The fascinating stories given to the wise King Vikramaditya by the deceitful ghost Betaal in Mahakavi Somdev Bhatt’s Betaal Pachisi were written over 2,500 years ago. The stories of Vikram and Betaal are rich with grandeur and splendour from a bygone era.
A Tale of Bravery and Generosity
Once upon a time, in a city nestled alongside the tranquil Godavari River, there reigned a remarkable king named Vikram/Vikramaditya. Renowned for his unwavering bravery and exceptional courage, he was adored by the people who revered him for his strong sense of justice.
A Curious Gift
One fine day, a sage graced King Vikram’s court with a mysterious offering—a fruit. Intrigued by the sage’s gesture, the king entrusted the fruit to his trusted treasurer.
To everyone’s surprise, the sage became a regular visitor to the royal court, presenting the king with a fruit each day. Puzzled by the sage’s actions, King Vikram chose not to delve into the sage’s intentions and simply accepted the curious gifts.
Unlocking a Hidden Secret
However, one fateful morning, King Vikram’s keen eyes spotted a mischievous monkey perched upon the palace wall. With a twinkle in his eye, the king decided to share his mysterious fruit with the playful primate. As the monkey delighted in devouring the fruit, a resplendent gem tumbled out, leaving the king dumbstruck. Eager to unravel the secret behind the extraordinary fruit, the king swiftly ordered his treasurer to bring every single fruit stored in their inventory.
Gems from Within
Much to their dismay, the fruits had started to rot, rendering them seemingly worthless. Yet, when the determined king had the fruits crushed, astonishment filled the air as precious gems revealed themselves from within.
The magnanimous Vikram selflessly donated all the gems to the impoverished, spreading joy and hope amongst his beloved subjects. Unable to contain his anticipation any longer, the generous king eagerly awaited the sage’s next visit, hoping to uncover the mystifying truth.
A Mysterious Request
True to the king’s hopes, the sage graced Vikram’s court once again, presenting him with yet another fruit. Embracing the sage’s presence, the king warmly welcomed his distinguished guest and voiced his burning curiosity.
“Your Holiness,” Vikramaditya implored, “I am deeply grateful for your extraordinary gifts. But I cannot accept them without understanding their purpose. Please enlighten me.”
An Unexpected Task
In response, the sage revealed his spiritual quest and sought the assistance of a valiant soul—none other than King Vikramaditya himself. Without hesitation, the audacious king pledged his support, eager to embark on a noble venture. “O King,” the sage began,
“I beseech you to meet me at the burial ground on the upcoming moonless night, about twenty miles from here. Await me under the sheltering canopy of a sprawling banyan tree.”
A Chilling Encounter
True to his word, on the designated moonless night, King Vikramaditya concealed himself under a dark cloak and silently made his way through the forest to the appointed meeting place. There, the sage awaited him, ready to disclose the nature of his quest.
“King Vikramaditya,” the sage began, “to the south of this forest, you shall find an ageing tamarind tree with an eerie secret. An inverted corpse hangs from its gnarled branches. Your task is to retrieve it and bring it to me.”
A Spine-Chilling Encounter
Honouring the sage’s instructions, the unwavering king ventured forth and discovered the designated tamarind tree. With resolute determination, he severed the corpse’s macabre connection to the realm of the living. As the lifeless form plummeted to the ground, an eerie laughter echoed through the forest, making even the fearless king’s blood run cold.
It became abundantly clear that the man hanging before him was not a mere mortal but a mischievous ghost. Yet undeterred, King Vikram hoisted the ghostly burden onto his shoulders and began his arduous journey back to his kingdom.
A Mysterious Entity
After a short distance, to the king’s surprise, the ghost abruptly vanished from his shoulders and returned to its original haunting grounds. Undeterred by this extraordinary turn of events, the indomitable king scurried back up the tree, retrieved the ghostly figure, and resumed his journey with determination in his heart.
Curiosity brimming within him, King Vikram dared to question the spirit, “Who might you be, dear ghost?” he inquired. To his astonishment, the spectre replied, “I am Betaal.” Intrigued, Vikram questioned Betaal further, “Why and where are you being taken?”
A Momentous Pact
With an air of resignation, Betaal, the ghost, revealed that he was being transported at the behest of another sage. Feeling compelled to fulfil his promise, King Vikramaditya listened attentively as Betaal continued, “We have a long journey ahead, my noble king. To ease the weariness of our path, I shall regale you with a captivating tale.
However, there is one condition—I will tell you the story. You Shouldn’t utter a single word while the tale, after telling you the story, I will ask you. If you answer If it is wrong then I will go with you, and if it is right then I will go back to the tree. would go. If you remain silent, your head will explode… and you agree.
The king was lost in thought. Then he said, “I have promised the sage to bring you.” Even if I can lose my life, But to keep my promise, I have to take you with me.” So I Agreed
And so, with the moon shining above them, the brave king and the enigmatic ghost embarked on a profound and treacherous journey, their fates intertwined in a tale that would inspire and challenge their very essence.