04The MainaAndTheParrot
Somdev Bhatt 11th Century. Original in Sanskrit.
English Translation: C. A. KINCAID, c. v. o. Indian Civil Serice  1921
Background. "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.
The Devil is in the details. The mythical King Vikramāditya pledges to a tantric magician that he'll seize a vetala, a supernatural spirit known for occupying deceased bodies and hanging inverted from trees.
Despite multiple challenges, King Vikrama struggles to bring the vetala to the sorcerer. Every attempt to capture the spirit leads to a story with a concluding riddle from the vetala. The spirit agrees to remain captured if Vikrama fails to solve the riddle. However, if Vikrama knows the answer but refrains from speaking, his head would shatter into fragments. If he answers correctly, the vetala slips away, returning to its tree. Vikrama seems to always know the answers, thus the cycle of capture and release repeats twenty-four times.

In the vetala's concluding tale, a father and son encounter a queen and her daughter amidst the remnants of a war. As time passes, the son marries the queen, while the father weds the princess. The subsequent generations consist of a boy from the son and queen, and a girl from the father and princess. The vetala challenges Vikrama to determine the relationship between the two children. Unable to answer, Vikrama finds himself in the vetala's favor, and the spirit agrees to accompany him to the sorcerer.

During their journey, the vetala reveals a past dark tale: His birth was a result of a tantric's blessing, which came with a condition of their education under the sorcerer. While Vetala was granted vast knowledge but faced mistreatment, his twin brother received basic education but was treated kindly. The vetala later learned of the sorcerer's evil plot to sacrifice him for immortality and global dominance using dark arts. Now, the sorcerer aimed to decapitate Vikrama in worship and seize control of the vetala's spirit for his wicked objectives. Heeding the vetala's advice, Vikrama tricks and defeats the sorcerer. Gratefully, the spirit bestows a boon upon Vikrama. The king wishes for the sorcerer's purification from wickedness and for the vetala's assistance when summoned.
The Maina's Story
Once upon a time there was a town called Hapur. In it there lived a merchant named Mahadhan. He had no offspring. So to get a child he was always going on pilgrimages, making and fulfilling vows, practicing austerities, offering gifts to temples and listening to religious discourses. At last through God's mercy a son was born to him. When, the boy grew up, his father married him with great pomp and ceremony and gave huge sums of money to Brahmans. He also fed handsomely bards, necromancers,, singers, players, jugglers and such like, and gave large charities to beggars. After the wedding festivities were over, Mahadhan sent his son back to school. But such was the boy's nature that he continually played truant, stopping on the way to gamble with others Ü

39 The Maina and the Parrot
boys of his own age. When the boy had reached early manhood, Mahadhan died and his son became master of his wealth. Freed now from all restraint, the youth spent his days in gambling and his nights in riot. In this way he squandered away his fortune and got so bad a name that he was forced to flee from the country and take refuge in the town of Chandrapur.
There he went to the house of a very respectable trader called Hemgupta. The latter had known his father and after hearing the young man's story and satisfying himself by various questions that he really was Mahadhan's son he gave the youth a hearty welcome. Then he asked him why he had come to Chandrapur. The young man replied that he had bought a vessel full of merchandise, meaning to sell its cargo on a certain island. This he had done at a great profit and then had re-embarked with other merchandise upon a ship returning to his own country. Suddenly a storm had arisen. The ship had foundered with all her cargo and all her crew. By good fortune he had seized a plank and clinging to it had reached the shore, all but drowned. "Now I am a beggar," continued Mahadhan's son, and I am ashamed to return to my own country."
On hearing this tale, Hemgupta said to himself:
"This is a piece of luck! My anxieties are now over. This good fortune must have come from the hand of God. The lad is of an ancient and honorable family.. I shall give him my daughter in marriage." He mentioned the matter to his wife Ü

40 Tales of King Vikrama
and she too agreed to the marriage. The merchant then sent for the family priest that he might choose an auspicious day. When it arrived, the merchant gave, to be the bride of this worthless gambler, his only daughter and with her he gave a large sum of money as her dowry. For some days they lived together as man and wife in Hemgupta's house. Then the gambler said to his wife, "It is a long time since I left my house. I feel homesick; for I want to know how they all are at home. Get your parents, I beg you, to let me go. If you like you can come with me."
The young wife went to her mother, "Mother," she said, "my husband wants to go home. Please tell this to my father and get him to let us go." The mother. went to Hemgupta and induced him not only to agree to his daughter's going, but to ·give her a large sum of money for the journey and a slave girl to look after her. As they went, they came to a thick wood. The gambler said, "My wife, I am afraid of robbers. Give me your jewels. I shall hide them in my belt and give them back to you at the first village we come to." The young wife handed over her jewels. Directly the gambler had got them, he threw himself upon the slave girl and killing her with a single blow, flung her body into a well. Then he pushed his wife in after her, hoping to kill her too. Having done this, he made his way, as quickly as he could, to his own country.
By the mercy of Heaven his wife was not hurt by her fall. Struggling to the side, she Ü

The Maina and the Parrot 41
managed to scramble out of the water and sit up on a ledge of rock. Then she began to scream for help at the top of her voice. A traveller who was passing through the wood heard her cries and going to the well looked into it and saw the young wife sitting weeping.· He pulled her out and asked her who she was, and how she had fallen in. The young wife thought that if she told the truth, she would disgrace her husband. She therefore said, I am the daughter of the merchant Hemgupta of Chandrapur. My father married me to the son of the Merchant Mahadhan of Ilapur. My husband was taking me to my house, when robbers suddenly attacked us. They killed my slave girl and stripping me of my ornaments threw me into the well. What happened afterwards to my husband, I do not know."
The traveller took the young wife to her father's house and giving her into his care resumed his journey. She told her parents the same story that she had told the traveller. They tried to comfort her saying, "Do not lose heart, the robbers will let your husband go. Robbers do not kill people. They only rob them of their money." Her father then gave her new ornaments and promised her that she would shortly hear news of ·her husband. In the mean time, the latter had gone to his own town and was squandering, as before, his wife's money in riot and debauch. In no long time, he was again a beggar. Then he thought that he would go to his father-in-law and announce to him the birth of a grandson. His father-in-law Ü

42 Tales of King Vikrama
would be so pleased with the news that he would give him money and clothes for himself and jewelry for the child. In execution of this plan, he set forth and some days later came to his father-in-law's garden gate. His wife saw him and ran-out saying, "My lord, fear nothing, I told my father that thieves attacked us, killed my slave girl and taking my jewels threw me into the well. You tell them the same story and it will be all right;_the house is yours, and I am your servant." With these words she turned and went back into the house. Her husband went into the verandah. His father-in­ law saw him and with a cry of joy ran to meet him and made him tell his story. The husband told the tale that his wife had taught him. And all the household rejoiced at his escape from the robbers. An hour or so later, the merchant's wife brought water for her son-in-law's bath, gave him a dish of five ambrosial ingredients* to eat and bade him be of good cheer. "Our house is yours," said the kindly old lady, "stay here as long as you like." But one night, the evening of a festival, the merchant's· daughter went to bed with all her ornaments on Her wicked husband waited until she was fast asleep. Then he cut her throat with a knife and taking her jewels fled back to his own country.
When the maina had finished her tale, she said, "O king, this is not merely a story that I have heard. I actually saw everything happen, just asÜ
 *Panchamrita, or the five ambrosial ingredients, consists· of ghee, sugar, milk, honey, curds.

The Maina and the Parrot 43
told it to you. That is why I want to have nothing to do with men. For who welcomes a serpent into his house'? Ask, 0 king, that parrot what harm that young wife ever did to the merchant's son."
The king turned to the parrot and said, "Well parrot, what have you to say to that'?" '·0 king," replied the parrot, "men are not treacherous at all; it is women who are treacherous. And to prove this I shall tell you the following story:-

The Parrot's Tale

Once upon a time there was a town·called Kachanpur. In it there lived a merchant called Sagardatta. He had a son called Shridatta who was married to J ayashri, the daughter of a Jaipur merchant named Sombhadra. Some time after Shridatta's marriage, he went on business to a distant city. He was absent for twelve years. In the meantime his wife Jayashri grew to be a woman. One day she said to her maid servant, "My youth is passing away in vain, I might as well never be married". The maid servant tried to console her, "Have patience, my mistress," she said, "God will soon send your husband back to you". But the young wife lost her temper. She went upstairs and stood by an upper window. Just then a young and handsome man was coming down the road. She looked hard at him. As he came near the house, their eyes met and each fell instantly in love with the other. The young wife called her maid and told her to arrange a meetingÜ

44 Tales of King Vikrama
for her with the young man. The maid servant went into the street and said to him, "Sombhadra's daughter has lost her heart to you and bids you meet her at my house tonight". At the same time she gave the youth her address. The young man agreed. The maid told this to her mistress and said, "When he comes to-night I shall come and tell you and take you to my house". Then she went home and that night sat up waiting for the yoµng man. When he came, she seated him
in the verandah and going to Jayashri said,
"Your beloved, my mistress, has come." The two women waited until past midnight. Then when all the inmates were asleep, they stole out of the merchant's house and went with the speed of lightning to that of the maid. Just before dawn the young wife went back to her own house and slipping into bed went fast asleep.
Some days afterwards her husband came back from his travels and went to his father-in-law's house to take his wife to his own home. When Jayashri heard that he had come, she grew very sad and said to the maid, "What shall I do'? Where shall I hide'? If you can think of any means of escape, tell me. I can think of none." "Alas," said the maid, "l can think of none either."
All that day Jayashri was as sad as possible. That night her mother-in-law told her son-in-law to sleep in the guest's room. At the same time she told her daughter to sleep there too with her husband. Jayashri got very cross and turned up her nose and frowned. But her mother scoldedÜ

The Maina and the Parrot 45
her. So seeing no escape, she went to the guest's room. There she went to bed with her face to the wall. The nicer her husband was to her the more angry she became. He shewed her various wonderful things, that he had brought back for her from his travels. "Take them, my beloved;" he said, "I broughl them all for you. They are yours; but grant me in exchange just one little word and one little smile." Jayashri at this grew more angry than ever and scowling at her husband flung all his presents across the room. Shridatta in despair turned over and went to sleep. But Jayashri could not sleep a wink for thinking of the young man whom she had seen in the road from her upper window.
When Shridatta had gone fast asleep, Jayashri got up and running boldly through the dark streets reached her maid's house. It so happened that a robber saw her and wondered where so well-dressed a woman could be going so .late at night. He decided to follow her. It so happened that the young man had also gone to the maid's house in the hope of meeting Jayashri. 'But a snake had bitten him as he entered and he had fallen on the ground and died. Now a hobgoblin* who dwelt in a pipal tree close by, saw that the youth was dead. He promptly entered his body and putting his arms round Jayashri's neck bit her nose off and fled back to the pipal tree.-The robber who had followed Jayashri saw all thisÜ
* A pisacha. The pipal or ficus religiosa is a favourite dwelling place of pisachas and other ghost-like creatures.

46 Tales of King Vikrama
happen. But the unhappy Jayashri, wake with pain and loss of blood, went back to her own house and told her maid all that had passed and asked her what she should do. "It is not yet light," answered the servant girl, "slip back into bed and then begin screaming at the top of your voice. When the household come to see what is the matter, tell them that your husband has just cut your nose off. I can think of no other way." Jayashri, just as her maid had told her to do, slipped back into bed and began to call out as loudly as she could. The whole household rushed upstairs and saw that she had lost her nose. She turned on her husband, "You cruel wretch," she said, "why have you treated me like this you wicked, heartless man! Shridatta could make no reply. "One should never put one's trust," he murmured, "in a changeable man, in riches, in the edge of a blade or in the word of an enemy; above all, one should never trust a woman. For women do things that even poets cannot imagine. Even the gods themselves cannot say when a horse will shy, when a cloud will thunder, what destiny awaits a man or how a woman will act. How, then, can
a man know what the gods do not'?"
Sombhadra went at once and complained to the chief of Police. The latter sent some constables who brought Shridatta in chains·before the king. The king asked Shridatta what he had to say. Shridatta replied, ''0 king, I know nothing whatever about the matter". The king sent for Jayashri, who said, "Why ask me, 0 king, when youÜ

The :Maina and the Parrot 47
can see for yourself " The king looked at her noseless face; then he turned to · Shridatta and said, "You wicked man, how can I punish you enpugh for such a crime!" Shridatta answered, "0 king, I am ready to accept whatever punishment you think just." The king straightway ordered him to be impaled. The police led him away and behind him the crowd followed. Among the crowd was the thief. He said to himself: "l must save this man, for he is about to be killed unjustly". He cried out, "Stop! Stop!" The king sent for him and asked him who he was and why he interfered. "0 king," said the thief, "pardon me! for I am a thief, nevertheless, give heed to my prayer. The man whom you are sending to his death has committed no fault. If he is impaled, you will have acted unjustly." "If you know the truth," said the king, "say it." The thief told the king everything. The latter sent soldiers, who brought the dead body of the young man from the maid servant's house. In the king's presence they opened his mouth and from it fell the end of J ayashri's nose. Then all realised that she had falsely charged her husband. Then the thief said, "0 king, it is the duty of the king not only to protect the innocent, but to punish the guilty". Straightway the king ordered Jayashri's head to be shaved and her face to be painted black. This done, she was mounted on an ass with her face to its tail and turned out of the city. Thereafter the king gave a robe of honour to her husband and rewarded the thief.

48 Tales of King Vikrama
When the parrot had finished his story, he said, "0 king, ask the maina what wrong that man had done to his wife."
At this point the oilman's son asked King Vikramajit-"King Vikrama, tell me who are the worse, men or women.?" The king answered, "'Women are the worse. No matter how bad a man is, he yet respects public opinion and he fears to commit sin. But falsehood, daring, folly, greed, faithlessness and cruelty are women's natural qualities." When the king had _finished speaking, he saw that he was alone. He realised that he had again broken his promise. He returned to the burning ground and saw as before the oilman's son hanging from a branch. He 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 fifth tale.



00VikramBetaalIntroduction 01VajramukutAndPadmavati
02MadhumalotiAndHerSuitors 03KingRupsenAndVirvar
04The MainaAndTheParrot 05MahadeviAndTheGiant
06ParvatiAndTheWashermansBride 07PrincessTribhuvanasundari
08KingGunadipAndViramdeva 09SomadattaAndMadansena
10KingGunashekhar 11KingAndSeamaiden
12PrincessLavanyaAndThe Gandharva 13ShobhaniAndTheRobber
14PrincessChandraprabha 15KingJimutketuAndPrinceJimutvahan
16TheKingAndUnmadini 17GunakarAndTheAnchorite