Somdev Bhatt 11th Century. Original in Sanskrit.
English Translation: C. A. KINCAID, c. v. o. Indian Civil Serice  1921
"Vikram Aur Betaal" is a series of enchanting tales derived from the 11th-century work 'Betaal Pachisi' by Kashmiri poet Somdev Bhatt. The narrative follows the wise and adventurous King Vikramaditya of Ujjain. When a mendicant consistently gifts him fruits containing rubies, the king's curiosity is piqued. Meeting the mendicant under specific, eerie conditions, Vikramaditya learns of a task only he can perform: to retrieve a corpse, Betaal, from an ancient tree for the mendicant's mystical rituals.

As King Vikramaditya carries the corpse, Betaal's spirit tells him tales, concluding each with a riddle. If Vikramaditya knows the answer but stays silent, his head will shatter. But answering breaks his vow, and Betaal returns to the tree, making the king restart his mission. After 25 stories, Betaal reveals the mendicant's ulterior motive: to gain unparalleled powers by sacrificing the king. Forewarned by Betaal, Vikramaditya confronts the mendicant and, through his wit, triumphs over the deceitful ascetic.

00VikramBetaalIntroduction 01VajramukutAndPadmavati
02MadhumalotiAndHerSuitors 03KingRupsenAndVirvar
04The MainaAndTheParrot 05MahadeviAndTheGiant
06ParvatiAndTheWashermansBride 07PrincessTribhuvanasundari
08KingGunadipAndViramdeva 09SomadattaAndMadansena
10KingGunashekhar 11KingAndSeamaiden
12PrincessLavanyaAndThe Gandharva 13ShobhaniAndTheRobber
14PrincessChandraprabha 15KingJimutketuAndPrinceJimutvahan
16TheKingAndUnmadini 17GunakarAndTheAnchorite
In Varanashi* city there once upon a time lived a king by name Pratapmukut. His son was called Vajramukut and his queen Mahadevi.
One day the prince taking the first minister's son with him went a-hunting. After a time, they found themselves in a dense forest. Suddenly they saw in front of them a wonderful lake. On its shores wild geese and duck and cranes and other kinds of water-fowls sported gaily. Lotuses bloomed on its waters and on all sides grew leafy trees. In their dense shade flew soft, cool and scented breezes. In their branches sang singing birds. Here and there bloomed bright flowers among which could be heard the droning of humming bees.
Both the prince and his companion were weary. So tying their horses to the branch of a tree they quenched their thirst and bathed their hands and feet in the lake. Then they went and worshipped at a shrine to Shiva which stood close by.
Now just about this time there came with her train to the opposite shore of the lake a princess. She bathed and after bathing, she also worshipped at the temple to Shiva. Next, she began to walk in the shade of the trees. It so chanced that the prince left his companion sitting under a tree and also began to walk in the shade of the forest.
* The old name for Benares."
14 Tales of King Vikrama
Suddenly he and the princess met and saw each other. When the prince's eyes rested on her, her beauty overcame him. "O cursed Love god!" he cried, "why have you come to torment me?" The princess said nothing but she took a lotus flower from her hair, placed it behind her ear, broke the stem with her teeth and touched her foot with it. Lastly, she thrust it into her bosom. Then entering her palanquin, she and her servants left the spot. The prince in despair at her departure went to the minister's son and told him, with downcast look, what had happened. "O my friend," Vajra­ mukut continued, "I have just seen a lovely maiden. But I know neither her name nor her dwelling place. Yet I am resolved that unless I who her as my bride, I shall take my life."
The minister's son did his best to soothe the prince and in the e1i.d induced him to mourit his horse and return home. Yet Vajramukutremained so affected by the sight of the fair princess, that he could neither- read, write, eat, drink, nor attend to state business.. He could only picture to himself the image of his beloved and weep when he thought of her. He would neither talk about nor listen to anything. The result was that he grew daily thinner. At last the minister's son said, "My prince! he who is entangled in a great passion rarely escapes, and only then a,fter much suffering. The wJse mat1, therefore, shuns the snare." The prince replied, "My friend, I am already caught
in the snare. 86·come- what may good or ill, I cannot escape from it." The minister's son seeing

Vajramukut and Padmavati. 15
his condition said, "My prince, did not the princess speak to you, nor you to her'?" "No," Vajramukut answered, "she neither spoke to me, nor I to her." "It will then be hard to win her," said the minister's son." "Then," retorted the prince, "it will be hard to save me. If I win her, I live; if not, I shall die." The minister's son was silent for a moment. "Did she make neither sign nor gesture'?" he asked. The prince answered, "Yes she did. When she saw me, she suddenly took a lotus from her hair and put behind her ear. Then breaking the stem with her teeth, she touched her foot with it. Last of all she put it in her bosom." The minister's son smiled and said, "My prince, be sad no more. I have read her meaning and I know her name and her dwelling place." "Tell them to me," cried the prince. His companion said, "Listen to me, my prince; when she took the lotus flower from her hair and put it behind her ear, she meant to tell y'ou that she dweltin the Karnatik, for karna, as you know, means ear. When she bit through the stem with her teeth, she meant to tell you that she was·the daughter of King Dantwat; for clanta, as you know means tooth. When she touched her foot with the lotus, she meant to tell you that her name was Padmavati. For padma, as you know, means lotus and Padmavati or Lakshmi was borne up on lotuses when sbe rose from the· ocean. Vhen she thrust the flower into her bosom, she meant to say that she hall placed your image there.
The prince was overjoyed a told his companion to take him at once to the princess' city._

16 Tales of King Vikrama
Straightway both of them dressed for the journey, girt on their swords, put money and jewels into their belts, mounted their horses an ,started for the Karnatik. Some days later they reached it and entering the princess' town came near the royal palace. Close to it they saw an old woman sitting gossiping by her door. They dismounted .and going up to her said, "Lady, we are foreign merchants. Our merchandise is following us. We have ridden ahead to find a lodging. lf you can hire us a room in your house, we shall be greatly indebted to you:" The old lady looked at them and, attracted by their handsome faces and courtly speech said, "My house is yours; stay in it as long as you wish." .,
The two young men went gladly to her house, and a little later the old woman began to talk freely with them. The minister's son asked her who she was, of what family she came, and how she lived. The old woman replied, "I have a daughter who is a maid servant in the royal palace. Once too, I was foster mother to the Princess Padmavati. . Now I am-old, I sit idly in my house. But the king gives me food and clothing and every now and then I go to see the princess." The prince was delighted when he heard this. He gave the old woman a jewel and said, "When you next go to see Padmavati, take her, I pray you a message from me." "My son," said the old woman, "why should I delay? Tell me your message and I shall take it to her at once."
Vajramukut replied, 'Tell her that the prince

17 Vajramukut and Padmavati  (The old woman takes princes’ jewel to the princess of Karnataka.)
whom she saw on the banks of the lake on the fifth of the bright half of Jesht* has come." The old woman took her stick in her hand and went to the palace. She found the princess alone. She made obeisance to her and blessed her. Then she said, "In your childhood I gave you all my love and care and I nursed you myself. Now that you have grown to womanhood, my one wish is that you should know the joys of youth". After softly talking in this strain for some time, the old woman, seeing an opportunity, said, "The prince whose heart you stole near the lake on the fifth of the bright half of Jesht is staying in my house. He begs you by me to keep the promise that you made him. For to win your love he has left his kingdom and come to this far country. And I would add that he is worthy of you, for he is as handsome as you are beautiful."

The princess accepts the gift.
The princess smeared both her hands with sandalwood paste and slapped the old woman on both cheeks, saying, "Vile wretch, leave my house this instant." The old woman went sadly away to the prince and told him what had happened. Vajramukut was in despair; but the minister's son_ said, "My prince, do not lose heart. You have not grasped Padmavati's meaning. When she slapped the old woman with ten fingers dipped in sandalwood paste, she meant that when ten days had passed there would be no moon and that the * Approximately June.There is in the original a pun on Chandan sandalwood and Chandane moonlight which cannot be rendered in English.

18. Tales of King Vikram. Prince Vajramukut enters through the window into the princess' wuarters.
night would be more favourable for meeting." When ten days had passed the old woman again went to see the princess. But the latter dipped three of her fingers in saffron paste and slapped the old woman with them on the cheek, saying, "You wicked woman! leave the house at once." The old woman went sadly back to the prince and told him. Again Vajramukut despaired. But the minister's. son said, "My prince, there is no need to lose hope. Padmavati's meaning was that she had a bad cold and that she would probably not be well for three days. If you will wait patiently for three days, she will meet you." . When three days had passed, the old woman for the third time went to see. the princess. But Padmavati 'in a passion flung her out of the western window of her room. The old woman told the prince what had befallen her. But. before he had time to get dejec_ted, the minister's son said, "Padmavati's meaning is that you should this very night enter her room through the western window". On hearing this the prince was overjoyed.
Late that night the prince and his companion put on brown dresses, fastened on their swords and when all was silent,. made their way softly to the princess' window. The minister's son stayed outside. The prince climbed through it. The princess who was waiting for him greeted him with a smile and shutting the window led him . into the palace. As they went, the prince was dazzled with its splendors. Court ladies in coloured dresses and covered with jewels stood

Vajramukut and Padmavati 19  Princess receives prince Vajramukut. Lavish reception.
respectfully on each side of the walls with down­cast eyes and folded hands. In one room a bed with a golden canopy was decked with scented flowers. On the table stood vases of roses, of attar and of betel-nut. Lamps studded with precious stones shed their light; and the air was heavy with the perfume of sandal wood, of incense, of musk and of saffron. Garlands of moghra and jasmine flowers, of roses, of coral tree and champak blossoms hung from every door in the palace. The walls were covered with paintings on golden backgrounds and were hung with giant mirrors that dazzled the prince's eyes. Indeed it is impossible to describe all the rich and precious objects which the prince saw. Padmavati led him by the hand and placed him on a jewelled throne, washed his feet with her own hands and anointed him with sandalwood ointment. Then she hung a garland of flowers round his neck, sprinkled rose­ leaves over his body, put scented powder and attar of roses on his hands. and then began gently to fan him. The prince said to her, "Dearest, now that I have seen you, my heart is at peace. But why do you toil to give me pleasure'? Your tender hands are not meant to ply the fan. Give me the fan and sit at my side." Padmavati replied, "My king, great was your toil before you found me. It is only right that now I should serve you". Just then a maid servant took the fan from her hand, saying : "Nay, princess, this is my task, enjoy yourself while I wait on you." Then both prince and princess ate betel-nut and talked and

20 ,Tales of King Vikram a The prince and the princess wed by Gandharva (self-choice) marriage. Prince worries about his friend, left out for one month.  The princess plans to poison the cake made for the prince's friend.
laughed together until dawn overtook them unawares. The princess hid the prince in a secret chamber. That evening they were married by gandharva* marriage rites and they spent the night in each other's arms. After some days of happiness the prince would have left the palace, but Padmavati refused to part with him. When a month had gone, the prince grew Yery homesick. One night he sat thinking how he had left his country, his kinsmen, his father and, above all, the friend whose wisdom had won for him the lady whom he loved. Him he had not seen for a whole month. "What can he be thinking of me'?" the prince asked himself, "how is he'? I wonder." As he sat sad and restless, the princess came to him, and seeing that he was unhappy, exclaimed, "O my prince, tell me your grief. Why are you so dejected'?" Vajramukut replied, "I have a dear friend, the son of my father's minister. For a whole month I have not seen or heard of him. Yet it was his wisdom which enabled me to guess your signals and to win you." The princess said gaily, "If you are thinking of him, you will not be happy with me. Now listen, my prince, I shall prepare some cakes and sweetmeats. You go on ahead to see your friend. Then when I send you the food, you make him eat it. And after a talk with him come back

· * Gandharvas are the immortal minstrels of the court of the god Indra. A Gandharva marriage is the simplest form possible of marriage, the Gaudharvas being supposed to be the only witnesses. Still in ancient India it was recognised as a genuine.. marriage.. -It.is not so recognised now.

Vajramukut and Padmavati 21. Poisoned cake meant for Vajramukut's friend. Discovered. Plan: Prince takes her jewels.
to me as quickly as you can.’’ The prince agreed and went out to meet the minister's son. The princess cooked some beautiful cakes and dainty sweetmeats. Then she put poison in all of them and sent them to where the prince was sitting, talking to his friend. The minister's son on seeing the cakes said, "Prince, where have these cakes come from'?" Vajramukut told him what had taken place between him and the princess. The minister's son said, "This is poison, that you are giving me. Happily you knew nothing about it. Women cannot bear the friends of those whom they love. I am sorry you spoke to her of me." Vajramukut answered indignantly, "Such a thing cannot possibly be true. No one would be so wicked as to act as you say." As Vajramukut spoke, he flung a piece of one of the cakes to a stray dog. Directly it had swallowed it, it died in agony. The prince rose in a fury and said, "I shall never live with so evil a woman. All the love I bore for her is dead." The minister's son said; "Nay, never mind. Let us carry her off to our own country. She will get all right there." Vajra mukut replied, "Be it so; only you must devise a plan by which 1 we can do so."
The minister's son said, "You must now go back to Padmavati, my prince. Be as kind to her as if nothing had happened: Then when she has fallen asleep, take all her jewels. Draw with marking-nut juice a trident on her foot and come back here as quickly as you can." Vajramukut did as his friend advised and handed over to him Padmavati's

22 Tales of King Vikrama Vajramukut's friend cooks up a plan: Prince takes jeweld and leaves trident mark on left foot.
jewels The minister's son took them and disguising himself and Vajramukut as anchorites - the former as teacher and the latter as pupil - went with him to a burning ground outside the city. There the minister's son gave one of the princess' , jewels to the prince-"Take it," he said, "and sell it in the town; if any one seizes you, lay the blame on me." Vajramukut took the jewel to a goldsmith opposite the palace gate. The goldsmith at once recognized it as Padmavati's and asked him where he had got it. At the same time he sent word to the chief of the Police. When the latter came, he arrested Vajramukut and questioned him., "My teacher," explained Vajramukut, "gave it to me to sell; but I do not know how he got it."- The chief of the Police at once sent for the teacher and took both him and Vajramukut to the royal palace and placed them before the king.
The king asked the teacher, "Where did you get this trinket?" "Last night," replied the teacher, "was the fourteenth of the dark half of the month. I went to the burning ground and uttered an in­ cantation by which I can summon witches. Instantly, a witch appeared. She took off her ornaments·and gave them to me. As she did so, I saw on her left foot the mark of a trident." When the king heard the anchorite's reply, he went hurriedly into his inner rooms and sent word that the anchorites should be let go. Then he went to his queen and said: "Look at Padmavati's left foot, and see if there is any mark on it." The queen went away and returning in a very short time

Vajramukut and Padmavati 23  The princess suspected of theft was exiled  to the forest. Vajramukut,his friend and Padmavati   leave for their country.

said, "Oking, I have seen Padmavati's left foot and there is on it the mark of a trident."
The king's heart sank within him: "One should not," he said to himself, "publish abroad family scandals; still, I cannot keep in my house a daughter who spends her nights in burning grounds". That night he sent for the chief of the Police and bade him take Padmavati to a dense forest outside the city and leave her there. Her foster mother, however, heard of the order and told Vajramukut and the minister's son. They mounted their horses, searched the forest until they found the princess and then rode off with her to their own country.
At this point the oilman's son asked Vikrama, "O king, who of the above persons, think you, was most to blame'?" "The king was," answered King Vikrama. "Why'?" asked the oilman's son. "The cleverness of the minister's son," said the king, "was worthy of the highest praise. The chief of Police merely obeyed his master's orders. Vajramukut should not have told the princess about the minister's son. She really acted more or less in self-defence. But the king without any real proof judged his daughter guilty and cast her from him." When the king had finished speaking, he saw that he was alone. He realised that by speaking he had broken his promise. On going back to the burning ground, he saw the dead body hanging to the same tree as before. King Vikrama took it down and flinging it over his shoulder began to retrace his steps. As he went, the oilman's son began to tell his second tale.