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 ruled over the town of Vilaspur, a king called Vipuleshwar. In the town lived a merchant who had a daughter called Madanmanjari. Her father married her to a merchant whose name was Dhanawati. One day he sailed away to trade in a far country. In his absence his wife Madanmanjari was sitting by an upper window and looking into the road. As she looked, she saw a Brahman youth whose name was Kamalakar. Their eyes met and instantly each fell in love with the other. After some minutes Kamalakar had recovered suffi- ciently to go to the house of a friend. Madanmanjari fainted. Her maid servant entered the room and lifted her up, but she did not recover consciousness. The maid servant sprinkled water over her. When she returned to her senses, she cried, "O god of Love, Shiva* burnt you to ashes, yet still your wickedness endures and you inflict pain on innocent women." When evening came and the moon rose, she looked at the moon and said, "O moon! I have heard it said that in you is stored ambrosia and that by means of your rays you shower down ambrosia


Shiva*  burnt Kamadeva to ashes because he shot an arrow into Shiva's heart and so made him fall in love with Parvati. (/ have told the story in Ishtur Phakde.) 9


130 Tales of King Vikrama


 on earth. But upon me to-day you have showered poison." She then said to her maid, "Take me to my room; the moon's rays are burning up my body." The maid servant took her in and said, "My mistress! are you not ashamed to say such things?" Madanmanjari answered, "Yes, I know, I do my best not to; but what can I do? Love's arrow has pierced me and robbed me of all shame. I cannot bear to be parted from my beloved. The very air of this house seems poisoned." On hearing this the maid said, "Be brave, my mistress, I shall find means to cure your pain." The maid servant went home. After she had left, Madanmanjari thought to herself, "If I sacrifice this aching body to win him for my husband, I shall become his wife in my next life." She tied a rope round her neck and was about to hang herself when her maid returned. The maid untied the rope and said, "What is the use of dying? If you live, you will get all you desire." "It is better to die than suffer as I do," retorted Madanmanjari. "Be patient for only half an hour," said the maid servant, " and I shall bring your beloved to see you." The servant went to Kamalakar's house. She found him also very ill. His friend was sprinkling rose water over him, anointing him with powdered sandalwood and fanning him with lotus leaves. In spite of this cooling treatment his face and body were burning and from time to time he called to his friend, "Give me poison! give me poison, so that I may die and escape from my pain!" When she saw his state, the maid servant said to herself,


Madanmanjari, Kamalakar & Dhanawati 131


 "After all there is nothing strange in this, for no matter how learned or how wise a man may be, the god of Love can in a moment lay him low."

 The maid servant said to Kamalakar, "Madanmanjari has sent me to call you to her, that you may save her life." "Your words," replied Kamalakar, "have saved mine." So saying he sprang from his couch to his feet. He went with the maid servant to Madanmanjari's house. There the maid servant went to her mistress's room, but found her lying dead. When she told JKamalakar he gave a great cry and fell down dead also. Madanmanjari's kinsmen carried both bodies to the burning ground and placing them together on a pyre set fire to it. Just then Madanmanjari's husband Dhanawati returned from his travels. On hearing the whole story, he went to the burning ground. When he saw his wife's body burning alongside a strange man's he was so overcome with grief, that he sprang into the flames and perished. When the citizens learnt what had happened, they said one to the other, "We have never in our lives seen or heard of such a marvel."


At this point the oilman's son said, "King Vikrama! tell me who of those three persons was most in love." "The husband," answered the king. "Why?" asked the oilman's son. "Because," answered King Vikrama, "he killed himself for love of one who loved another." When the King Vikrama had finished speaking, he saw that he was alone. He realized that he had again broken


132 Tales of King Vikrama


 his promise. He returned to the burning ground. Taking the dead body off the tree, he flung it over his shoulder and began to retrace his steps. As he went, the oilman's son began to tell his twenty-first
00VikramBetaalIntroduction 01VajramukutAndPadmavati
02MadhumalotiAndHerSuitors 03KingRupsenAndVirvar
04The MainaAndTheParrot 05MahadeviAndTheGiant
06ParvatiAndTheWashermansBride 07PrincessTribhuvanasundari
08KingGunadipAndViramdeva 09SomadattaAndMadansena
10KingGunashekhar 11KingAndSeamaiden
12PrincessLavanyaAndThe Gandharva 13ShobhaniAndTheRobber
14PrincessChandraprabha 15KingJimutketuAndPrinceJimutvahan
16TheKingAndUnmadini 17GunakarAndTheAnchorite
18TheRobbersBride 19TheGiantAndTheBrahmanBoy