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 Kusumavati. Over it ruled a king called Suvichar. His daughter's name was Chandraprabha. One day after she had reached the spring of womanhood, she set out with her companions to admire the beauty of a certain garden. Every precaution had been taken to prevent men from entering the garden. ·But it so chanced that a certain Brahman youth had strolled into it and lying down in the cool shade of a tree had gone fast asleep. Neither the guards nor the king's servants saw him, so he lay sleeping up to the time the princ entered the garden.
The princess and her ladies roamed through it at will until they came to where the Brahman youth lay asleep. At the sound of their footsteps he awoke. His eyes met those of the princess. Each was so smitten with love for the other that the Brahman fell back in a dead faint while the princess began to tremble all over when her ladies noticed her state they calmed her, until they were able to lead her to where her palanquin was. Placing her in it, they had her taken home. The Brahman youth remained lying where he was quite uncon scious. It so happened that some time afterward a Brahman of the name of Muldev passed together with his son Shashi close to where the youth lay. "Shashi," he said, "why is this youth lying here?''

Princess Chandraprabha 89
"Some dancing girl," laughingly replied his son, has drawn the bow of her eyebrow and has shot him with the arrow of her glance, so that he has fainted." "We must lift him up," said Muldev. "No; let him be," said the other, "why should you care'?" But Muldev. did not heed his son. Placing his hand behind the youth's neck he raised him and said, "Good sir, what has brought you to this state'?" ''I am willing," replied the youth, "to tell my troubles. to one who will help to mend them. But of what use is it to tell them to one who will merely look on and do nothing." "Tell me your troubles," said Muldev, "and I shall do my best to help you." When the youth had received this assurance, he told Muldev all about meeting with the princess. "If I can win her," he cried, "I shall live; but if not I shall kill myself." "Very well," said Muldev, "in the meantime come 'with me. I shall try to win the maid for you. If I cannot make you a rich man to console you."
"Providence," said the youth, "has created in this world many jewels, but a fair woman is the richest jewel of them all. Men merely desire wealth that with it they may win fair women. How will it profit a man to win gold if he misses love'? It is better to be a beast of the field than to love a beautiful woman and not be loved in return. The fruit of virtue is wealth, the fruit of wealth is happiness, and the fruit of happiness is a lovely wife. For where woman is absent, happiness abides not."
"Very well," said Muldev, "I shall get you whatever you wish." "I want the princess," said the

90 Tales of King Vikrama
youth, “and nothing else." "Come then with me," said Muldev, "and I shall get you your princess." Muldev after much persuasion induced the Brahman youth to go with him to his house. There he prepared two little pill-like balls. One of them he gave to the youth and said, "Directly, you put one of them into your mouth, you will become a girl of sixteen. Directly you take it out, you will become as before, a man again. Now put the ball in your mouth." The youth did so and instantly he took the form of a sixteen-year-old maiden. Muldev next put the second ball into his own mouth and he became an eighty-year old anchorite. He took the young girl by the hand and with her went to the royal palace. When the king saw the Brahman approach, he saluted him respectfully and seated him on a seat of honour and offered a similar seat to the young girl. The Brahman in return blessed the king in the following rhyme:
"He who beat King Bali down,
He who took fair; Lanka town,
He who, by His single strength
Held Govardhan a·t arm's length,
May*, He luck bestow on you
When you war and when you woo!"

* He who destroyed King Bali was Waman or the dwarf, Vishnu's fifth incarnation. Vishnu took the form of a dwarf, appeared before Bali and asked for as much land as he could cover in three strides. Bali consented. Vamana with one stride covered earth, with the second stride covered Heaven and with the third, stamped Bali into hell (sec page 79, Istur Phakde). 'He, who took Lanka town was Vishnu's seventh incarnation, the hero Ramchandra (see Indian Heroes). He who held Govardhan at arm's length was Krishna, Vishnu's eighth incarnation. The God Indra was angry because the cowherds began to worship Krishna instead of himself. So he showered rain upon them in torrents. Krishna held up Govardhan mountain over the cowherds to shelter them. The meaning of the blessing is simply "May Vishnu favour you!''

Princess Chandraprabha . 91
The king asked the Brahman, "Reverend sir, why have you come?" Muldev answered, "I have come from beyond the Ganges. For there I live. One day I had gone to take my daughter-in-law to another village. In my absence there was a battle near my town when I returned, it was deserted and my wife and son had disappeared. I am now wandering about with my daughter-in-law in the hope of finding him. But I do not know how long my wanderings may be. I have therefore brought you my daughter-in-law. I want you to keep her for me until I return.''When the king heard the old Brahman's words, he fell into deep thought. 'How can I,' he asked himself, 'keep by me so young and beautiful a girl? and yet if I refuse that old Brahman will curse me.' At last he said, "As you will, reverend sir; I am ready to carry out your wish." Then he sent for his daughter. "My child," he said to her, "take this Brahman's daughter-in-law and look after her. Spare no money in making her comfortable. And do not forget her for a single moment whether you are asleep or awake, or rising or sitting or playing.','
The princess Chandraprabha took the Brahman girl by the hand and took her into her own apartments.

92 Tales of King Vikrama
That night they both went to rest upon the same couch and began to chatter together like any other two young girls. During a pause in the talk, the Brahman girl said, "Princess, what grief is it that makes you so careworn'?" The princess replied, "Listen, dear girl, and I shall tell you. One day I went into a certain garden. There I saw a Brahman youth as beautiful as the god of love himself. Our eyes met. He fainted on the spot.
I too all but fainted. And the ladies with me seeing my state brought me home. I do not know the youth's country, or name, or village. But his image is always before my eyes. I want neither food nor drink. And if I look thin and careworn, this is the cause."
The Brahman maid answered, ""What reward would you give me if I enabled you to meet your
·beloved." "If you did," cried the princess, "I should be your slave always." The Brahman maid then took the ball out of her mouth and became once more a youth. When the princess saw the change, she blushed and hid her face. Afterwards she and the Brahman youth married each other according· to Gandharva marriage rites and lived happily together:· In the morning the Brahman youth would put the ball in his mouth and become a girl and at night he would take it out again and become once more a youth. In this way six months passed.
One day the king. took all his family to the house of his minister to attend a wedding there. When the minister's son saw the Brahman maid he lost his heart completely to her. He said to one of 

Princess Chandraprabha 93
his friends, "Unless I can marry that girl I shall kill myself." After the wedding feast was over, the king with his family returned to his own house. But the minister's son grieved so for the Brahman maid, that he would touch neither food nor drink. His friend told the cause to the minister. The minister went to the king and said, "My lord king, my son has become very ill for love of that Brahman maid. He will neither eat nor drink. Of your mercy marry her to him. Otherwise, I shall lose him."
At this the king grew very angry. "Fool! is it for a king to do such a thing The girl is already the wife of another man. How can I marry her to your son?" The minister vexed at the answer went home. . There seeing how ill his son was, he too refused food and drink. After some days, the king's other officers went to the king and said,' 0 king, the minister's son is on the point of death.. The minister will not survive him. If the minister dies, the kingdom will be ruined; for there is no other with such knowledge of statecraft as he has. Hear therefore, our petition."·
"Speak," said the king.
The leading officer then said, "My lord king, it is now many days since that old Brahman left., Heaven alone knows whether he is still alive.
Marry, therefore, we pray. you, the Brahman maid, to the minister's son and save the kingdom. Should the old Brahman come back, pacify him with a gift of land or money. If that does not satisfy him, get another wife for his son."

94 Tales of King Vikra ma
king agreed and sending for the Brahman's daughter-in-law told her 'what had taken place. " My lord king," she cried, "we women are the victims of our beauty. Brahmans are the victims of their ambition to serve kings. Wealth is lost through wickedness. Cows are led by their desire to drink water into the forest and there perish." Then after a pause, she said, "0 king, if you insist on marrying me for the minister's son, then I would ask you one thing. Make him promise to do what I ask him. If you agree to this, I am ready to go to his house." What is it that you want him to do'?" asked the king. "My lord king, I am a Brahman girl and he is a Kshatriya. Before I marry him, he must purify himself by going to all the holy places in India. If he does that, I am ready-to marry him."
The king repeated the condition to the minister's son, who replied, "0 king, I am ready to go on this pilgrimage, but I want her first to come and Jive in my house." The king approved his request. So the Brahman maid had against
her will to go and live in the house of the minister's son. The latter before starting on his journey entrusted the maid to his wife and told them both to live in harmony and not quarrel with each other. Then he departed.
Six months later, the minister's son returned after having visited all the holy places. His family began to make all preparations for the wedding. The Brahman maid, however, took the ball out of her mouth and became once more a

Princess Ohandraprabha 95
man. Then escaping from the window he fled from the city. After some time he mot MuldeY and told him all that had passed. Muldev took from him the magic ball and gave it to his son Shashi. Then father and son each put a magic ball into his mouth. Muldev became an old man, his son became a handsome youth of twenty. Then both went to the king. The king saluted the Brahmans respectfully and gave them both seats of honour. They in return blessed the king. After enquiring after Muldev's health, the king asked him where he had been during his absence. "I went," said Muldev, "to look for my son. At last I found him, and I have brought him wit me. Now if you will be so good as to- give him his wife, we shall return to our own land."
When the king heard Muldev's_request, he had to tell him all that had happened to the Brahman maid. Muldev listened until the king had finished. Then in a fury he roared, "This is a fine tale! capital! ha! ha! you did as you thought best forsooth! Well, now you will have, to feel the weight of my curse! "
The king in a fright said, "Reverend sir! do not curse me! If you but spare me, I am ready to do anything you wish." "If you wish to escape my curse," roared .Muldev, "you must give your daughter as a bride to my son." The king con­ sented. On an auspicious day he married publicly his daughter to Muldev's son. Then both Muldev and Shashi, taking the princess with them went back to their own land.

96 Tales of King Vikrap1a
When the Brahmana youth came to hear of this, he went to Muldev's son and angrily demanded his wife. '' No," said Shashi. "she is my wife. I was publicly married to her." ''But how can she be your wife when she was already mine?" cried the Brahman youth. They continued shouting at each other for ever so long. And although Muldev tried to pacify the Brahman youth, he could not do so.
At this point the oilman's son said, "King Vikrama, tell me whose wife the princess really was." 'She was the wife of Shashi," answered King Vikrama. ·But how could she be?" asked the oilman's son, "when she had already married someone else?" · "No one knew," retorted King Vikrama, "or could know about the first marriage·; whereas the second marriage was preformed publicly and everybody recognized it. So the princess was really the wife of Muldev's son Shashi." When King Vikrama had finished speaking, he saw that he was alone. He realized that he had once more broken his promise. Returning to the burning ground, he flung the dead body over his shoulder and began once more to retrace his steps. As he went, the oilman's son began to tell his fifteenth tale.


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