.' Just so has this (formula) been devised in these days by Âruni, to wit, 'thou who callest thee Gautama:' he may say it, if he choose, and if he does not choose, he need not attend to it. 'In so and so many days, to the Soma-feast,' (stating) in how many days from hence the pressing is to be.

The Brahmanas of the Vedas were passed down in the most rigorous fashion, so the chance of an interpolation in the Shatapatha Brahmana is vanishingly small. In any case, "thou who callest thee Gautama" is an allusion to the fact that Indra took the form of Ahalya's husband Gautama. This isn't the only Vedic allusion to the story of Ahalya; the Sadvimsha Brahmana and several Shrauta Sutras also describe it.

By the way, this is by no means Indra's only dalliance; there's plenty of examples in the Vedas. The term "Wife of Vrishanasva" in that verse is an allusion to the fact that he once disguised himself as the wife of Vrishanasva in order to have an affair with Vrishanasva's daughter. And he once took over the mind of sage Devasharma's wife Ruchi in order to have an affair with her, although he was thwarted by the sage Vipula. And the Rig Veda describes how he had an affair with the sister of the demon Vyamsa, as I discuss in my question and answer here.

  • 5
    @Aby The Jaiminiya Brahmana of the Samaveda says that Indra is called Kaushika because he once drove away the Vedas and had to relearn them from Vishwamitra. Sayana's commentary on the Rig Veda says that he's called Kaushika because Vishwamitra's father Gadhi was an incarnation of Indra. Subrahmanya is just the name of the hymn in the Shatapatha Brahmana of the Yajur Veda. It's not referring to Kartikeya who is sometimes called Subrahmanya. Oct 15 '15 at 17:56
  • 5
    @Aby The story of Janamejaya you're referring to is described in this chapter of the Harivamsa of the Mahabharata: mahabharata-resources.org/harivamsa/bhavishyaparva/… In this case, he didn't actually have an affair with Janamejaya's wife - he had an affair with the Apsara Rambha and he made her look like Janamejaya's wife. It was all a ploy to disrupt Janamejaya's Ashwamedha Yagna, which would have allowed Janamejaya to become the new Indra. Oct 15 '15 at 21:02
  • 7
    @srimannarayanakv First of all, he was not simply removed for the killing of Vritrasura, that was like the straw that broke the camel's back - here is the full list of sins for which the gods decided to remove him, given in the Aitareya Brahmana of the Rig Veda: "He hath misused Vishvarupa, Tvastri's son, he hath laid low Vritra, he hath given the Yatis to the hyaenas, he hath killed the Arurmaghas, he hath contended with Brhaspati." In any case, Indra isn't removed for every single offense. He's only removed in the rare case that he commits so many sins that he's no longer fit to rule. Oct 16 '15 at 1:29
  • 4
    @srimannarayanakv If you want a deeper reason why Indra has remained unscathed despite all his actions, Indra addresses this in Kaush. Upanishad: "I slew the three-headed son of Tvashtri; I delivered the Arunmukhas, the devotees, to the wolves; breaking many treaties, I killed the people of Prahlâda in heaven, the people of Puloma in the sky, the people of Kâlakañga on earth. And not one hair of me was harmed there. And he who knows me thus, by no deed of his is his life harmed, not by the murder of his mother, not by the murder of his father, not by theft, not by the killing of a Brahman." Oct 16 '15 at 1:37
  • 5
    @srimannarayanakv The quotes from the Aitareya Brahmana of the Rig Veda and the Kaushitaki Upanishad of the Rig Veda are taken from my answer here: hinduism.stackexchange.com/q/7645/36 What Indra is saying is that reason he's remained unscathed despite his actions is because of the power of Brahman, and that he who realizes Brahman will similarly be able to escape the consequences of his own sinful actions. Another story that illustrates that Indra is successful because of the power of Brahman is the story of the Yaksha given in the Kena Upanishad of the Sama Veda. Oct 16 '15 at 1:55

The following text was from a Vedic scholar's ( Sri Kiron Krishnan) notes on this subject.

A simple search on the origin of this cruel myth shall put light on one of the many Hindu attempts to blaspheme God and Vedas, for the superiority of their gods and incarnate bands. The mention is made first in Yajur Veda Maitrayani, Kathaka Samhitas, in a litany, commented on by Shatapatha Brahmana, Taittiriya Brahmana, Jaimineeya Brahmana. Let us look more into the actual sources rather than unreliable Ramayana or other epics or puranas.

Ahalya - what does it mean?

hala means a plough, and halya means an arable land or a ploughed land. a-halya, hence means the "unfertile land" or "unploughable land". Ahalya, the barren land, is said to be daughter of "Mitra", the bright solar rays. (In the Brahmanas)

Indra - the lover of Ahalya

Indra is said as "lover of Ahalya" in the Subrahmanya formula in Yajur Veda.

Yes, the Lord who brings rain, floods the plains and fights vRtRa, the drought, is poetically mentioned as the lover of unfertile land, for he is the husband of unfertile land by making it fertile through rains.

Indra is Kaushika, Indra is Gautama

Kaushika means related to kushika, the ploughshare. It is also the name of the agricultural Aryan tribe "Kaushikas".

The Subrahmanya formula, the first mention of Ahalya tells :

"Subrahmanya! Subrahmanya! Subrahmanya!

Indra, thou Lord of bay steeds (hari) , the Power (mESa) of Medhatithi, the thought that is drawn by stallions (vRSaNashvasya mene), The Great coagulater (gaurava skandin)

Lover of Ahalya ( ahalyAyai jAra) O Kaushika! O Brahmana! (kaushika brAhmaNa) who is Himself also called Gautama (Gautama bruvANa iti)

Kaushika - what does it mean

Kaushika is the derivation, vRddhi from Kushika, the "ploughshare" or "plough". The formula metaphorically equates the ploughshare that makes a land ploughable, with Indra who is the actual cultivator. Thus, the Kaushika metaphor stands for the actual "ploughshare" Indra, whose rain really makes ahalya fertile.


Brahmana means "Great", derived from brh - to grow, might, praise. Indra, following the several metaphors with great attributes, is affirmed great here.

Indra who himself is Gautama

Gautama means related to gotama, rich in kine - the solar rays. As Gautama, Indra protects her lover and makes her fertile, by allowing adequate sunshine. But He is also the Kaushika, the plougher, for He makes ahalya land fertile through rains.

Note that the words Kaushika and Gautama also stand for clans within Brahmins. This is the subject in Shadvimsa Brahmana and Jaiminiya Brahmana, where myth is commented on the Subrahmanya Litany.

During Asura - Deva war, Indra is made to redeem Vedas from Kaushika Viswamitra, whereby Indra becomes Kaushika. Thus He is the Kaushika Brahmin. (Shadvimsa Brahmana) Also, Indra takes his avatar as Gautama, whereby He calls Himself Gautama, in spite of being a Kaushika. (Jaiminiya Brahmana)

Thus, in Vedas, there are no myths regarding Ahalya, for Ahalya is the unfertile land.

  • IN the very 1st line I had mentioned that the answer is from that of a vedic scholar. Please check. I am in touch with him. Do you want me to provide a link to that answer?@sv. Jul 29 '19 at 22:57
  • 1
    Sure. I will try to do it, ;if the other site allows that.@sv. Jul 29 '19 at 23:41
  • 1
    Nice answer! Now we should try to understand it in more cosmic way.. In Vedas Bhumi/Prithivi tatwa refers to molecules all over the universe.. barren land might mean unusable molecules.. (or molecules of some stuck state).. and then electric force (Indra) comes in... and finally it is protected by light (Gautama).. so it could have some cosmic meanings... it also could be refering to some phenomena...or we need to find it...😀
    – Tezz
    Jul 30 '19 at 0:52

I wouldn't call the Indra-Ahalyā affair as narrated in Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa an interpolation but that it's a later development.

Renate Söhnen-Thieme in her paper Ahalyā Story through the Ages nicely summarizes how the story took different shapes starting from the Brāhmaṇa period to the epics and Purāṇas:

I shall now sum up the elements which eventually led to the development of the Ahalyā narrative.

  • In the subrahmaṇya formula, Ahalyā appears as Indra's beloved, but without any husband;

  • in the explanation provided by the Ṣaḍviṃśabrāhmaṇa, Indra assumes the shape of the brahmin Kauśika when he visits Ahalyā (it is not said that Kauśika was her husband, but this may be suspected);

  • and in the Mahābhārata, she appears as Gautama's wife. But there is no mention of her being guilty of betraying her husband, nor of any punishment she has to suffer,

  • before the detailed versions of the Rāmāyaṇa where, in the version found in book 1, her punishment is closely connected with the motif of purification through Rāma. This motif with its religious implications can then be traced in all later versions or adaptations of the Rāma story: for example, in Kālidāsa's Raghuvamśa (11.33-4), in the relevant sections of the Purāṇas, in the Adhyātmarāmāyaṇa (1.5), and of course in the Rāmcaritamānas of Tulsīdās (1.242-3).

She also provides details on how the Indra-Ahalyā stories in the Brāhmaṇa texts differ from those found in Rāmāyaṇa and Mahābhārata. In particular, that there is no direct evidence in the Brāhmaṇas to say that Ahalyā was already married to Gautama or Kauśika when Indra paid her a visit.

The Brāhmaṇa sources also provide some explanation, in particular those belonging to the Sāmaveda tradition. Interestingly, the latter differ from each other, but the explanations of the Jaiminīyabrāhmaṇa tend to agree with those of the Śatapathabrāhmaṇa of the White Yajurveda. Only the last three invocations are relevant for the discussion of the Mahābhārata quotation above. The first of these names Indra as "Ahalyā's lover." The Jaiminīyabrāhmaṇa and the Ṣaḍviṃśabrāhmaṇa are in this case unanimous in declaring that. He was the lover of Ahalyā Maitreyī (ahalyāyai ha maitreyyai jāra āsa). In his commentary on the Ṣaḍviṃśabrāhmaṇa, Sāyaṇa explains that 'Maitreyī' is 'the daughter of Mitrā (f.)' No husband is mentioned in any explanation given in the Brāhmaṇas.

As for the Śatapathabrāhmaṇa, after this invocation, there is simply a statement summarizing the preceding invocations (and thus separating them from the following ones):

With these, which are his special adventures, he (= the priest) wishes to please him at this (occasion of the sacrifice).

Of the remaining two invocations, the first (kauśika brāhmaṇa) is explained in the Jaiminīyabrāhmaṇa with the following story:

At the battle with the Asuras he destroyed the Vedas; he learned them from Viśvāmitra, that is why he called himself Kauśika.

The Ṣaḍviṃśabrāhmaṇa suggests another explanation:

As a brahmin of the Kuśika family he used to go to her (kauśiko ha smaināṃ brāhmaṇa upanyeti).

This might be exactly what is needed to explain the allusion in the Mahābhārata (book 12), in which Indra is cursed to lose his testicles not by Gautama but by Kauśika. Such a curse is, however, not mentioned at all in any of the Brāhmaṇa explanations, since there was obviously no husband to curse him.

The last invocation (gautama bruvāṇa), which would fit our story best, seems to be an optional addition invented, according to the Śatapathabrāhmaṇa, by the celebrated Āruṇi. The Jaiminīyabrāhmaṇa, however, rejects the wording and corrects it to kauśika bruvāṇa, which it does not explain separately.

The Ṣaḍviṃśabrāhmaṇa tells a different story, in order to explain gautama bruvāṇa:

In the battle between gods and asuras, Indra asked Gotama, who was practising austerities between the two battle lines, to be a spy for the gods. When the ascetic refused, Indra obtained permission to assume the shape of the ascetic in order to be a spy himself. That is why he called himself Gautama.

Thus it is fairly obvious that in the Brāhmaṇas the explanations are by no means unanimous and that there is not yet any connection made between Ahalyā and Gautama.

In the Mahābhārata, there seems to be a kind of bifurcation: although Gautama is named as Ahalyā's husband, it is Kauśika's curse that leads to Indra's characteristic punishment.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .