The Betal Panchavimshati, also known as the Vikram Betal Stories, is an ancient collection of Indian tales featuring a King and a Ghost. Originally written in Sanskrit, these stories have gained international popularity. They have been translated into various languages, including Hindi, Tamil, Bengali, English, and Marathi. Each narrative carries a moral lesson for the audience.

The stories revolve around the King of Ujjain, Vikramaditya or Vikram, who promises to bring a ghost named Betal to a sage to aid him in his prayers. However, Betal agrees to accompany Vikram on one condition. During their journey, Betal tells the king a story and poses a question at the end. If Vikram answers correctly, Betal returns to his tree. If Vikram remains silent knowingly, he forfeits his life. Only when Vikram genuinely does not know the answer, he can take Betal to the sage. Thus, the journey of Vikram and Betal begins.

The Vikram Betal Stories comprise an intriguing collection of tales that culminate in thought-provoking questions. Delve into this historical treasure and enjoy listening to these stories with children and the rest of the family

King Vikraman went up the moringa tree and brought the body down. He carried the body on his shoulder and walked towards the funeral grounds. The ghost inside the body laughed and observed, "Hey king! I have my doubts about your possession and control of your faculties, since you exercise so much effort to accomplish a simple task. Let me tell you a story of a youth by the name of Govindan."

Kanchapura king Kanthivarman had a daughter and a son. The king wanted the elder girl, being of marriageable age, to get married. The king's daughter, Pushpalatha, agreed with the king to get married under one condition: The groom should bring a flying horse to her.

The king, knowing his daughter's stubbornness, spread the news of her condition for marriage throughout the kingdom. Many princes searched for a flying horse. No one found it and so gave up their efforts to marry the princess. A year went by idly.

A poor orphaned handsome youth collected flowers, weaved them into garlands, and was in the employ of a priest, Narasimha Bhattar. He lived on prasadam (Consecrated Temple food). Hearing of the princess's flying horse, he thought, "Why could I not bring a flying horse and marry the princess?" He spoke to Bhattar and asked him where he could find a flying horse.

Bhattar advised him, "Govinda! You never had a formal education. Therefore, you think there are flying horses. Our world does not have it. If you go to the other worlds like Devaloka and Gandharva Loka, you will see flying horses. The youth, in his innocence, asked the high priest how to go there. Bhattar told the youth, "You have to go to the top of the Vindhya mountains with forests, caves, ponds, and groves. Gandharva virgins visit the place at night. With their help, you can go to Gandharva Loka (celestial world). (Gandharvas are one of the eighteen celestial castes. They play music for the gods.) There, you can find the flying horse."

Govindan took leave of Bhattar, left for and reached Vindhya mountains. He saw a Siva temple, ponds, and lakes with lakeside trees, vines, and other forms of flora. Govinda fashioned swings with some ropes made of vines, decorated them with flowers, and sat by a tree waiting for Gandhara virgins.

That night, the full moon graced the sky. At midnight, a few Gandharva virgins showed up and used the swing to amuse themselves. Govinda stood before them and posed a question, "You all played on the swing I built. Is it not fair that you pay me back in some form?" A Gandharva young girl, surprised at his request, replied to him, "Ask me anything. I will give it to you." Govinda narrated the story of his life and the princess Pushpalatha and said, "I need a flying horse. With that as a gift, I will marry the princess."

Madhumadhi, the Gandharva woman, said, "I can't give you a flying horse. Since I promised you, I will take you to Gandharva Loka, where you will find plenty of flying horses. It is your responsibility to take the horse to the earth." Govinda agreed to the suggestion. The Gandharva woman morphed him into a pearl necklace, wore it around her neck, and reached Gandharva Loka.

When she reached her place, she took off the pearl necklace and transformed it into Govinda in his real earthly form. She showed him the king's horse shelter and told him, "Here is the stable of flying horses. Choose one and take it to the earth by your own means." He saw many beautiful flying horses. He chose one beautiful horse, decorated it with flower garlands, and wondered how he could ride it to Bhulokam (earth).

That day was the birthday of the Gandharva king. It was his custom to choose a horse and ride on it for one year. The king selected a flying horse, and the Gandharva women celebrated the occasion with song and dance.

That night, Govindan went to the king's stable. The flying horse chosen by the king spoke to Govindan, "You made it possible that I will be the flying horse for the king for one whole year. Thank you. What can I do for you in return?" Govindan narrated his story in full to the flying horse and concluded about marrying the earthly king's daughter, Pushpavalli. The flying horse laughed loudly and said, "Hey Human! It is not proper to have such a desire. Why do you desire to marry a princess, though you make a living by weaving garlands? Since I promised you to return your favor, sit on my back." Govinda, thinking deeply, mounted the horse. The horse took off, went to Kanchanapuram, and stood before the princess.

Govindan addressed the princess and said, "Dear princess! Here is the flying horse. Mount the horse and fly in the sky as long as you want." Paying obeisance, Govindan left the premises, leaving the princess with the horse. He never even turned back.

Now back to the storytelling ghost. The ghost said to King Vikraman, "Why did Govindan leave the princess alone without marrying her, though he put in so much effort? If you do not answer the question, knowing the right answer, your head will shatter into a thousand pieces."

Vikraman knew that Govindan was illiterate and came to know that the flying horse did not exist on earth only after Bhattar told him, and that they existed only in Gandharva and Deva loka. Only after the flying horse in Gandharva Loka pointed out to Govinda that he was a poor and penniless illiterate, and the princess was rich, famous and erudite. Govinda came to know of his low status and the high status of the princess. Until then, he never thought of his illiteracy or penury. The flying horse's admonition that his desire to marry the princess was not proper kindled his thinking and reflection. That conclusion of his made him not to marry the princess. His decision was right."

By this answer, Vikraman's maunam (silence) dissipated, resulting in the ascent of the Vedhalam (ghost) from his shoulders to the moringa tree.