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 Chandrashekhar. A merchant lived there called Ratnadatta. He had a daughter named Unmadini. When she was in the flower of her youth, the merchant went to the king and said, "My lord king, I have a very beautiful daughter. If you like, I am ready to bestow her on you." The king called two or three of his eldest friends and bade them go to Ratnadatta's house and find out what the maid was like. If she was pretty, he was willing to marry her. The king's friends went, as ordered, and all were charmed by the girl's beauty. Indeed, her loveliness was beyond description. No one would have deemed her a human maid. Her beauty outshone the jewels she wore. Truly she was what the ancient books have called a maid of the lotus kind*. When the King's friends saw her, *
The ancient Hindus divided women into four classes:
a. Padmani or the lotus kind, i. e., one in whom every excellence is joined.
b. Chitrani or the variegated kind, i. e., one in whom some defects are to be found, but in whom the virtues pre- dominate.
c. Hastani or the elephant kind, i.e., one who swings her hips in a wide circle when walking, a quality much admired.
d. Skankhani or the conch type, L e., a woman of no beauty either of form, face or mind. In addition to her ugliness she has a voice like a war horn.

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they reflected that if they told the king that the girl was pretty, he would wed her. Once married he would never leave her side, but would bask in her beauty all day long. In this way he would neglect his duties and ruin his kingdom. They therefore resolved to tell the king that Unmadini was ugly. They went back to the king and said, "O Maharaja, we have seen the maid as you ordered us to do. But she is ugly and in no way worthy of you." When the king heard this, he told the merchant that he would not marry his daughter.
Some time afterwards the merchant gave his daughter in marriage to the king's general Balbhadra by name. Unmadini went to live in her husband's house. One day the king and his suite happened to pass by Balbhadra's house. Unmadini went and stood upon the balcony to see the king pass. He fell at once in love with her and thought to himself, " She must be some wood-nymph or apsara.* No daughter of man could be so lovely as she. The king concealing his passion, returned the same evening to the palace. The sentry at the door noticed that the king's face was care-worn and said, "My lord king, what ails you?" "My man, how can I tell you?" said the king, "I saw a lovely woman on the balcony of Balbhadra's house. I saw her only once, yet I am her slave. That is what ails me."
*Apsaras are immortal ladies-in-waiting at the god Indra's court.

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"My lord king, that was the merchant Ratnadatta's daughter. He has married her to your general Balbhadra." When the king heard this, he realized that the friends whom he had sent to see the maiden had tricked him. He sent a messenger to call them. When they stood before him, he said, "You did not do as I told you, but disobeyed the order that I gave you and told me a lot of falsehoods. Today I saw Ratnadatta's daughter with my own eyes. She has such charm and beauty that I shall never get a wife like her." "O Maharaja," pleaded the king's friends, "it is true that we lied to you, but hear, we pray you, why we did so. If you had married a wife of such surpassing beauty, she would have enslaved you and you would have neglected the duties of your state. This would have brought misery on your subjects. The fear of this calamity led us into error." "You are right," said the king. Then he suddenly remembered Unmadini and fell into a dead faint.

Everyone in the city came to hear of the king's love for Unmadini. When the news reached Balbhadra, he at once went to the king and rousing him from his fainting fit said with clasped hands, "O lord of the Earth! I am your slave; my wife is your bondswoman. Why should you suffer grief on her account? Whenever you tell me, I am ready to bring her here for you to marry." When the king heard the general's words, he grew very angry. "To covet another's wife is a great sin. Why do you suggest that I 

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should do suhi a thing? I am a just man and I could never be guilty of such an act. I look on all other men's wives as if they were my mothers; and I regard all other men's riches as if they were dirt. A king should behave towards other men as he would that they should behave unto him." "But," objected Balbhadra, "Unmadini is my bondmaiden and I have given her to you. Why then, do you say that she belongs to another?" "Nay," answered the king, "I can never do an act which would stain my honour." "But my lord king," persisted the general, if I drive my wife out of the house and turn her into a dancing girl, then surely I can offer her to you." At this the king grew more angry than ever. "If you dare," he cried, "to turn a chaste wife into a dancing girl, I shall surely punish you." After he had said this, the king again remembered Unmadini and fell into a dead faint. Ten days later he died. The king's general Balbhadra went to his spiritual teacher and said, "My master died through love of Unmadini, tell me what I should do." The teacher replied, "It is the duty of the servant to die with his master." On hearing this Balbhadra went with his master's corpse to the burning ground and lit the funeral pyre. Then he turned to the sun with clasped hands and cried, "O Sun god, I ask this of you with all my body, speech and mind. Grant that at every fresh birth the dead king shall be my master and that I may through all time sing your praises". Next he 

110 Tales of King Vikrama

prostrated himself in honour of the Sun god. Then leaping into the fire he died near his master. When Unmadini came to know what her husband had done, she went to her spiritual teacher and told him in detail all that had happened. Then she said, "My master, tell me what I should do." The teacher replied, "Lady, the woman who serves the husband to whom her parents gave her, she alone is deemed to act righteously. She who disobeys her husband and busies herself in outside matters ruins her husband's happiness and receives her punishment in HelL Whosoever her husband may be, him only the wife should serve. Thus, she will attain happiness. When he dies she should pass with him through the flames. This and no other is the wife's duty." On hearing this Unmadini prostrated herself before her spiritual teacher and went to her house. There she bathed and distributed a great treasure among the Brahmans. Next, she walked round her husband's pyre, crying, "O lord of my life! may I be your slave from birth to birth." Lastly, she mounted the burning pyre and there perished.

At this point the oilman's son said, "King Vikrama, tell me who of those persons had the greatest merit." "The king," answered King Vikrama. "He refused to accept his general's wife, and although he died of love for her, he would not commit unrighteousness. To give one's life for one's master is the duty of the servant. To die on one's husband's pyre is the duty of a wife." The King and Unmadini 

111 When King Vikrama

had finished speaking he saw that he was alone. He realized that he had again broken his promise. He returned to the burning ground and found the dead body hanging to the tree. He flung it over his shoulder and began to retrace his steps. As he went, the oil-man's son began to tell his seventeenth tale.


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