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 was a town called Mithilavati. Its king was called Gunadip. One day a Rajput called Viramdeva went to the king to obtain a post in his service. He every day sought an interview, but he never was admitted. At last he had exhausted all the money that he had brought with him from home. And he had the greatest difficulty in getting enough food to keep himself alive. One day the king mounted his horse and went out hunting. Viramdeva joined unnoticed the crowd of attendants. As luck would have it, the king got separated from his huntsmen and Viramdeva was the only one who remained near him.
He called to the king, "0 Maharaja! all your horsemen have left you. I am the only one with you. "The king looked back and seeing that the Rajput was right, pulled up his horse. Viramdeva rode up to him.
The king looking at him said, "Why are you so thin?" ' 0 Maharaja," said Viramdeva, "the master whom I serve has a thousand servants to feed and clothe. If he does not look after me, it is because of sins committed by me in a former life; my master is in no way to blame. When day dawns all men begin to see, but the owl grows blind. Is that the sun's fault? I know that the God who cared for me in my mother's womb is neither dead nor asleep. He still lives and is awake. If a man

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begs money from another, it does not follow that he will get it. Even if a rich man should have pity on his evil plight, he will make a wry mouth before he gives alms. He will frown; he will taunt me with cruel words. For my part, I would sooner die than dishonour myself by taking such a gift. Again, to make friends of fools, to laugh without reason, to quarrel with one's wife, to serve a poor master, to frequent low company, to use foul words, all these disgrace a man. On the other hand, a man's future, a man's former life, the wisdom, the riches and the fame to which he may attain are all written on his forehead. So long as a man's good fortune is in the ascendant, the whole world is his slave. But when ill fortune overtakes a man, his own brother turns on him. One thing alone is certain. To serve a good master faithful y is never without its reward." .
The king listened attentively to what the Rajput said, but he did not answer him. "l am very hungry;" he said suddenly, "get me something to eat." Viramdeva replied, "My lord king, I cannot get you bread here. But I shall see if I can get you anything else." With these words he went into the forest and after hunting for some time killed a stag. Taking a flint from his pocket, he lit a fire. Over it he roasted the venison. Some of it he gave to the king and some he ate himself. After their meal, the king said, "Take me home, I do not know in what direction my city lies". The Rajput mounted his horse and leading the way took the king safely back to his palace. There

King Gunadip and Viramdeva 65
the king gave him jewelry and clothes and a post in the royal service. Thereafter he was always in attendance on the king. One day, the king sent Viramdeva on some duty which took him to the seacoast. There he saw a temple to Parvati. He went inside, worshipped at the shrine and came out again. As he was walking away, a fair woman came up and said, "Tell me, good sir, why you have come here." The Rajput was so struck with her beauty that he could only mutter that he had gone there to pass the time. The fair woman said, "If you care for me, bathe· in the temple pool. After you have bathed, I shall gladly listen to anything you wish to say to me." Viramdeva went back again inside the temple. He bathed in the pool and came out again. On looking round he saw to his astonishment that he was back again in the capital. He went home, changed his clothes and obtained an interview with the king. To him he told all that had passed in the temple by the seashore. "You must take me there," cried the king, "and show me this marvel." Both mounted their horses and started. After some days' journey they reached the sea-coast. They entered the temple and worshipped Parvati.
When the king came out; he saw the same fair woman, but this time a maid servant accompanied her. The fair woman went up to the king and struck by his handsome face said, "My lord the king, I am ready to do anything you wish me to."
"If that is so," answer to the king, "be the bride of my attendant."_ "My lord the king," said the fair

66 Tales of King Vikrama

woman, "I have fallen in love with you, how then can I marry your attendant'?" "But," retorted the king, "you said just now to me that you were ready to do anything I wished. True women keep their promises. Keep, therefore, yours and wed this Rajput." "As you will," said the fair woman with a sigh, "I bow to my lord's command." Straightway, the king married her to Viramdeva by the rites of the Gandharva marriage. Then he took them both home with him to his capital.
At this point the oilman's son said, "King Vikrama, whose was the greater merit, the king's or his attendant's'?" "His attendant's," answered King Vikrama. "Surely," said the oilman's son,"the king's was; for he resigned the beautiful woman to his servant." "No," said the King Vikrama. "To be grateful is the duty of a king. Therefore, in showing his gratitude, the king did no more than his duty. But when Viramdeva saved the king's life out hunting, he was not his attendant, and therefore, did more than his duty. His, therefore, was the greater merit." At this point the king saw that he was alone. He realized that he had again broken his promise. He therefore returned to the burning ground and throwing the dead body over his shoulder began to retrace his steps. As he did so, the oilman's son began to tell his ninth tale.