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 city in Bengal called Vardhaman. Over it ruled a king called Gunshekhar. His minister Abhyachandra was a Jain, and through his teaching he converted the king to Jainism. The king forbade the worship of Vishnu and Shiva and the offering of gifts to them. He also proclaimed that no one should throw the charred bones of the dead into the Ganges river, and he warned his subjects that he would confiscate the goods of all who disobeyed his orders and that he would drive them from the kingdom.
Sometime afterwards the minister expounded to the king the Jain doctrines; "If any one, O king," said the minister, "takes another's life, the other, in a future life, will take his. Not only that, but as a punishment for his sin he can never escape from the- torments of this world. He will go on dying and being born again through all eternity. All men, therefore, should become Jains. For even Brahmadev, Vishnu and Shiva have either through love, anger or greed been forced at different times to take human shapes. The cow is far above the gods. She never becomes the slave of love, illusion or greed. She supports mankind and her sons after her confer benefits on men. Thus, men and gods and sages honour her. It is of no use to worship the gods. One should only worship

72 Tales of King Vikrama
cows; and one should protect men, beasts, birds, and other living things. This, and no other is the true religion. He who eats the flesh of animals will in the end go to hell. They who, without thinking of the pain they cause, kill and eat inno­ cent creatures will never prosper. In their next life they will be born crippled, lame, squint-eyed, blind, dumb, hunchbacked or sickly and will live miserably. Those. who eat the flesh of animals will themselves be eaten by animals." The minister by talking in this strain so swayed the king's mind, that he entered a Jain monastery and passing completely under the influence of the Jain monks, disregarded utterly Brahmans and anchorites, mendicants and ascetics.
The king ruled for some years and then died suddenly. After him his son Dharmadwaja mounted the throne. He disliked the Jain faith. So he seized the minister who had converted his father. He ordered his head to be shaved and his face to be blackened. The king then mounted him on a starving donkey, and parading him through the streets, proclaimed that he would thus punish all who observed the Jain religion. Lastly, he expelled him from the kingdom and restored the old Hindu faith. One day, in the spring of the year King Dharmadwaja had taken his wives to admire the beauty of one of his gardens. In the garden was a pool and on the pool floated lotus flowers. The king rejoicing in the beauty of his garden, took off his robes and bathed in the pool. He plucked one of the lotus flowers and taking it 

King Gunshekhar 73
to the bank offered it to one of his queens. Unhappily it slipped from his hand and falling on the queen's foot broke it. The king ordered her to be treated very carefully until she got well. That same night the rays of the rising moon fell upon the second queen and blistered her skin. Next morning the noise of a neighbor pounding rice reached the ears of the third queen. It gave her such a violent headache that she fell into a dead faint.
At this point the oilman's son said, "Which of the three queens, King Vikrama, was the most delicate?" "She who fainted on hearing the noise of rice pounded," answered the king.; When he had finished speaking, he saw that he was alone. He remembered that he had again broken his promise. He went back to the burning ground and saw the dead body hanging from the tree. He took it down and flinging it across his shoulders began to retrace his steps. As he did so, the oil­ man's son began to tell his eleventh tale.


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