One of the stories that I heard since childhood and never understood properly is the story of Ahalya, the wife of a sage, who was cursed to be a stone for what seemed to be no fault of hers.
It was recently that I heard a proper narrative and interpretation
The story is that the king of the celestial beings, Indra approached Ahalya, the wife of the Sage Gautama, taking the form of Gautama. Thinking it was her husband, they had a physical relationship. On returning, without ascertaining the truth, Gautama cursed her to become a stone. Angered Ahalya said, “Even though you are a sage, you seem to be a fool. Without enquiring into the truth, you have cursed me and have not even stated when I shall be free from the curse”. A little ashamed, Gautama told her that she would be released from the curse at the time of Rama avatar when the dust from Rama’s feet fell on her. Immediately after this, Ahalya became a stone.
Gautama left that place and tried to get into his daily rituals but he could not, for he had no peace of mind. He tried his level best but could not control his mind and became more and more troubled.
He therefore decided to seek the help of Iswara (God), by seeing his “Nataraja Dance”, in order to get some relief for his troubled mind. He went to a place far from his home and lived under a tree. After a lot of prayer, Iswara was pleased and gave him the glimpse of his “Nataraja Dance”. After seeing the dance of Iswara, Gautama worshipped Iswara, and did get some relief for his troubled mind.
Later on Ahalya became purified by the dust of the feet of Sri Rama and regained her normal form.
Like all stories, the names, dates and actual facts are not as important as the metaphor. The statement that Ahalya turned into a stone applies only to her mind and not to her body. It means that the mind lost its awareness of the Self, and unable to think of anything at a higher level, she became dull like a stone. That dullness got relieved by the thought and focus on the divine, which in this story is Lord Rama. The inner meaning is that the moment Rama entered mind of Ahalya, it was restored to its original state, like the blossoming of a flower. Similarly, her husband too got relief by the glimpse of God Ishwara, who showed him, through his dance that life itself is a dance of emotions, that he had not mastered.
Let us seek to understand stories with their inner meaning.