Gauthama is one of the greatest among Saptarshis. During one of the kalspas of Caturmukha Brahma, fourteen Manus ruledover this world. Swayambhu was the first. During this long period there were fourteen Indras in Swarga. The wor Indrarefers to a position and not a name.
At the present moment the fourteenth Manu by name Vaisvaswatha is ruling over the World holding sway over Heaven. In everyManvantra the administrative structure and rules change. In the same way the sages who occupy the position of Saptarshisalso change. In the present Vaivaswatha Manvantra, the seven holy men who occupy the position of saptarishis are Visvamitra,Jamadagni, Bharadwaja, Gauthama, Atri, vaishta and Kashyapa.
These seven great men are not bound by the limits of time and space. They live for lakhs of human years and acquireextraordinary superhuman powers and perform deeds which normal human beings can never dream of performing. They had to face trials and tribulations and ups and downs in life and finally acquire Brahma Jnana and brahma sakshtkara. Doing their long life they did housands of good deeds and helped millions of people to uplift themselves. In the same way they would get caughtin the web of life and make mistakes which ordinary men do. And all these appeared very normal. As it was natural for themto give, it was also ordinary knowledge that they had the power to bless or to confer favours. At times like ordinarymortals they would become slaves to emotions such as anger and desire and lose their extraordinary powers gained by thousands of years of penance. They would bless and at the same time they could heap terrible curses on others.Now let us try to study the history of Gauthama, one of the Saptharshis. Both the Ramayana and Mahabharatha have referencesto sage Gauthama in both. Thretha and Dwapara Yugas and he lived during these two yugas. One of the five greatest amongwomen(Panchakanyas) modesty incarnate Ahalye was his wife. She was a devoted and virtutous wife, very faithful to her husband.As a result of a dirty trick played on her by Devendra, the Lord of the devas, she was forced to sacrifise her faithfulness to herhusband. Gauthama was very angry and he cursed Devendra, who committed that disgusting deed of forcing a faithful wife to goastray from the righteous path. He also cursed Ahalye, the wrong-doer and as a result she turned into stone and had to remain so, for thousand of years.
As a result of uttering terrible curses on two persons at the same time, sage Gauthama lost the extraordinary power hehad acquired as a result of long years of penance. In order to get that power back he left his beautiful ashram near the cityof Mithila and went to the attractive snowcovered Himalayas. He chose a secluded place on the slope there and sat performingtapas.
A thousand years later, great sage viswamithra decided to perfomr a ten day long yaga and he was on his way to his ashram along with Rama and lakshamana, sons of Dashratha, the Emperor of Ayodhaya. He brought the two princes to help him to completethe Yaga by protecting from hr marauding rakshas who had made it their routine to disturb the yagas performed by sages. At firstDasharatha was not ready to send the fourteen year old princess to the forest to fight the terrible demons, But on the adviceof his royal preceptor Vasishta(another among the Saptarishis), the emperor finally agreed to send them with Viswamitra. Ontheir way to Mithila, they had to traverse through the deserted but supremely attractive ashrama of Gauthama. Sri Rama was interested in seeing the place. He desired to learn how such a beautiful place came to be abandoned by its possessor. Visvamithra began, 'Hantate Kathayishyami shrnu tatvena Raghava' and continued. He gave a graphic account of the surroundingof the ashram which was, a thousand years earlier, an exquistely attractive and holy place and Gauthama lived there as its master. "Dear Rama, this ashrama was in no way inferior to an ashrama in Devaloka, and it belongs to sage Gauthama. Heperformed penance for a number of years in the company of his wife Ahalya whose beauty was unmatched by any apsara. He wasan extraordinary sage. He became great as a result of the power of his tapas. A holy stream by name Ahalyahrada, was flowingnear his ashrama. Every morning he would have a holy bath and would come back to the ashrama chanting the name of God. At that momenthe would look as bright as Yajneswara(God of Fire) himself. He would have the holy ash applied over his forehead, arms andchest, a garland of cystal and rudrakshi and he looked like Lord Shiva himself. This great sage, in a fit of anger cursedIndra who was clad in the dress of Gauthama and sinned against Ahalya. By doing so he lost the great strength which he hadacquired after hundereds of years of penance".
Devendra was subjected to untold suffering as a result of the curse. He told Agni and other devas that he put himself to greattrouble by trying to destroy Gauthama's great powers and strength which he had earned by long years of penance. The devasbelieved him and with the help of pithr devas, they helped him to get out the trouble.In the same way sage Visvamithra helped Ahalya to get relieved of the curse. He told Sri Ramachandra who was an incarnationof MahaVishnu, "Please enter this ancient but deserted ashrama of Sage Gauthama and save the heavenly Ahalya."As instructed by the sage, Sri Ramachandra entered the dilapidated hermitage. No sooner did he step in, than the entire placeunderwent a great change. The trees and creepers got a new lease of life. The entire atmosphere turned holy and pleasant. Thewhole atmosphere put on a holy exterior. The touch of Sri Rama's feet made the entire ashrama holy and pleasant. Ahalyawho had disappeared and could not be seen in the three worlds as a result of sage Gauthama's terrible curse, was releasedfrom the effect of the curse and she appeared before Sri Rama as bright as the morning star. A thousand years of penancehad made her look holier.
As soon as Sri Rama and Lakshamana saw her bright and holy figure, they went near her and touched her feet and sought herblessings. Ahalya remembered her great husband's words spoken a thousand years earlier and welcomed the three guests atthe ashrama with all customary rituals such as arghya and padya and so on. Sri Ramachandra received the hospitality extentedto him with reverence. The devas rained flowers from heaven. Heavenly music was heard. Gandarvas, the divine musicians, sage and apsaras, the divine dancers, were seen celebrating the event.