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.

ONCE upon a time there was a town called Dharmapur. Over it ruled a king named Dharmashil, whose minister was called Andhak.
One day the minister said, "O king, I pray you build a temple to Parvati and worship her image daily. In this way you will come by all your desires. So it is written in the sacred books." The king approved the minister's words and built a big temple and in it placed an image to Parvati, and every day he used to worship it exactly as holy books ordained. Indeed, he never would eat or drink until he had prayed at her shrine. One day the minister said to him, "It is said in the scriptures that equally empty are the home of a childless man, the heart of a fool and the house of a beggar." When the king heard this, he said to himself: "I have great possessions, yet because I have no son, my home is empty. I must devise some means by which I may get a son." With this in his mind, he went to the temple and began to pray to the goddess with folded hands and sing her praises. "You whom Brahmadev, Vishnu, Rudra and Indra adore day and night; you who slew Mahishasura, Chanda*, Munda, Raktabij and

* Chanda, Munda and Raktabij were companions of two even greater demons Shumbh and Nishumbh. Shumbh and Nishumbh had obtained from Brahmadev the boon that they should never be destroyed by any mortal. They drove Indra and the lesser gods from their thrones. But Parvati created a beautiful female figure and sent her to their city. The demons fell in love with her and fighting to obtain her killed each other.
Mahishasura was a demon with a buffalo's head whom Parvati killed.
Parvati and the Washerman's Bride 55
other demons and so freed the earth from their oppression; you, who when evil overtakes your worshippers, spring to save them and drive away their sorrows; attracted by the fame of your glory, I have come here in the hope that you will grant me the prayer of my heart! Suddenly as the king prayed, a voice rang through the temple, "O king, I am pleased with your devotion and I am ready to grant you any boon that you ask of me". The king prostrated himself on the earth and said, "Vouchsafe to me, O goddess, a son". "You will have a son," said the goddess, "a son both strong and fortunate." "So be it," murmured the king gladly. Thereafter he held a great festival in honour of the goddess and worshipped her according to the sixteen different kinds of worship, and daily offered to her image prayers that she might fulfil her promise. A year later, through the goddess's favour, a beautiful baby boy was born to his queen. The king was overjoyed and proclaimed far and wide that the goddess of the temple that he had founded, never failed to do what her worshippers asked of her. Now it so happened that a washerman's son from another town came to Dharmapur with a friend. As he was passing Parvati's temple, a beautiful girl, of the same caste
56 Tales of King Vikrama
as himself, came towards him. When his eyes fell on her, he was so struck with her beauty that his wits left him. For a long time he stood unable to move. At last, he remembered the fame of the Dharmapur Parvati. He went into her temple and prostrating himself before her image, he cried, "O goddess, I have no hope but in thee! Have mercy and grant that I may win that beautiful maid. I vow that if thou hearest my prayer, I shall offer my head as a sacrifice at thy feet." He rose and prostrated himself, touching the ground with all eight members. Then he left the temple and returned with his friend to his own city. Even so he could not forget the image of the fair maiden. He could neither eat, nor drink, nor sleep and, from day to day he wasted away. One day his friend seeing his unhappy state, related all that had happened to the washerman. The washerman thought to himself-"If I cannot get the girl as my son's bride, he will die. I must at once take steps to bring about their marriage."
Next day the washerman taking with him his son's friend went to Dharmapur. When he had found out where the girl’s father lived, he went to him and said, "I have come to beg a favour of you". "Tell me what it is and, if I can, I shall grant it to you," said the girl's father. "I have come," answered the washerman, ''to ask for your daughter as a bride of my son." The girl's father readily agreed. He sent for a Brahman who selected an auspicious day for the marriage. Then he said to the washerman, "Now go and bring your son as

Parvati and the Washerman's Bride 57
soon as you can. While you are away, I shall make all preparations for the wedding." The washerman went back joyfully to his own house, fetched his son, wife and near relatives and then returned with great pomp and circumstance to Dharmapur. There the marriage was celebrated and afterwards the bride went with her husband to the washerman's house. One day on the occasion of some family event, the husband and the wife and the husband's friend went to pay the bride's father a visit. When they reached Dharmapur, they passed by Parvati's temple. Suddenly the husband remembered the vow that he had made. He began to reproach himself for his wickedness in not having kept it. He turned to his wife and friend and said, "Wait here a moment while I say a prayer to Parvati." He went inside the temple bathed in the temple pool and prostrated himself, face downwards, before the image. Then he rose and drawing his sword cut his head off and flung it down at the feet of the goddess. His friend waited for him for some time and then went inside to see what he was doing. When he saw him ly ing headless on the ground, he thought to himself, "People will say I killed him that I might marry his wife. I can only clear myself by offering my head to the goddess." Instantly, he cut his head off and threw it down before Parvati, just as his friend had done. The wife shortly afterwards got tired of waiting outside, so she also went into the temple. When she saw the two men lying dead, she said, "I shall never dare to show my face to

58 Tales of King Vikrama
anyone. People will say that I killed my husband and that to hide my crime I killed his friend." With these words she ·threw herself at full length before the goddess; prayed a few words and then taking up her husband's sword was about to cut her head off. Suddenly the goddess appeared and seized her hand and said, "My daughter, I am pleased with you; ask me any boon you like". The young wife replied, "My mother! the boon that I ask of you is this: bring back to life my husband and his friend". "Put their heads on their bodies," said Parvati, "and they will at once come to life." The young wife was so delighted that by mistake she put her husband's head on his friend's body and his friend's head on her husband's body. Both came to life; but at once they began to quarrel with each other, each claiming the wife as his.
At this point the oilman's son said, "O king, tell me to whom the wife belonged." King Vikrama ' answered, "It is written in the scriptures that the Ganges is chief among rivers, that Meru is chief among mountains, that the Wishing tree is chief among trees, and that the head is chief among the members. Therefore, the one to whom the wife gave her husband's head was her husband." When the king had finished speaking, he saw that he was alone.
He understood that he had again broken his promise. Retracing his steps he went back to the burning ground and taking the dead body on his back, he set out again on his journey.
As he went, the oilman's son began to tell his seventh tale.


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