Vikram and Betaal- Once again, King Vikramaditya climbed the tree and brought Betaal down. Betaal began to tell another story. A rich merchant lived in the capital city of Magadha. He was called Bidhushekhar. Bidhushekhar was known within his community for his wealth and honourable living. He had a son named Rajshekhar.
Rajshekhar had grown up with another young boy called Aviroop. They had always been best friends. People who did not know about them often thought that they were brothers. As they grew up to be young men, they began to enjoy themselves by travelling in and around the city.
One day as they were relaxing on the banks of the river which ran by a temple of Goddess Durga, Rajshekhar spotted a very beautiful girl. He fell in love with her at once. Aviroop knew who the girl was. He had been in love with her for a very long time now. He told his friend that her name was Ranjabati and she belonged to the washerman community.
They began to visit that place every day. Aviroop suggested, “Why don’t you tell your parents about her?” Rajshekhar sadly lowered his eyes and said “They will never agree that I marry a girl from a caste lower than my own ” Aviroop felt very sorry for his friend.
Day by day Raj Shekhar’s love for Ranjabati grew. One day he went to the temple fell at Goddess Durga’s feet and prayed, “Mother, my love for Ranjabati is killing me. Bless me, mother, that I marry Ranjabati. I promise I shall offer you my head on a full moon night.”
He stopped eating and his bones began to come out. His sickness worried his parents. They wondered what had happened to their son. Aviroop told them that Rajshekhar had fallen in love with Ranjabati and was wasting away because he couldn’t marry her without their consent. Bidhushekhar and his wife agreed to marry Rajshekhar to Ranjabati.
The wedding was arranged. Rajshekhar recovered from his illness and they lived happily together. One day when Rajshekhar, Ranjabati and Aviroop were visiting the temple, Rajshekhar remembered his promise to Goddess Durga. At the next full moon night, he went to the temple. With folded hands and tears in his eyes, he thanked the Goddess for her blessings.
Then with his sword, he cut his head off. When Rajshekhar did not come back, Ranjabati began to worry. She sent Aviroop to look for her husband. When Aviroop found his friend in the temple he grieved.
He prayed to the Goddess, “Mother, I do not want people to believe that I have murdered my best friend for his beautiful wife. I must also offer myself to you. Please accept my sacrifice.” And with Rajshekhar’s sword, he cut his head. Ranjabati after waiting for a long time grew impatient and set out herself to find them.
When she reached the temple she almost fainted to see the men lying dead. She prayed, “Mother, since my husband is no more in this world I do not have any purpose left.” As she was about to plunge the sword into her chest, there was a mysterious light and the Goddess appeared and said, “Dear girl, do not kill yourself. I am very pleased with the sacrifices of these humble men.
As soon as you place their heads on their bodies, they will come back to life.” Saying this Goddess Durga disappeared. Overwhelmed with joy, Ranjabati placed the heads on the bodies and the men came back to life. But in her excitement, Ranjabati had exchanged heads, placing Aviroop’s head on Rajshekhar’s body and Rajshekhar’s head on Aviroop’s body.
Betaal said, “Great king, who do you think should Ranjabati take for her husband?” The king was lost in thoughts. “Ranjabati should choose the body with Rajshekhar’s head. The head is most important as it holds a man’s personality, character and identity.” Betaal said, “You are right again,” and he laughed as he flew towards the tree.