Today (6th March India) is the third anniversary of my blog and I thank all of you readers who have been following this blog and encouraging me continuously. Here is another interesting story for you…
Vikramaditya or Vikram was a legendary Indian king with unmatched valour, intelligence and bravery. He is said to have ruled Bharat from Ujjain and many a story are woven about him, the famous ones being Betaal Pachchisi (also called Vetaal Panchavimsati in Sanskrit) and Singhasan Battisi. Betaal Pachchisi is a set of twenty five stories including the introductory one, each of them ending with a riddle, told by a Betaal or Vedaalam in Tamil (which means vampire) to Vikram to test his intelligence. Singhasan Battisi is a set of thirty two stories where the stories told are about Vikram’s outstanding qualities to Raja Bhoja who accidentally discovers the throne of Vikramaditya.
This is from Betaal Pachchisi. Here is the introductory story.
King Vikram who was ruling from Ujjain, used to meet the public outside the palace everyday morning while he came to the court. Once he noticed that an elderly person who looked like a mendicant was coming every morning in the audience and presenting him with a big fruit every day without fail. King Vikram used to get the fruit and hand it over to the minister who was storing it somewhere.
One day as the minister was taking the fruit, a monkey appeared out of nowhere and snatched the fruit from the minister and tore open a portion of the fruit when a big precious ruby fell out of the fruit. As King Vikram and the onlookers looked at this incident with great surprise, the mendicant had left. King Vikram called the minister and asked him to bring the other fruits and to their surprise, all the fruits contained a precious ruby each.
The next day when the mendicant approached the king, Vikram asked him the purpose of his giving him so many fruits with gems inside.
“I need your help urgently, Maha Rajan (great king)” replied the mendicant.
“What is it that you want from me?” asked Vikram to which the mendicant said with a mysterious smile, “I need to tell you that in private”. Vikram then led him to his inner chamber when the mendicant said “I can tell you what I want only if you come and meet me in my place in the forest on the coming new moon day at midnight. But you should come alone. Will you?”
King Vikram agreed immediately without a second thought.
The mendicant left the place immediately.
On the following new moon night, unknown to anyone Vikram mounted his horse and sword in hand, rode into the deep dark jungle. The forest was dense with trees, bushes and creepers and being the new moon night there was not a spot of light.
It would have terrified us if we went, but Vikram, brave as he was, trained his eyes to see in the dark and followed the rugged path.
After a while, the growth of bushes was so dense that the horse could not proceed. Climbing down, King Vikram trudged over the thorny bushes and the only noise being made was by his sandals crushing the dry leaves and twigs. Here and there one could suddenly hear the rustle of leaves on trees signifying the movement of deadly snakes. King Vikram advanced into the forest fearlessly sword in hand.
After a while, he could spot a clearing where the mendicant was sitting cross legged wearing a garland made of skulls chanting some verses loudly. There was a sacrificial fire in front of him burning brightly and he was throwing something in the fire at the end of each verse with his eyes closed tight. King Vikram realised that the mendicant was indeed a sorcerer.
Vikram smiled to himself that he was able to find the sorcerer and went up to him.
Hearing the rustle of Vikram’s sandals, the sorcerer opened his eyes.
“Hahahahahahahahaha……..” he roared with laughter as if he had achieved something. “Oh! So you have come” said he. “I knew you would not cheat me”
Vikram’s expression remained as calm as the sea. “Yes, why would I cheat you Sir? Tell me how I could serve you?” he asked with humility.
“Well” said the sorcerer. “ You shall do as you have promised”
“Yes, Go on” said Vikram.
“There is a banyan tree at the north eastern corner of this forest and there hangs a corpse on its branches. Bring me the corpse as I am doing a ritual to attain occult powers and only if I sacrifice a corpse brought by a King like you, I will succeed in my endeavour” said he with a wicked look.
Vikram, brave as he was, immediately turned and proceeded to the north east corner of the forest. Such sharp sense of direction he had that he easily went in the correct direction in the pitch dark forest with no one to guide!
Soon he reached the place and saw a huge tree on which a corpse hung upside down. He could see it was tied with a rope and so he climbed up the tree and cut the ropes holding the corpse and it fell down with a thud. As he bent to pick it up, there was an eerie laughter and the corpse flew back to the branch and hung upside down on its own. Six times Vikram tried and all the six times, the corpse flew back. By then Vikram had realised that it was not an ordinary corpse, but the corpse was possessed by a vampire (ghost).
This time, Vikram held firmly to the corpse and shoved it on his back, holding its legs tightly. The corpse began to speak.
“You are really great Vikram” it said. “You have managed to capture me and take me to the sorcerer. But the path is quite long and so I have decided to tell you a story. The story will have a question at the end.I have heard that you are extremely intelligent and if you know the answer and still keep quiet, your head will break into a thousand pieces but if you tell me the correct answer, I will fly back to the tree”
It was such a tricky situation but Vikram being bound by his promise to the sorcerer could not but agree to this condition of the vampire.
“Go on…” he said.
The vampire started the story.
“In olden days in a city, there lived two friends, Suryamal and Chandrasen. They were very close friends. Once both of them went on a visit to a Kali temple at Pataliputra. In the temple, Suryamal saw a young maiden who was very beautiful. He instantly liked her so much that he enquired nearby and found his way to her house to meet her father. He met her father and sought the maiden’s hand in marriage. The father was too glad. After all he was a very poor man and here, some well to do person was seeking his daughter’s hand. So the marriage was fixed. The father had only one condition that since his daughter was an ardent devotee of Kali, Suryamal should, after marriage fulfil her wish of going to a Kali temple every day.
Suryamal agreed and the marriage was performed in a grand manner in the presence of the villagers and Chandrasen. Chandrasen was very happy for his friend. The day following the wedding, the friends along with Suryamal’s wife bade goodbye to her parents and started back to their city. The girl’s father asked them to stay for a day but they said that there was a pooja in Suryamal’s house the next day and they had to leave.
The friends were riding horses while Suryamal’s wife was travelling in a palanquin carried by two men. Her jewellery and other gifts given by her parents were being carried by another person walking behind the palanquin.
Unfortunately the party had started their travel a bit late in the evening and it was already past midnight when they were passing through a dense forest and still had to travel several miles to reach their destination. The forest was infested with dacoits which they were not aware of and suddenly they were attacked by a group of dacoits. There was a fierce fight. Though Suryamal and Chandrasen did not have any weapons, they fought bravely but the dacoits overpowered them and chopped off their heads. The attendants had run away in fear leaving all the gifts and Suryamal’s wife was huddled inside the palanquin trembling with fear.
By the time the dacoits left, it was early in the morning and Suryamal’s wife stepped out gingerly out of the palanquin only to see the headless bodies of her husband and his friend.
Suffering a terrible shock she cried out loudly and lamented to her goddess Kali. She recalled how much she believed in Kali and how Kali had betrayed her. Unable to bear the sorrow, she pulled out a small dagger she carried and was about to kill herself when to her delight, Kali appeared before her and said she would give life to her husband and his friend. She further told the maiden to take the heads of her husband and his friend and keep it near the respective necks. The girl was so excited at this offer of Kali Maa that she, in her hurry, brought the heads of Suryamal and Chandrasen but while keeping them near the necks, interchanged the heads. She kept Chandrasen’s head near Suryamal’s body and Suryamal’s head near Chandrasen’s body. In a second Kali Maa brought them to life as they were placed and vanished. To her horror, the maiden found her husband with his friend’s body and vice versa. She lamented but it was too late.”
The vampire stopped the story. “Vikram” it said, “who do you think the maiden should take as her husband and live with? Suryamal with Chandrasen’s body or Chandrasen with Suryamal’s body?”
Without a wee bit of hesitation Vikram replied “The girl should take the person with Suryamal’s head as her husband, because, the brain in our head commands all the organs in our body, stores all memories and therefore the head is the vital part of our body and so it would be appropriate that she lives with the person with Suryamal’s head”
The next moment, Vikram heard an eerie cackle and the vampire had slipped out of his hold. “Vikram,” it said, “I told you that I will go back if you told the right answer and here I go hohoho….…”
There was a swoosh in the air and rustle on the trees and the vampire was flying back to its tree fast with Vikram in hot pursuit.
Here ends the first tale of Vikram and Vetaal.