Gautama Rishi has been considered as one of the jewels among the saints of the Vedic period. A devout follower of Lord Shiva, he lived life practising severe austerities. Prominent amongst the saints for his knowledge, he was also known as “Akshapad”, one who believes in justice. He was extremely powerful due to extensive penance and never swayed from his code of righteousness in spite of having a beautiful wife like Ahalya.
When Indra sought union with Ahalya, she was flattered. On learning that the king of gods, who had the most gorgeous women in his court, was lusting for her, it filled her with pride. This pride eventually led to her fall. Even though Ahalya was a righteous woman, it was the momentary weakness of vanity, rather than lust, which caused the sage to curse her. Unless one guards oneself from the pride that comes with name and fame, the supreme is a distant dream, a nonexistent reality.
It was Lord Ram who released Ahalya from her stone-like existence. On meeting Sri Ram, she remembered the prophecy of the sage and served Sri Ram and Lakshman. Gautama Rishi also returned to his hermitage, having learnt about the arrival of Lord Ram and gladly accepting Ahalya, who is now purified by Sri Ram. The ascetic prince received the highest honour at the hands of the eminent sage, who was overjoyed in the reunion with his wife.
Just as a judge should not refrain from punishing his guilty son, Gautama Rishi also has to be just and punish his wife. Justice is dispensed based on the deed, and Ahalya has to pay the price for the sin that she has committed. But the compassionate sage leads her to Lord Ram and shows her the path of virtue that will purify her. When she repents for her mistake, he accepts her with love, holding nothing back. Love pushes one to correct the beloved when they falter, and help them evolve. This same love makes us accept our beloved when they emerge as a beautiful flower, pure and chaste.