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 Mandanpur. Over it ruled a king named Virvar. In it also lived a Vaishya named Hiranyadatta who had a daughter called Madansena.  One spring day she went with her maid servants to play in her garden.  By a strange chance it so happened that just then one Somadatta the son of a merchant named. Dharmadatta was walking with a friend. In the course of his walk he came to the garden. Directly when he saw Madansena, he fell head over ears in love with her.  He turned to his friend and said, "If I can marry that lovely

maiden, my love will have won its crown. But if I cannot, my life is worthless."  Then unable to control himself, he ran into the garden and taking Madansena by the hand he cried, "If you will not bestow your love on me, I shall take my life."

‘’That would be a dreadful sin," cried Madansena, "do not do it." "Yes, what you say is true," answered the youth. "But my whole body is on fire for love of you.  Such are my torments that the words sin and merit have no longer any meaning.  I shall surely kill myself if you do not hold out some hope that you will love me in return."

Madansena distracted by pity for the youth and by the fear that he would kill himself said, "I am to be married five days from now. But I promise to go and see you and bid you goodbye Ü


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before I go to my husband's house". Then turning away she ran back to her house as fast as she could. Somadatta turned back and went home.

Five days afterwards Madansena was married. She found no opportunity of slipping away to say goodbye to Somadatta. Much against her wish she went to her husband's house. That 'night she told her husband of the promise she had made to Somadatta. "If you wish to bid him goodbye," said her husband, "go and do so now." Madansena left the house and took the road leading to Somadatta's house.  As she went a robber saw her and pleased at the prospect of a rich booty went up to her and said, "Where are you going so late at night, so richly dressed and

jeweled'?" Madansena answered, "I am going to see a friend". "Is no one going with you'?" said the robber. Madansena told him of the promise that she had made to Somadatta. "I know,'? she said "that you are a robber, but this time please let me go.  I promise you that when I return I shall give all my jewelry to you."

The robber thought for a moment, that he said to himself, "She must come back by the same road and the she will give me her jewels. For as she is only going to bid a friend goodbye, she cannot stay there, and  this is the only path  by

which she can return." The thief therefore, stayed where he was and waited for her to come, back. Madansena went on until she reached Somadatta's house.  She roused him.' He woke with a start.


 Somadatta and Madansena          69

"Fair girl," he said in his bewilderment: "Are you the daughter of a god or of a magician or are you a serpent maiden from Patala? *    Why have you come?" "Nay," said Madansena with a smile, "l am but a human maid, my father is Hiranyadatta, my name is Madansena; but you have forgotten me.  Not so long ago you took my hand and made me swear that I would come and bid you goodbye. If you still care for me, I am ready to stay with you always." "But," said Somadatta, "did you tell your husband that you were coming?" "Yes," said Madansena, "l told him everything."     A great wave of pity then came over Somadatta for the brave girl who had gone through so much to keep her promise to him. "No, dear maid," he said, "you belong to your husband; you must not stay with me." Madansena turned away and slipping from the house went back the way she had come. As she went, she met the robber and told him everything. The robber was so struck with the tale that he would take nothing from her.       She continued her journey until she reached her home. There she told her husband all that had befallen her. The husband took her back and forgave her everything. For as he said, "Chastity is the glory of the wife. Its song is the glory of the nightingale. And forgiveness is the glory of the righteous man".

* Nag Kanya. These are the maidens of the race of the Nagas who are said to have sprung from Kadru wife of Kasyapa. Patala is the lowest of the seven underground regions. The others are Atala, Vitala, Butala, Mahatala, Rasatala and Talatala.


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·when the oilman's son had reached this point, he said to King Vikrama,  0 king, who do you think had the greater merit of those three persons?" "The robber," answered the king.'  "But why?" asked the oilman's son. "Because the husband knew that he would not gain his wife's love by scolding her. So he let her go. Somadatta sent her away because he feared for his own reputation and the punishment which the king might inflict on him if she stayed with him. The robber had no such motive. He would not rob her because he honoured her courage and innocence.  The robber's, therefore, was the greatest merit."

At this point the king saw that he was alone. He remembered that he had again broken his promise. He went back to the burning ground and found the dead body, hanging as before to the tree. He took it down and flinging it across his back began once more to retrace his steps. As he did so, the oilman's son began to tell his tenth tale.



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