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 lived in Kalingam a Brahman named Kashyasharma. He had a beautiful wife whose name was Somadatta. He never ceased from making sacrifices and so it befell that his wife bore him a son. When the boy was five years old, he began to learn the sacred books and when he was twelve, he was as wise as the wisest and he served his father with unfaltering devotion. After some little time he died. His parents grieved and mourned for him. When the townspeople came to hear of it, they too sorrowed much and carried him to the burning ground. When they looked at his body as it lay on the pyre, they said one to the other, "Look! Death has in no way robbed the boy of his beauty." Now it so happened that in the burning ground lived an anchorite who practiced austerities there. When he heard the words of the mourners, he said to himself, "My body has become very old, yet the austerities which I set out to perform are not completed. Now that by good luck the body of a boy has come here, I shall enter it. Then I shall bring my austerities to a successful ending". Thereafter the anchorite entered the boy's body. Then as if he had just awakened, he cried " Shiva ! Shiva ! " and rose to his feet. All the bystanders were amazed. They took the boy home and went to their own houses. His father was so affected by the marvel that he

The Anchorite 147

became a wandering beggar. The anchorite then wept and afterwards laughed. At this point the oilman's son said, "King Vikrama, why did the anchorite first laugh and then weep?" "The anchorite," answered King Vikrama, "laughed in his joy that he had studied from boyhood the art of passing from his own body to another. Then he wept because he grieved that he should have to leave his own body which he loved well." 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 across his back and began to retrace his steps. As he did so, the oilman's son began to tell his twenty-fifth tale.


00VikramBetaalIntroduction 01VajramukutAndPadmavati
02MadhumalotiAndHerSuitors 03KingRupsenAndVirvar
04The MainaAndTheParrot 05MahadeviAndTheGiant
06ParvatiAndTheWashermansBride 07PrincessTribhuvanasundari
08KingGunadipAndViramdeva 09SomadattaAndMadansena
10KingGunashekhar 11KingAndSeamaiden
12PrincessLavanyaAndThe Gandharva 13ShobhaniAndTheRobber
14PrincessChandraprabha 15KingJimutketuAndPrinceJimutvahan
16TheKingAndUnmadini 17GunakarAndTheAnchorite
18TheRobbersBride 19TheGiantAndTheBrahmanBoy
20MadanmanjariKamalakarAndDhanwati 21TheLionAndTheFourLearnedMen
22The MagicianAndTheDeadYouth 23TheThreeSonsOfGovind