Vikram (Vikraman) was the king. Betaal was the Vedalam, the ghost and the storyteller. King Vikram must give the correct answer. If not, the king's head would explode into 100 pieces. If he gave the correct answer, the ghost will fly off his shoulder to its refuge, the moringa tree, thereby frustrating Vikram to take Batal to its destination, where a mendicant was waiting for Betal delivered as promised by the king. .
Vedalam is the analogue of west's Vampire. (Betall-Badal-Bedal-Betal-Vedalam-Vetalam = the ghost)
Here is a detailed story.
King Vikram held court and received gifts from the visitors. A mendicant gave him a fruit on every visit, which the king handed over to the royal storekeeper. One day, the fruit broke while being handled and a ruby came out. The king ordered all the fruits to be examined. All the stored fruits yielded rubies.
The king wanted to meet the mendicant, who proposed to meet him under a banyan tree in the center of the cremation ground on the outskirts of the city on the 14th day of the dark half of the month. The king met him under the tree. The mendicant asked the king to go to the northernmost corner of the grounds, locate a moringa tree there, bring down a talking corpse (Badal) hanging from a tree branch, and take it to the mendicant. The mendicant wanted to sit on Bedal, the ghost and perform certain rites, the idea being to kill the king and become the master of the world.
En route, Batal would tell a story, and at the end, pose a question to the king. If the king knew the answer, he should answer, or else Vedala (Badal or the ghost) would break the king's head. If the king spoke, broke the silence, and answered the question correctly, Badal would fly back to the tree. This happened 25 times (thus 25 stories). The king was supposed to deliver Batal to the mendicant according to the agreement.
Badal helps the king.
Badal revealed to the king that the mendicant intended to kill him in order to gain all the power in the world. The king went to the mendicant, who tried to kill the king but ended up being killed by the king instead.
Undaunted in his efforts, King Vikram brought down the Vedalam and carried it to the funeral grounds. The Vedalam spoke, "O king! People of your stature, dedicated to life's goals, will try in a dedicated manner until they achieve their goals."
"There are some people with no attachment of any kind, who wander like a Jñāni and suddenly change course to attain their goals that take years of pursuit for others. Hear the story of Gunasekar, who was of that nature."
A minor king named Chandravarman ruled Virāha Nādu and had twins. The older and the younger were named Kulasekar and Gunasekar. Since childhood, Kulasekar had the idea to become the king and accordingly moved among people with equal status. Gunasekar, completely devoid of likes and dislikes, had not thought of high and low among people and had no desire to become the ruler of the country.
Chandravarman celebrated their birthday extravagantly. On their tenth birthday, they received a statue of Garuda, the mount of Lord Vishnu, sent by Kulaguru (Family teacher) Sambunāthar. The bird was large and had a key by the ear, turning which made it fly and return back after the flight. Only one person could sit on the big bird. The princes took the bird to the royal gardens. Kulasekar took the first flight, returned after enjoying the flight, and gave the bird to Gunasekar to fly on. Sārathi, the son of the palace maid, wanted to ride the bird. His mother reminded him that his desire was inappropriate for him. Gunasekar observed the talk between the mother and the son and told the palace worker, "Your son Sārathy is of my age. His desire is appropriate for his age. Therefore, I give him the opportunity to ride the bird." Gunasekar asked Sārathy to climb on the bird. Kulasekar rushed and stopped Sārathy from taking flight on the bird.
All the people approved Kulasekar's disapproval of Sārathy taking a flight. Gunasekar was upset and unhappy. Gunasekar declared, "If Sārathy cannot ride the bird, I won't ride the bird. I will become the pupil of Kulaguru, make a flying bird, and allow Sārathy to sit on it for a flight."
King Chandravarman had the same thought and admitted both his sons to the Gurukulam (School) to learn royal ethics, justice, finance, economics, and other subjects. From day one, Kulasekar showed interest in politics and economics. In due course of time, Gunasekar built a bird and let Sārathy take a ride. Witnessing the equal treatment of the worker's son by Prince Gunasekar, the Kulaguru observed, "You are no ordinary person. You are a Mahān (great person)."
After completing their studies under the tutelage of Gurukula Sambhunathar, the princes returned home to the palace. Discovering the disparate inclinations of the two sons, Chandavarman said to Sambhunathar, "Kulasekaran learned political science very well from you. It appears Gunasekaran did not learn political science." Sambhunathar observed, "Gunasekaran did not have an interest in ruling the country. That is why he did not care to learn political science."
The king proposed to split the nation into two and make each one the ruler of half of the kingdom. However, the king's parents and the council of ministers opposed the idea. The king intended to invade a foreign country and make Gunasekar the ruler of the conquered territory.
Then, the Visāla kingdom announced the Swayamvara of Princess Chandrakala. Princes from many countries were invited to participate. Chandravarman thought of sending Gunasekar in place of Kulasekar for the Swayamvara. The king's vain hope was that Gunasekar would become the king if he married Chandrakala. The king expressed his idea to Gunasekar. When Gunasekar found out about Kulasekar's desire to marry Chandrakala, Gunasekar gave up the idea of going to the Swayamvara. Kulasekar went in his place.
Many princes assembled to participate in the Swayamvara. Chandrakala entered the Swayamvara Mandapam with a garland in her hands. Someone entered the hall, grabbed Chandrakala's hand, and declared, "My name is Mitrapinthan. I love Chandrakala. I am the rightful would-be groom. I am taking her to my kingdom. If you have the courage, defeat me in battle and take Chandrakala." Saying thus, he mounted a waiting horse with his prized bride-to-be and ran off.
Vīragupta, the kingly father of Chandrakala, announced that he would give his daughter in marriage and his kingdom to any prince who rescued his daughter from the cruel abductor. Immediately, many princes and kings invaded Mahāparvatha to rescue Chandrakala. None of them succeeded because Mahāparvatha was a hill country hard to invade, subdue, and vanquish. They all died fighting. Kulasekaran was one among the dead.
Upon learning of his brother's death, Gunasekar decided to invade the hill country. He began to gather intelligence about Mitrapinthan and his country.
Mitrapinthan, from early childhood, prayed to Rūdrabhairavi Amman in her temple and received special powers from the goddess. The story was that the goddess appeared in his dream, expressing a desire to drink the blood of 100 princes sacrificed by Mitrapinthan for her and bless him with extraordinary power. The only way Mitrapinthan could be killed was by an assault with Rūdrabhairavi's own spear.
After hearing this intelligence, Gunasekaran carried out many preliminary acts conducive to Mitrapinthan's death, assumed a disguise, and went to Mahāparvatham. One midnight, Gunasekar in disguise followed Mitrapinthan and Chandrakala on their way to the Rudrabhairavi Temple. As Mitrapinthan entered the sanctum, Gunasekaran hastened to the sanctum sanctorum, grabbed the deity's spear, plunged it into Mitrapinthan's chest, and killed him. Amman appeared before him and said, "With the sacrifice of 99 princes by Mitrapinthan, the 100th sacrifice of Mitrapinthan was your offer to me. I want to offer my boons to you. Ask me what you want." Gunasekara said, "Please resurrect all 99 princes except the 100th sacrifice, Mitrapinthan." Amman granted the boon as requested.
Amman told the 99 resurrected princes to accept Gunasekar as their monarch since he was responsible for their resurrection. Saying thus, Amman disappeared.
The Vedalam stopped telling the story at this juncture and said to Vikraman, "Don't you think that Gunasekar's action was surprising? He expressed a desire not to become the ruler of the country. See how he changed. Amman stated that an ordinary man could not kill Mitrapinthan.
Gunasekar's action was surprising. He expressed a desire not to become the ruler of the country, but circumstances led him down a different path. Amman stated that an ordinary man could not kill Mitrapinthan. How was it that Gunasekar was able to accomplish this feat? If you kept silent knowing the answer, your head would shatter into a hundred pieces.''
Vikraman responded, "Gunasekaran did not kill Mitrapinthan out of a desire to become king. He killed him as an act of revenge for the murder of his brother and the senseless killings of the 99 princes. His intelligence revealed that an ordinary man could not kill Mitrapinthan because of the protection bestowed upon him by Rudra Bhairavi. Gunasekar was not an ordinary person but an upright individual with virtuous qualities. It is no surprise that an extraordinary person like Gunasekar was able to slay Mitrapinthan."
Impressed by Vikraman's correct answer and his breaking of the silence, the Vedalam flew off his shoulders and returned to the tree. Vikraman continued his journey, determined to claim his rightful place as the true king. And with the lessons learned from the stories shared by the Vedalam, he became a wise and just ruler, leading his kingdom to prosperity and happiness.
From that day forward, King Vikram was known for his bravery, wisdom, and unwavering commitment to justice. The tales of his valor and righteousness spread far and wide, and his reign was remembered as a golden era in the history of the kingdom.
And so, the story of Gunasekar and Vikraman serves as a reminder that one's path in life can often take unexpected turns, and that it is our actions and virtues that truly define us.