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 in the town of Dharmapur in the Deccan a king called Mahabal. It so happened that his enemies gathered a great army and besieged the capital. For some time King Mahabal resisted gallantly. But one night when half his army had deserted, and the other half were dead, he fled with his wife and daughter into the forest. After they had walked some miles, day dawned. The king left his wife and daughter and went into a village to buy food. As he went, a body of Bhils attacked him. But the king was a brave man and began to shoot at them with his bow and arrows. They in turn began to shoot at him.


After the king had killed several Bhils, one of their arrows entered his forehead. He fell down unconscious. Thereupon a base born Bhil rushed up and cut off his head. When the queen and the princess learnt what had befallen the king, they began to weep and beat their breasts. They walked on for several miles. Then too weary to walk farther, they sat down and began to lament bitterly.


It so chanced that a certain King Chandrasen and his son had gone out hunting. In their chase they came to this forest and saw the tracks of the two women. The king said, "How come these


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men's tracks in so wild a spot?" His son answered, "They are women's not men's tracks. Men do not have such small feet". The king replied, "You are right. The footprints are too small to be men's". The prince said, "Only two women have come along this path". The king then said, "Come along then, let us hunt them out. If we find them, you shall marry the woman who made the big footprints, and I shall marry the one who made the small footprints". The prince agreed. After a short search, they found the queen and the princess. All parties were delighted to meet. The king and the prince lifted the queen and the princess upon their horses and, as they had agreed, the king married the princess and the prince married the queen. At this point the oilman's son said, "King Vikrama, tell me what relation to each other were the children of the two marriages. The king was utterly nonplussed and could make no answer. The oilman's son was pleased and said, "O king, I have seen your courage and I am pleased with you. Now listen to me. That Shantashil who came to your city with his hairs all standing out like thorns and his body as dry as an old stick, that Shantashil who sent you to bring me to him and who is now sitting and repeating incantations in the burning ground, he seeks to kill you. Now I warn you that when he has finished his horrible rites, he will say to you, "O king, you should prostrate yourself before the god". You must then answer, "I have never yet prostrated myself before


 150 Tales of King Vikrama


 anyone. I do not know how to do it, therefore, be so kind as to show me how?" He will then show you and as he does so, cut his head off with a single swordblow. If you do, you will rule for ever. But if you do not, he will kill you and will rule for ever in your stead." When the oilman's son had said this, his ghost left the dead body. The king took it to the anchorite who was very pleased to see it and praised the king warmly. Then saying spells all the time he stretched it out at full length. Next he lit a sacred fire and seating himself with his face to the south offered to the *god incense, flowers, ghee, a lighted lamp, rice, fruits and betel nut. When the ceremony was over, he said, " O king, prostrate yourself before the god. If you do, your glory and your valor will grow until the eight magical powers and the nine treasures of Kuber will abide in your palace". But the king remembered what the oilman's son had told him. With clasped hands and in very humble tones he said to the anchorite, "Reverend sir, I do not know how to prostrate myself before the deity. You are my spiritual teacher. Be so gracious as to show me". The anchorite bent down to show the king. Directly he bent down, the king struck him such a blow with his sword that his head fell off his body. Directly afterwards the ghost of the oilman's son appeared and scattered flowers over the king. It is written in the sacred books that it is no * The god was presumably Shiva.


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 sin to slay one who seeks to take a man's life. The god Indra and the other gods were so pleased with the king's bravery, that they came down in their celestial chariots and applauded King Vikrama. The god Indra said, " O brave and gallant King, I am pleased with you, ask any boon of me you will". The king clasped his hands and said "Great God, I would ask you that the whole world should know the twenty-five tales which the oilman's son told me". "So long as there are moon and sun and earth and heaven," replied Indra "so long shall these tales be told, and so long will your kingdom endure over the whole earth". With these words Indra and the other gods went back each to his own dwelling place. The king threw both the dead bodies into a cauldron of boiling oil. As he did so, two male figures appeared before him with clasped hands. "Great King," they said, "what are your commands?" "Go now," said the king, "but you must appear again whenever I need you". "We are at your orders," said the two male figures and vanished. King Vikrama then went back to rule his kingdom.


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
24TheWanderingAnchorite 25KingMahabalHisQueenAndDaughter