12PrincessLavanyaAndThe Gandharva
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 Chudapur. In it there lived a king called Chudamani. He had a guru or spiritual teacher named Devaswami and a son called Hariswami.* The  latter was as beautiful as Kamdev the god of love; he was as learned in the sacred books as Brihaspati the teacher of the gods, and he was as rich as Kubera the god of wealth. The king married his son to the daughter of a neighbouring king called Krishnaswami. Her name was Lavanyavati. She was a beautiful girl and both prince and princess loved each other and were as happy as possible.

One summer  night the prince and princess went to sleep on the terrace of a house in the woods. As the princess slept her bedclothes slipped off to one side, exposing her beautiful face. Now it so chanced that a Gandharva * was just then riding through the sky in his air chariot.  Looking down, his gaze fell on the lovely princess and instantly he fell in love with her. Silently he brought his chariot down until it rested close to where the princess slept. Then lifting her up so skilfully that she never woke, he placed her in his air chariot and soared into the heavens.

* See ante the note to tale I.



Princess Lavanyavati & the  Gandharva  81

When prince Hariswami awoke, he noticed that his wife was no Jonger near him. Alarmed he went dowstairs and began to search the house, but it was of course hopeless to, search for one whom a Gandharva had borne away. He returned to his father's city and searched in every lane and street.          At last he began to despair. "Some one," he said, "must have taken her away, but where he took her I cannot guess." Going home he sat down and began to weep and lament. Then twice more he searched the whole town through, but all in vain. When he again returned to his palace it seemed a desert without his beloved bride, so he, sat down more despairing than ever.  "My Belon.id," he mourned, "you who were so good and sweet, I cannot live without you." So he wailed for days together.   Atlast his grief became more than he could bear.  He rose and abandoning his house, rank and wealth, he became a wandering beggar.   He flung aside his princely robes and put on nothing but a loin cloth. Then smearing his body with ashes he left the city and bareheaded and all but naked he roamed from shrine to shrine and from one town to another.    One day he went faint with hunger with a begging bowl in his hand to the house of a Brahman and asked for food. Now a beggar should go to a rich man's house and not to that of a poor Brahman.   But when a man is distracted with love, he can think neither of his caste nor his religion, nor does he care what or when or where he eats or drinks.  The Brahman bade his wife give the beggar some food.      So sheÜ


82      ·  Tales of Kin'g Vikrama

poured some milk into his begging bowl. With it Hariswami went to a banian tree by the edge of a lake and putting his bowl on the ground went fast asleep.       It so chanced that a snake crept out and drank up part .of the. milk without Hariswami seeing it. When the princ woke tip, he drank the poisoned milk and died very soon afterwards. At this point the oilman's son said, "King Vikrama, who was to blame for the prince's death?

Was it the Brahman, the wife or the snake?" "None of them," answered king Vikrama indignantly.  The  Brahman did an act of charity. His wife obeyed her husband's order.  The snake was a poisonous snake and could not help being so. For that was its nature.  Nor was Hariswami guilty of suicide. For he did not know that the snake had touched the milk. "Indeed," continued King Vikrama growing more and more heated, ''if anyone were to fasten the guilt of the prince's death on any one of those four persons he himself would be the guilty one."  When King Vikrama had said this, he saw that, he was alone.  Realising that he ha'd once more broken his promise, he went back to the burning ground.  The dead body was as before hanging from the branch.  Flinging it over his shoulder he began to retrace his steps. As he. went the oilman's son began to tell his thirteenth tale.


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