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
ONCE upon a time there was a city called Dharmasthal on the banks of the Jamna. Over it ruled a king whose name was Gunadhin. At the same time also a Brahman
lived there named Keshav Bhat. He was endowed with extraordinary virtues and passed his days on the bank of the river in bathing and purifying himself, in repeating the names of God and in contemplating visions of the deity. He had a beautiful daughter called Madhumaloti, who had recently reached womanhood and whose future marriage was being discussed by her family.
One day Keshav Bhat went to attend a wedding at the house of one of his followers. At the same time, his son went to be instructed in religion by his spiritual teacher. Also about the same time there came to Keshav Bhat's house a Brahman youth whose beauty and qualities so struck Madhu­ maloti's mother that she promised him Madhumaloti as his bride. But Keshav Bhat when staying at his follower's house had also promised to give Madhumaloti to the son of a Brahman there. And Keshav Bhat's son had promised one of his friends at his teacher's house that he should wed his sister. The two youths came . to seek their bride and found a third claimant for her hand already in the house. The new-comers were named Trivikram and Waman. The third was called Madusudan.

(Krishnaraj: Father, mother and brother promised Madhumaloti to three different prospective grooms. The three grooms were at the house: Trivikram and Waman, Madusudan.
Madhumaloti and her suitors 25
But in beauty, merit or learning there was not the slightest difference between them. The Brahman (father) became very dejected. For he could not see how he was going to give his daughter to all three suitors. Yet he did not wish to break the promise made to any one of them. While he sat unable to make up his mind, a snake bit his daughter. Her father and her three suitors all ran to her and then sent for the wisest magicians and snake-doctors of the day. They examined Madhumaloti, but pronounced her case hopeless from the first. One said, "No man bitten by a snake on the fifth, sixth, seventh or fourteenth of the month ever recovers." Another said, "No man poisoned during the asterisms of Rohini, Magha, Aslesha, Vishakha, Mul or Kritika ever gets well." A third said, "No one bitten by a snake in the limbs, cheeks, throat, eye or navel, ever fails to die." A fourth said, "When Brahmadev and all the rest of the gods put together could not cure your daughter, what can we do'?" So saying the wise men went away. Nevertheless, Keshav Bhat tried many spells and gave the dead girl many powerful medicines; but all in vain. At last he lost all hope and taking the dead body to tl1e burning ground gave her to the flames and returned sadly to his house. But one of the three suitors gathered together her charred bones and becoming an anchorite wandered with the bones from forest to forest. The second collected her ashes and building a shed lived in it that he might guard them. The third abandoning all idea of marriage wandered through India, from
Krishnaraj: The prospective bride, bitten by snake, died. The three prospective grooms took various parts of her incinerated body.

26 Tales of King Vikrama
one shrine to another. One day he came ·to a house of a Brahman to beg a meal. The Brahman seeing him said, "Welcome, pilgrim, come in for a while and be seated." When food had been cooked the Brahman washed the pilgrim's feet and hands and seated him on a dining stool. His wife began to serve the meal. When dinner was half way through, the Brahman's youngest child sought its mother's breast. The mother tried to push it·away, but it struggled with her and began to cry. She tried to soothe it, but it grew still more fractious. Flying into a passion, she picked the child up and threw it into the kitchen fire. There it immediately perished in the flames.
At the sight of this terrible act, the pilgrim rose from his dining stool. His host asked him what ailed him. The young man replied; "I cannot eat food in a house where such wicked deeds are done." The host rose with a smile and taking up a book of incantations sought in it one that restored the dead to life. He found it, and as he repeated it, the burnt infant took back its former shape. The pilgrim was at first dazed with astonishment. Then he thought to himself that if he
could but make himself master of the book, he might restore his beloved to life. He, however, concealed his thoughts and resuming his seat, finished his meal. All that day he stayed in the Brahman's house and made himself pleasant to his host. The same night when all had gone to rest-, he rose and stealing into the inner room seized the book and at once fled with it from the house.

Madhumaloti and her suitors 27
In a few days he reached the burning ground where the Brahman girl had been burnt. There he found the other two lovers sitting and talking together. When he came up they recognized- him and greeted him courteously. "Brother," said one of them, "did you find anything in the course of your travels?" "Yes," replied the pilgrim, "I learnt the art of restoring the dead to life." "If that is so," cried the other two, "bring us back our bseloved." "First," said the pilgrim, "put together her charred bones and ashes." The others did so. The pilgrim took out his book of spells, searched for the one he required and repeated it. Instantly the dead girl stood in front of them. But at the sight of her the old desire was at once kindled in the heart of each one of them and they began to quarrel, as before, as to who should wed her.
At this point the oilman's son said, "0 King Vikrama, who do you think deserved the maid?" The king replied, "The one who built a shed and lived in it with the dead girl's ashes." '.'But," said the oilman's soi1. "if the other had not preseryed the charred bones, and the third had not found the spell, how could she haYe come back to life?" "He who treasured her bones," said King Vikrama, "acted as a son would have done. He who brought her back to life acted a father's part, but he who guarded her ashes and built a shed for them deserved the maid, for he made her a home." When the king had finished, he saw that he was alone. He realised that he had again broken his promise. Going back to the burning ground ground he
28 Tales of King Vikrama
found the dead body hanging as before from the tree. He threw it over his shoulders and began to retrace his steps. As he went, the oilman's son began to tell his third tale.