TALES OF KING VIKRAM AND BETAAL THE VAMPIRE
The stories of TALES OF KING VIKRAM AND BETAAL THE VAMPIRE is an
icon of Indian storey telling, a brain teaser. Although there are 32 stories 25
are covered in Betal Panchisi. I will be sharing with you shortly, some of the
stories that are available with me. I am sure, after some time my colleague
will definitely let me know the stories which I could not lay hand and help me
in endeavoring my efforts.
A very famous account of human and vetal interaction is chronicled in the
Baital Pancsihi ('Twenty Five Tales Of The Vampire) which consist of twenty
five tales chronicling the adventures of King Vikramaditya and how his wits
were pitted against a vetal a sorcerer had asked him to capture for him.
Vetals have great wisdom and insight into the human soul in addition to being
able to see into the past and future and are thus very valuable acquisitions to
This particular vetal inhabited a tree in a crematorium/graveyard and the only
way it could be captured was by standing still and completely silent in the
middle of the graveyard/crematorium. However, every single time the king
tried this vetal would tempt him with a story that ended in a question the
answering of which King Vikramaditya could not resist. As a result the vetal
would re-inhabit the tree and the king was left to try again.
Only after relating twenty five tales does the vetal allow the king to bear him
back to the sorcerer, hence the name Baital Pancsihi.
The vetal informs the king of the treacherous sorcerers’ true intentions. The
sorcerer means to trick Vikramaditya, possessor of thirty two virtues, and
sacrifice him to a Goddess which would give him control over the vetal and his
The vetal advises the king to ask the sorcerer how to pay his respects to the
Goddess (which the sorcerer would ask him to do and use this opportunity to
sacrifice him) and behead him while he is distracted. On following the vetal's
advice the king is blessed and granted a boon by Lord Indra. The king wishes
the sorcerer to come back to life and wishes that henceforth he would have
the help and advice of the vetal whenever he needed it.
The Baital Pansihi was originally written in Sanskrit and is said to be the
inspiration for the Arabian Nights and subsequent collections of fantastic
In days gone by, Vikramaditya, a great king ruled over a prosperous kingdom
from his capital at Ujjain. Mighty as the sun - he was a king with immense
love for learning as well as for adventure.
King Vikram sat in his court for hours every
day, rewarding the virtuous, punishing the evil
doers, and encouraging scholars, poets,
musicians, and artists.
During such sessions, numerous people came to
meet him. They brought for him gifts of
jewels, gold or other precious things.
Among such visitors was a mendicant who, on every visit, presented the king
with a fruit. The king accepted his humble gift with the same show of
courtesy with which he would have accepted a diamond from a rich merchant.
He used to hand over the fruit to the royal storekeeper. One morning, the
mendicant gave him his usual gift just when the king was going out to inspect
his stables. The king accepted the fruit all right and went out while playing
with it, tossing it up and then catching it as it came down.
It so happened that after a while the fruit fell down from his hand. Instantly
a monkey who was on a nearby tree swooped down upon it and tried to crack it
with his teeth.
The fruit broke and pop came out a handy ball of ruby. The king's surprise
knew no bounds. He picked up the ruby and sent for an expert.
He examined it and said it was the finest ruby he had ever seen. "What did
you do with all the fruits I have been giving you?" the anxious king asked of
"My lord, I threw them all into our store through the window!" replied the
store-keeper. The king ordered him to fetch them, and when they were
produced before him, he was further astonished and delighted to see that
each one of the fruits contained a precious ruby.
When the mendicant came the next day, the king gave all attention to him and
asked him: "Why have you bestowed so much kindness on me?" "To be frank,
I expect you to help me in a very important work of mine, O king, but of that
I'll tell you in confidence," replied the mendicant.
The king led him into the private audience chamber. The
mendicant then said: “I know how brave you are. Hence I will
ask you to do something which requires courage.
But, for that, you must meet me under a Banyan tree in the
center of the cremation ground beyond the city, at night, on
the 14th day of the dark half of the month."
Vikram hesitated for a while. But the spirit of adventure got the better of
him. He agreed to meet the mendicant at the appointed hour. It was a dark
night with a terrible gale blowing. When Vikram approached the cremation
ground, he was received by the howling foxes and jackals. As he made his way
through the ground, he saw in the flashes from lightning fearful faces of
ghouls and ghosts staring at him or dancing around him.
But undaunted, Vikram reached the banyan tree. The mendicant was delighted
to see him. "Now, what's the work you want me to perform?" asked the king.
"At the northern-most corner of this ground stands a very ancient tree. You
will see a corpse hanging from one of its branches. Go and fetch it for me. I
am seeking certain occult powers which I will get only if a king brings this
particular corpse to me and if I practice certain rites sitting on it," disclosed
To fetch a corpse that hung on a distant tree in that stormy night was not at
all a pleasing task. But King Vikram braved the weather and the darkness as
well as the menacing yells and shrieks of ghosts and ghouls and soon reached
the old tree. Raising a burning torch he found the corpse hanging.
He climbed the tree and with a stroke of his sword cut the rope with which