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  • Maha Shiva RatriFebruary 24th, 2017
    आपके जीवन में शिव ही शिव हो
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      What is Navratri ? " Navratri " or "Navaratri " literally means "nine nights." Navratri is celebrated twice a year, once at the beginning of the New Samvatsar (Hindu New year) in Summers and again at the onset of winter. Navratri or Navratra are therefore known as Chaitra Navratra and Shaardeya Navratra on the basis of their occ […]
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      The Legend JagatGuru Sri Adi shankara Acharaya & the Devi Sri Mookambika
    • The Story of Mahabharatha
      The Mahabharatha, is the greatest, longest and one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India, the other being the Ramayana. With more than 74,000 verses, plus long prose passages, or some 1.8 million words in total, it is one of the longest epic poems in the world. This wonderful Grantha (Sacred book) was composed by Bhagvan Sri Veda Vyasa (Krishna Dv […]
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    • Ramayan
      Om Namaha ShivayaEka Sloki RamayanAadau Rama thapo vananu gamanam, Hathwa mrugam kanchanam,Vaidehi haranam, jatayu maranam, Sugreeva sambhashanam,Bali nigrahanam, samudhra tharanam, Lanka pureem dahanam,Paschad Ravana Kumbha karna madanam, Ethat ithi Ramayanam Author -Shri C.RajaGopalachariRamayanaTo the north of the Ganga was the great kingdom Kosala, made […]
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      "Namo nama Shri Guru padukabhyam"Shri Ram's Rajya Abhiskek01-02Hanumanji is blessed by Sita Mata with the honor to be Shri Ram's devotee always.Brahma sends Narad to Valmiki.01-03Story of Garuda & KakbhushandiGarud goes to Lord Shiva to know about Shri Ram and then goes to meet Bhushandi - the CrowBhushandi - the Crow narrates Shri Ra […]
    • Ramayan Series Page 7
      "Namo nama Shri Guru padukabhyam"Episode 61:Ravan sends his men to Kumbhakaran's palace to wake him up from his deep sleep. They take mountains of food for him and try to awaken him with their shouts, drums and trumpets. At last, Kumbhakaran gets up and has his meal. He is told about the war and the humiliation Ravan is suffering. Ravan goes t […]
      "Namo nama Shri Guru padukabhyam"VED STUTIUttarkaand – Doha 13 CHHANDJai sagun nirgun roop roop anoop bhoop siromaney | Daskandharaadi prachand nisichar prabal khal bhuj bala haney || Avataar nar sansaar bhaar bibhanji daarun dukh dahey | Jai pranatpaal dayaal prabhu sanjukt sakti namaamahey || Tav bisham maayaa bas suraasur naag nar aga jaga harey […]
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      "Namo nama Shri Guru padukabhyam"Ramayan Episode 51:Ravan discusses the matter with his courtiers and sends Sukh to seduce Sugriv from his loyalty to Shri Ram. Sukh meets Sugriv and says: "You are a king and Ravan is another. Earn his friendship instead of risking your life for helping a disinherited prince." Sugriv sends him back, saying […]
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      "Namo nama Shri Guru padukabhyam"Ramayan Episode 41:Lakshman enters Kishikindha in a fury. Angad goes and informs Hanuman who requests Tara to go and allay Lakshman's wrath. Tara is able to take away the edge of Lakshman's anger and Hanuman tells Lakshman that Sugriv has already issued orders for mobilising the warriors. Sugriv apologizes […]
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      "Namo nama Shri Guru padukabhyam"Ramayan Episode 31: Ravan decides to kidnap Sita Mareech reluctantly becomes golden deer Shri Ram, at Sitas behest, goes after the deer 32: Mareech mimics Shri Rams voice & calls Lakshman Sita compels Lakshman to go Ravan kidnaps Sita .Shri Ram & Lakshman are upset32.132.232.332.4Epis […]
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      "Namo nama Shri Guru padukabhyam"Valmiki advises her to give up attachment which binds mortals to Earth. King Janak visits Ayodhya.02-11King Janak's conversation with Shri Ram. He shows Ram the letter Sita left him and tells Ram that he is proud to have a daughter like Sita.02-12Janak asks Ram to visit Mithila because Devi Sunayana is unwell.G […]
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    • Rishi Prasad "Guru Nishtha" Guru Bhakt Sandeepak ki Katha
      "Namo nama Shri Guru padukabhyam" ऋषि प्रसाद अध्यात्मिक मासिक पत्रिका संत श्री आसरामजी आश्रमभगवान शिवजी ने पार्वती से कहा हैःआकल्पजन्मकोटीनां यज्ञव्रततपः क्रियाः।ताः सर्वाः सफला देवि गुरुसंतोषमात्रतः।।'हे देवी ! कल्पपर्यन्त के, करोड़ों जन्मों के यज्ञ, व्रत, तप और शास्त्रोक्त क्रियाएँ – ये सब गुरुदेव के संतोषमात्र से सफल हो जाते हैं।'शिष्य […]
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    • Shiva Taandav Stotra
      "Namo nama Shri Guru padukabhyam"II RAM IISHIV TAANDAV STOTRAJatata veegalajjal pravaahpaavit sthaleyGaleva lambya lambitaam bhujang tung maalikaam |Damag damag damag damanninaad vahum vavrymChakaar chand taandavam tanotu nah shivam shivam || 1 ||Jataa kataah sambhram bhramanni limpa nirjhariVilole veechi vallari viraaj maan murdhani |Dhagad dhagad […]
    • Nirvaana Ashtakam
      "Namo nama Shri Guru padukabhyam"NIRVAAN ASHTAKAMMano buddhya hankaar chittaani naahamNa cha shrotra jihvey na cha ghraan netrey |Na cha vyom bhoomir na tejo na vaayuChidaanand roopah shivoham shivoham || 1 ||Na cha praan sangyo na vai panch vaayurNa vaa sapta dhaatur na vaa panch koshah |Na vaak paani paadau na chopasth paayuChidaanand roopah shiv […]
    • Shiv Mahimna Stotra
      "Namo nama Shri Guru padukabhyam" II RAM II Shree Ganeshaaya NamahSHIV MAHIMNAH STOTRAMPushpadanta Uvaacha Mahimnah paaram te paramvidusho yadyasadrishiStutirbrahmaadeenaamapi tadavasannaastvayi girah|Athaavaachyah sarvah svamatiparinaamaavadhi grinanMamaapyesha stotre har nirapavaadah parikarah || 1 ||Ateetah panthaanam tav cha mahimaa vaangmanasa […]
    • Ramayan Series Page 3
      "Namo nama Shri Guru padukabhyam"RamayanEpisode 21: In Nanihal, Bharath's premonition saddens him Bharath & Shatrughan return to Ayodhya On hearing about their fathers death, they are deeply shocked Bharath develops deep hatred towards his mother Kaikayee and disowns her21.121.221.321.4Episode 22: Bharath performs King Dasharath's las […]
    • Pancha Mukha Anjaneya Kavacham
      "Namo nama Shri Guru padukabhyam" [Armour of Hanuman with Five Faces]Translated by P. R. Ramachander Sri Hanuman Ji assumed this form to kill Mahiravana, a powerful rakshasa black-magician and practitioner of the dark arts during the Ramayana war. Mahiravana had taken Lord Rama and Lakshmana captive, and the only way to kill him was to extinguish f […]
    • The Legend of Prince Ram
      "Namo nama Shri Guru padukabhyam" Jai Siya Ram JaiSiyaRam
    • Ramayan Series Page 2
      "Namo nama Shri Guru padukabhyam"Episode 13: Celebrations mark the proclamation of Shri Ram as heir to the throne Manthra provokes Kaikayee Kaikayee gets into a rage 14: King Dashrath also gets into an angry state of mind Kaikayee requests for two wishes King Dasharath relents to his promise Bharath is hailed as future king […]
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    • Bharata the Spiritual Guru of the World
      Bharat the Spiritual Guru of the World In this context The following verse (shloka) from the Mahabharat (18.5.46) is important. अष्टादश पुराणानि धर्मशास्त्राणि सर्वशः । वेदाः साङ्गास्तथैकत्र भारतं चैकतः स्थितम् ॥ Meaning : The eighteen Purans, all the scriptures (Smrutis) and the Vedas are on one side and Bharat (ancient India) on the other. (So great is the […]
    • Suprabhatham
      "kausalya supraja rama!purva sandhya pravartate, uthishta! narasardula! kartavyam daivam ahnikam "Sri Rama! Kausalya's endearing son! Wake up, dear! You have to do your day-to-day duties do wake up please. Continue reading →
    • Shri Hari Stotram
      The one who reads with peace, This octet on Hari, Which is the destroyer of sorrow, Would definitely reach the world of Vishnu, Which is always without sorrow, And he would never undergo sorrow ever. Continue reading →
    • All About HINDUISM
      O Thou Invisible One! O Adorable One! O Supreme! Thou permeatest and penetratest this vast universe from the unlimited space down to the tiny blade of grass at my feet. Thou art the basis for all these names and forms. Thou art the apple of my eye, the Prema of my heart, the very Life of my life, the very Soul of my soul, the Illuminator of my intellect and […]
    • The Supreme Sadhana
      Everything is verily a manifestation of God; where then do differences, delusion,misfortune and misery exist? They exist in the „seeing‟ without right knowledge. For as you see,so is the world. Continue reading →
    • Shri Krishna Janma ashtami
      श्रीकृष्ण जन्माष्टमी आपका आत्मिक सुख जगाने का, आध्यात्मिक बल जगाने का पर्व है। जीव को श्रीकृष्ण-तत्त्व में सराबोर करने का त्यौहार है। तुम्हारा सुषुप्त प्रेम जगाने की दिव्य रात्रि है। श्रीकृष्ण का जीवन सर्वांगसंपूर्ण जीवन है। उनकी हर लीला कुछ नयी प्रेरणा देने वाली है। उनकी जीवन-लीलाओं का वास्तविक रहस्य तो श्रीकृष्ण तत्त्व का आत्मरूप से अनुभव किये हुए महापुरूष […]
    • Vedic Astrology: Jyothish Light of Knowledge
      INTRODUCTION Of Indian Jyothish or Hindu Jyothish or Vedic Jyothish. Vedas are the oldest, the most authentic and the most sacred scriptures to understand the mysteries of nature Vedas are oldest books in the library of the world.' The date when did the Sourya Mandal came into existence is written in " BramandPuraan ". Continue reading → […]
    • Bhagvaan ki Kripa
      धनभागी हैं वे, जो संत-दर्शन की महत्ता जानते हैं, उनके दर्शन-सत्संग का लाभ लेते हैं, उनके द्वार पर जा पाते हैं, उनकी सेवा कर पाते हैं और धन्य है यह भारतभूमि, जहाँ ऐसे आत्मारामी संत अवतरित होते रहते हैं। Continue reading → […]
    • Rudraksha : The Divine Gem
      The terms Rudraksha literally means the "Eyes" of Shiva and is so named in His benevolence. Shiva Purana describe Rudraksha's origin as Lord Shiva's tears. He had been meditating for many years for the welfare of all creatures. On opening the eyes, hot drops of tears rolled down and the mother earth gave birth to Rudraksha trees. Continue […]
    • Navagraha Stotra Mala For Daily Recital
      Navagraha Stotra Mala For Daily Recital for the blessing of all Nine Grahas Continue reading →
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    This Blog is an Humble attempt to spread the Divine Message of Pujjya BapuJi & Dedicated at the Lotus feets SHRI CHARANKAMAL Of PARAM PUJYA GURUJI SANT SHRI ASARAM JI BAPU VishwaGuru Of the Age.

    The essence of Bharata lies in Her culture of Self-realization. ParamAtman is not seen as something apart, but as our very essence, the one True Self that resides in the heart of us all. Raising ourselves from ordinary individuals to the heights of Supreme Consciousness is only possible with the guidance of one who is already in that transcendent state. Such a one is called a Satguru, a True Yogi, as in one who has gained mastery over the mind, one who is beyond the mind.

    From ancient times up to the present day, an unbroken succession of Self-realized Saints have incarnated in the Land of Yogis & Saints Bharata to lead seekers of Truth to the ultimate reality.

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The Legend of King Vikramaditya

The King of Kings Chakravarthy Maharaja Vikramaditya was one of the most powerful and strongest ruler of Ancient India about 2066 yrs ago from now. Chandragupta Vikramaditya was the king of Kalianga kingdom ruled by Gupta Dynasty which had its capital at Ujjaini on the banks of Shipra river.
King Vikramaditya was very famous for his bravery courage & noble nature.People loved him because he always rendered Justice.

Vikramaditya’s Intelligence in giving right justice to everyone led him to be invited to heaven by Lord Indra the God of rain &thunder and King of all Devas, to render right Justice for a dispute among the celestials.

Even the Gods became friends of King Vikramaditya.
One day Indra, the King of the Gods, sent for Vikramaditya. Inheaven, there was a dance competition between Apsaras Urvasi and Rambha. They were two of the best dancers of heaven. Indra said: “Vikra -maditya, you will be the judge of which of the two is the better dancer.”
Vikramaditya gave Urvasi and Rambha each a bunch of flowers to hold while dancing.
He told them: “You must keep them erect while dancing.” Vikramaditya had put a scorpion in each of the bunches. Has a scorpion ever stung you? It can be very painful.
When the ladies danced, the scorpions would sting them. Wouldn’t they?
The scorpion stung Rambha viciously. She threw away the bunch, and stopped dancing.
But Urvasi danced so well that she lulled the scorpion into deep sleep in the bouquet. It did not sting her.
Vikramaditya said: “Well done, Urvasi! You are without question the better dancer.”

Lord Indra was so much impressed by the justice given King Vikramaditya that he gifted a Golden Throne with 32 talking statues whose names are

1 Ratnamanjiri,2 Chitralekha,3 Chandrakala,4 Kamkandala,5 Leelavati,6 Ravibhama,7 Kaumudhe,8 Pushpavati,9 Madhumalthi,10 Prabhavati, 11 Trilochana,12 Padmavati,13 Keertimati,14 Sunayana,15 Sundervati,16 Satyavati, 17 Vidhyati,18 Taravati,19 Rooprekha, 20 Gyaanvati, 21 Chandrajyothi,22 Anurodhvati,23 Dhramvati, 24 Karunavati,25 Trinetri,26 Mrignayani,27 Malayavati,28 Vaidehi, 29 Manvati, 30 Jayalaxmi,31 Kousalya, 32 Rani Rupavati.

All the 32 statues were actually cursed Apsras who are cursed to become statues and can only get relived from the curse by serving A Great Chakrawarthy King Like Viramaditya.

.The Majestic beauty of the golden throne was uncompareable in three worlds. Each section of the throne was decorated with Different colours of Gems Pearls & Diamonds whose value and price can’t be imagine.

The legendary King Vikramaditya is a popular figure in both Sanskrit and regional languages in India. His name is associated with many events or monuments whose historical details are unknown, though a whole cycles of tales have grown around him. The two most famous ones in Sanskrit are Vetala Panchvimshati or Baital Pachisi (“The 25 (tales) of the Vampire”) and Simhasana-Dwatrimshika (“The 32 (tales) of the throne”, also known as Sinhasan Batteesee). These two are found in varying versions in Sanskrit and also in the regional languages.
The tales of the vampire (Vetala) tell twenty-five stories in which the king tries to capture and hold on to a vampire that tells a puzzling tale and ends it with a question for the king. In fact, earlier the king was approached by a Sadhu to bring the vampire to him but without uttering a word, otherwise the vampire would fly back to its place. The king can be quiet only if he does not know the answer, else his head would burst open. Unfortunately, the king discovers that he knows the answer to every question; therefore the cycle of catching the vampire and letting it escape continues for twenty-four times till the last question puzzles Vikramaditya. A version of these tales can be found embedded in the Katha-Saritsagara.
The tales of the throne are linked to the throne of Vikramaditya that is lost and recovered by king Bhoja, , after many centuries. The latter king is himself famous and this set of tales are about his attempts to sit on the throne. This throne is adorned by 32 female statues who, being able to speak, challenge him to ascend the throne only if he is as magnanimous as Vikramaditya is depicted in the tale she is about to narrate. This leads to 32 attempts (and 32 tales) of Vikramaditya and in each case Bhoja acknowledges his inferiority. Finally, the statues let him ascend the throne when they are pleased with his humility.


The famous personalities of the golden period like Great Dhanwanthari, Kshapanaka, Amarasimha, Shankhu, Khatakarpara, Kalidasa, Bhatti , Vararuchi, and Varahamihira were a part of Vikramaditya’s court in Ujjain. The king had these court men “nava-ratna” (literally, Nine Gems)each exclusive personality & the best in their respective fields Dhanwantri was the famous Ayurvedic Acharaya ,Kalidas in Poetry, Vararuchi in Vedic scriptures, Varahamira in Astronomy.Bhatt in Politics and diplomacy etc

Vikram samvat calender is followed after the Great king Vikramaditya.

Vikram Betaal stories are world famous from time immemorial and impart a meaningful lesson to one and all. These stories are an integral part of rich Indian culture and were originally written in Sanskrit. These are based on the emperor of Ujjain, King Vikramaditya (Vikram) and Betaal, a vampire spirit who inhabits and animates on dead bodies. The king promises a monk to bring Betaal and tries all ways to capture the vampire spirit. Each time the king tries to capture the Betaal, it narrates a beautiful story that gradually over a period of time is composed to a series of fairy tales.
The introduction shows the setting for the stories, and conclusion shows what happened after King Vikram fulfilled his promise to the monk.
Enjoy the stories:

The Legend of King Vikramaditya

The sage Bhavabhuti- says-after making his initiatory and propitiatory conge to Ganesha, Lord of Incepts, informs the reader that this book is a string of fine pearls to be hung round the neck of human intelligence; a fragrant flower to be borne on the turband of mental wisdom; a jewel of pure gold, which becomes the brow of all supreme minds; and a handful of powdered rubies, whose tonic effects will appear palpably upon the mental digestion of every patient. Finally, that by aid of the lessons inculcated in the following pages, man will pass happily through this world into the state of absorption, where fables will be no longer required.
He then teaches us how Vikramaditya the Brave became King of Ujjayani.
Centuries ago, the renowned city of Ujjayani witnessed the birth of a prince to whom was given the gigantic name Vikramaditya.
The old King calling his two grandsons Bhartari-hari and Vikramaditya, gave them good counsel respecting their future learning. They were told to master everything, a certain way not to succeed in anything. They were diligently to learn grammar, the Scriptures, and all the religious sciences. They were to become familiar with military tactics, international law, and music, the riding of horses and elephants–especially the latter–the driving of chariots, and the use of the broadsword, the bow, and the mogdars & mastered all kinds of Martial Arts. They were ordered to be skilful in all kinds of games, in leaping and running, in besieging forts, in forming and breaking bodies of troops; they were to endeavour to excel in every princely quality, to be cunning in ascertaining the power of an enemy, how to make war, to perform journeys, to sit in the presence of the nobles, to separate the different sides of a question, to form alliances, to distinguish between the innocent and the guilty, to assign proper punishments to the wicked, to exercise authority with perfect justice, and to be liberal. The boys were then sent to Guru Ashrams and were placed under the care of excellent teachers & scholers, where they became truly famous. Whilst under pupilage, the eldest was allowed all the power necessary to obtain a knowledge of royal affairs, and he was not invested with the regal office till in these preparatory steps he had given full satisfaction to his subjects, who expressed high approval of his conduct.
The two brothers often conversed on the duties of kings, when the great Vikramaditya gave the great Bhartari-hari the following valuable advice:
“As Indra, during the four rainy months, fills the earth with water, so a king should replenish his treasury with money. As Surya the sun, in warming the earth eight months, does not scorch it, so a king, in drawing revenues from his people, ought not to oppress them. As Vayu, the wind, surrounds and fills everything, so the king by his officers and spies should become acquainted with the affairs and circumstances of his whole people. As Yama judges men without partiality or prejudice, and punishes the guilty, so should a king chastise, without favour, all offenders. As Varuna, the regent of water, binds with his pasha or divine noose his enemies, so let a king bind every malefactor safely in prison. As Chandra, the moon, by his cheering light gives pleasure to all, thus should a king, by gifts and generosity, make his people happy. And as Prithwi, the earth, sustains all alike, so should a king feel an equal affection and forbearance towards every one.”

After being throned as a king, Bhartrihari was lost in worldy pleasures & became so physically attached to one of his two wives that he spent most of the time with her. Vikramaditya tried to make him realize his foolishness, but all in vain. On the contrary on the command ofthat Queen, Bhartrihari, threw Vikramaditya out of the city.
In the city of Ujjayani, within sight of the palace, dwelt a Brahman and his wife, who, being old and poor, and having nothing else to do, had applied themselves to the practice of austere devotion. They fasted and refrained from drink, they stood on their heads and held their arms for weeks in the air; they prayed till their knees were like pads; they disciplined themselves with scourges of wire; and they walked about unclad in the cold season, and in summer they sat within a circle of flaming wood, till they became the envy and admiration of all the plebeian gods that inhabit the lower heavens. In fine, as a reward for their exceeding piety, the venerable pair received at the hands of a celestial messenger an apple of the tree Kalpavriksha–a fruit which has the virtue of conferring eternal life upon him that tastes it.
Scarcely had the god disappeared, when the Brahman, opening his toothless mouth, prepared to eat the fruit of immortality. Then his wife addressed him in these words, shedding copious tears the while:
“To die, O man, is a passing pain; to be poor is an interminable anguish. Surely our present lot is the penalty of some great crime committed by us in a past state of being. Callest thou this state life? Better we die at once, and so escape the woes of the world!”
Hearing these words, the Brahman sat undecided, with open jaws and eyes fixed upon the apple.After which the Brahman threw away the apple,hat the priest was about to toss in his rage the heavenly fruit into the fire, reproaching the gods as if by sending it they had done him an injury. Then the wife snatched it out of his hand, and telling him it was too precious to be wasted.It would be a good decision if we gave this fruit to the palace & get some wealth in return.Then the Brahman went forth, and standing in the presence of the Raja, told him all things touching the fruit, concluding with “O, mighty prince! vouchsafe to accept this tribute, and bestow wealth upon me. I shall be happy in your living long!”
Bhartari Raja led the supplicant into an inner strongroom, where stood heaps of the finest gold-dust, and bade him carry away all that he could; this the priest did, not forgetting to fill even his eloquent and toothless mouth with the precious metal.

So does the story goes that Bhartrihari got such a fruit from a Brahmin that would increase his life span. The king did not eat the fruit himself but gave it to his favourite Queen , because he was madly obsessed with her.
The Queen took the fruit and pretended that she was very happy and said that she would eat the fruit after having a bath. The king agreed to this and happily returned. The Queen was inlovewith other, a horse keeper. She gave the fruit to him. The horse keeper was inlove with aprostitute. He presented this fruit in turn to her. Theprostitute was a pious women and she decided that she would gift the king with this fruit. Thinking this she proceeded towards the king’s palace.
King Bhartrihari was busy along with his councilors in the court. The prostitute came and gifted the fruit to the king and told him about the greatness of the fruit.
Seeing the same fruit in the prostitute’s hand the king was confused. He immediately, took it and ate it. Realizing the insincerity of the Queen, Bhartrihari felt very sad and gradualy helost faithin all one he loved

But his other Queen Pingala was very pious ,good natured ,very religious & a Pativrata (husband devoted) woman.

Bhartri hari wanted to test her love towards him so he arranged a drama before her.
In the early morning the King reached Queens Pingala’s Palace and said he is going to forest for hunting and will return before noon, as usual the Queen woshipped her husband and prayed before the Goddess for her husbands safety.

Bhartri hari went forest for hunting but he didnot returned even after the sunset , here Queen Pingala was worrying about her husband safety without drinking a drop of water.

The night too passed but Bhartrihari didn’t returned next morning. The King’s body Guard returned the palace without the King.Seeing this the Queen felt suspicous of some terrible news.

With heavy heart Queen Pingala asked the soldiers of the king about welfare of her husband King Bhartri hari, they replied with their faces down that the King was chasing a ferocious Man Eater lion and got lost inthe Jungle ,they searched him every where only to found Kings clothes , saying this they showed her the Queen,the Kings clothes.

As soon as the poor Queen Pingala saw the blood stained clothes of her husband Bhatrihari,she fainted and died at the the moment.

Bhartrihari who was standing behind was terribly shocked and cried in vain.
This event had such an impact on Bhartrihari that he became detached to this world and starting abhorring material life. He renounced the palace and all the physical pleasures of the king & a normal person and went to the forest.
Then Bhartrihari became a discple of Maha Yogi Shri Gorakhnathji .

Thus the Throne of Ujjain remained empty .To protect the country from invaders Vikramaditya returned to his kingdom and became the King of Ujjaini.

Vikramaditya was a very brave prince. He was also learned in all the Sastras. He was a master of all the arts. When he became king, he made his brother Bhatti his minister.Bhatti was a very learned and wise man. Under their rule, the people were prosperous and happy.

Being a Yogi, Vikram meditated deeply upon what is said of Yogic Tantra and spiritual thoughts:–“A king is fire and air; he is both sun and moon; he is the god of criminal justice; he is the genius of wealth; he is the regent of water; he is the lord of the firmament; he is a powerful divinity who appears in human shape.” He reflected with some satisfaction that the scriptures had made him absolute, had left the lives and properties of all his subjects to his arbitrary will, had pronounced him to be an incarnate deity, and had threatened to punish with death even ideas derogatory to his honour.
He punctually observed all the ordinances laid down by the author of the Niti & Dharma
His night and day were divided into sixteen pahars or portions, each one hour and a half, and they were disposed of as follows:

Before dawn Vikram was awakened by a servant appointed to this special duty

As soon as he had risen several Brahmans rehearsed the praises of the gods.Presently he bathed in waters from Sacred Rivers King Vikramaditya performed Trikal Sandhya

At first sandhya King vikramaditya was consumed in dhyan yoga followed by
worship of his guardian deity Maa Bhadra Kali, again heard hymns& did vedic yagya.After performing his Yogic rituals only he drank a little water.
Then he saw alms distributed to the poor & needy. He ended this watch by auditing his accounts.
Next entering his court, he placed himself amidst the assembly. He was always armed mainly with his legendary sword.
He was surrounded by so many spies and so artful, that of a thousand, no two ever told the same tale.
At the Throne, on his right sat his relations, the Brahmans vedic Scholers. The others were on the left, and close to him stood the ministers and those whom he delighted to consult. A far in front gathered the bards chanting the praises of the gods and of the king; also the charioteers, elephanteers, horsemen, and soldiers of valour. Amongst the learned men in those assemblies there were ever some who were well instructed in all the scriptures, and others who had studied in one particular school of philosophy, and were acquainted only with the works on divine wisdom, or with those on justice, civil and criminal, on the arts, mineralogy or the practice of physic; also persons cunning in all kinds of customs; riding-masters, dancing- masters, teachers of good behaviour, examiners, tasters, mimics, mountebanks, and others, who all attended the court and awaited the king’s commands. He here pronounced judgment in suits of appeal.
Before the second sandhya, or noon, about the beginning of the third watch, he recited the names of the gods, bathed in river and broke his fast in his Private Puja place; then rising from food, he was amused by singers and classical dancers.

The labours of the day now became lighter. After eating he retired, repeating the name of his guardian deity, visited the temples, saluted the gods conversed with the priests, and proceeded to receive and to distribute presents. Fifthly, he discussed political questions with his ministers and councils.

Vikram allowed himself to follow his own inclinations, to regulate his family, and to transact business of a private and personal nature.

After gaining strength by rest, he proceeded to review his troops, examining the men, saluting the officers, and holding military councils. At sunset he bathed a third time and performed the five sacraments of listening to a prelection of the Veda; making oblations to the manes; sacrificing to Fire in honour of the deities; giving rice to dumb creatures; and receiving guests with due ceremonies. He spent the evening amidst a select company of wise, learned, and pious men, conversing on different subjects.

The night was distributed with equal care. During the first portion Vikram received the reports which his spies and envoys, dressed in every disguise, brought to him about his enemies.
This important duty finished he supped, and at the end of the third watch he retired to sleep, which was not allowed to last beyond three hours. In the sixth watch he arose and purified himself. The seventh was devoted to holding private consultations with his ministers, and to furnishing the officers of government with requisite instructions. The eighth or last watch was spent with the Purohita or priest, and with Brahmans, hailing the dawn with its appropriate rites; he then bathed, made the customary offerings, and prayed in some unfrequented place near pure water.
And throughout these occupations he bore in mind the duty of kings,
Thus Maharaja Vikramaditya was ruling his kingdom according to Sanatan Dharma.

One day a sage came to the court of Vikram and gifted him a fruit. The king handed it over to his treasurer.This became a daily habit.The King could not understand as to why the sage prsented a fruit to him every day. But still , he did not find out the reason for this .However, one morning,Vikram noticed a monkey siting on the palace wall and gave the fruit to it.The monkey had started eating the fruit when suddenly a dazzling gem fell out it.The King was very surprised .He immediately ordered his treasurer to get him all the fruits kept in the storage.
The fruits had gone riped but when the King had them crushed, each one yielded a precious gem.Thr generous King donated all these gems to the poor and waited for the sage’s visit to the court.

The next day ,the sage visited the court of Vikram with yet another fruit.Vikram welcomed the sage and asked him “Your Holiness! Can you please tell me why you have been giving me such precious gifts? Without good reason, I cannot accept any gifts from you”.

The Sage replied, “i need the help of a braveman for a spiritual goal.Will you help me ?”.Vikram readily agreed to this .So the sage said,”o King! please come to the burial ground on the next moonless night.It is at a distance of twenty miles from here.I will wait for you under a banyan tree”. Vikram agreed to carry out these instructions.

On the said night,Vikram covered his head and body with a black cloth and unnoticed, reached the spot in the forest.The sage was waiting for him and told him,”King Vikram! To the south of this forest is an Cremation ground , there stoods an old Tamarind tree on which hangs a corpse upside down.Please bring it to me,”The King immediately followed the sage’s orders and stared the adventurous journey to the cremation ground in the dense dark forest .

The darkness of the night was frightful, the gloom deepened till it was hardly possible to walk. The clouds opened their fountains, raining so that you would say they could never rain again. Lightning blazed forth with more than the light of day, and the roar of the thunder caused the earth to shake. The wolf were haulling their lungs out Baleful gleams tipped the black cones of the trees and fitfully scampered like fireflies over the waste.Ghost and restless spirits were romaing like snow balls and threw themselves upon the ground in their path and obstructed them in a thousand different ways. Huge snakes, whose mouths distilled blood and black venom, kept clinging around their legs in the roughest part of the road, till they were persuaded to loose their hold either by the sword or by reciting a spell. In fact, there were so many horrors and such a tumult and noise that even a brave man would have faltered, yet the king kept on his way.finally reached the Tamarind Tree.

On findings a corpse there, King Vikram cut it loose.As soon as the corpse fell to the it laughed loudly wit a cackling sound. The King realised that it was a Vampire spirit in the dead body.
But the courageous King carried the body over his shoulders and started towards the sthe place said by the sage.
Ashort distance ater, the vampire left Vikram’s shoulderrs and escaped to its origina; spot on the Tamirand tree.The King climbed up thr tree .brought down the Vampire and placing it on his shoulders stared walking again. “Who are you?” he asked the Vampire.”Iam Betal “replied the Vampire and in turn asked Vikram.”Why and where are yoou taking me away?”.

“A sage has requested me to bring you to him”replied Vikram.

Betal did not have any objection to soing with Vkram but he laid down a condition.”We have to cover a long distance and to relive the tedious walk.,I will tell you a story.But you should not utter even one word till we reach the destination.Iwill fly back to the tamirand tree and hang by it.Do you agree to this ?” asked Betal. Vikram agreed to this and silently listened to Betal’s story.


Once a Brahmin called Keshav lived in a town on the banks of Yamuna river.He was a scholar.He had an extremly beautiful daughter.Her name was Madhumalithi.
When Madumalthi attained the age of marrage, Keshav wanted an ideal husband for his daughter.So he started searching for a handsome , intelligent and well-mannerd boy beffitting his daughter’s immense beauty.
A few weeks later ,three boys hailing from aplace called Kanya kubj visites the Brahmin;s house.All of them were handsome and intelligent. Moreover they were friends,Each one of them had seen the girl at a fair and were enchanted with her beauty. And each one of these boys felt that they would sive up their lives for the sake of Madhumalathi. They approched Keshav, the father and requested for the hand of Madhumalathi in marriage.Keshav was in dilemma. Neither he nor his wife could decide upon any of these three young men. They therefore left this decision to rheir daughter.

On an auspicious day, Keshav invited the three suitors to his house to his house so that husband .But since all the three youngmen equall y good-looking and intelligent, the girl also found it difficult to decide whom to wed.
When Madhumalthi was sitting in her room thinking about her decision, a snake suddenly entered the room and bit her.Unfortunately, she died.Her youmg suitors were xtermely grived.

These three youngmen had loved Madhumalathi very deeply and so, they decided to spend their lives in her memory.

Fter Madhumalthi’s cremation was over, one of the youngmen coollected her ashes, immeresed them in the river Ganges and started living close by.
The second one built a hut at the place where the cremation took place, and spread the ashes ,and lied there.

The third one roamed from one holy place to another, all the time remembering Madhumalthi’s beauty and grace.During such travel, he happened to stay overnight with a Tantrik. The Tantrik’s wife eas very short tempered.That night, while she was serving food to the guest, her baby started crying.In a fit of rage she threw the baby intothe fire.The babys body turned into ashes.
Disguested with what he saw , the youngman did not want to stay in the house even a moment longer. But the Tantrik, the father of the child pacified his guest and taking a pinch of mud, uttered aprayer and sprinkled it on the ashes.His son come alive.The Tantrik left the Tantrik prayer book on the table and aske his wife to feed the guest and went to sleep.

The young man who was watching thhis with astonishment wanted to bring back Madhumalathi to life.So when the Tantrik and his family were asleep, he stole the Magical spell Book and hurried back to his beloved resting place.
By that time the young man who had been living on the banks of Ganga river, also returned to the spot.Three youngmen thus met eachother and were very happy at the thought of seeing Madhumalathi alive again.
The youngman who had the Magical spell bookin his possesssion, recieted the Magical prayer.The young man who had been living been living on the banks of the Ganga sprinkled some Holy water Of the Ganga on the ashes.which was securely stored by the third young man who was living in burial ground.
The Magic worked and Mdhumalathi stood up from the ashes, more beautiful than ever.

The three suitors were very thrilled.But then, they started fighting with each other,claiming her as his own.One suitor claimed ,”ichanted the magical spell, hat’s why she got back her life”.Another one said”i sprinkled the holy water on her and gave her a new life,she belongs to me”.The third one declared “after all ,I preserved her ashes all these years, otherwise how could she be made alive? Madhumalthi woul become my wife”

Betal ended his story here and asked Vikram “O! Meritorious King you have heared the story.Now tell me how you would resolve this problem.Who is the right suitor for the girl ? If you know the answer and still do not reply to me your head will burst into pieces”

Vikram very calmly answered, “ The Young man who gave her life by reciting the Magical Prayer will like a father to her. And yje suitor who immeresed her ashes in the river behaved like ason towards a mother.That’s a very sacred relationship. The youngman who led the life an ascetic, renouncing everything and sleeping on the bed of ashes is the right suitor for her”

“ You are absoluetly correct” praise Betal.” But you have broken the rule not to utter a word, Iam going back”. Saying this the Vampire Betal sprang out of Vikram’s grasp and returned to the tamirand tree.

Choosing A Commander

King Vikram made his way to the gnarled tree from which the corpse was hanging. Unmindful of the pitch darkness in the cemetery and the howling of jackals, he brought the corpse down once again. Slinging it astride his shoulder, he had just begun his return journey when Vetal said, O King! I fail to understand why you embarked on such a dangerous mission in the dead of night. Perhaps you are following the advice of some wise and learned person your minister, maybe. But sometimes, even the advice of such a person can prove misleading. Let me tell you the story of a king who took a wrong decision, based on the advice of his trusted minister.
The tale that the Vetal narrated went as follows:
Mahipal, the king of Virpur, was an able ruler. He consulted his minister, Dharmasila, in all administrative matters. Following the sudden death of his army commander, the king left the job of choosing the right candidate to Dharmasila.

After testing the generals in service, Dharmasila concluded that none of them were suitable for the post. Following his advice, the king issued a proclamation inviting all aspirants to participate in a contest to be held in the capital. Numerous candidates turned up at the venue on the appointed day. They were put through a series of competitions that tested their skills at archery, fencing, wrestling, and athletics. At the end of the contest, Dharmasila chose two candidates – Sushil and Roopsen.
Calling both of them, he announced, Both of you have proved your mettle as fine warriors. But the commanders post is a highly responsible one, requiring not just valour and physical prowess but also intelligence of a high order. I will now test your mental ability. I shall pose three questions to you in front of the king and the court. The person whose answers are found to be most suitable will be chosen for the post of commander, said Dharmasila.

The next day, the two aspirants presented themselves in the court at the appointed hour. The contest began. Standing up, Dharmasila said, The first question is suppose you were walking along the main highway in the city and you come across two young men fighting on the road. What would you do in such a situation? Roopsen said, Sir, it is an offence to fight on the highway. So, I would arrest the two and put them in jail. After that, I would ask them why they were fighting, and bring the matter to the king so that he can judge the dispute.

Next, Sushil said, ïIf the two men were fighting on the highway, there must surely be some good reason! I would first investigate and learn that reason. Then I would find out who is at fault, and settle the dispute.
Whispers of appreciation rose from the audience at this response. Dharmasila nodded and went on, The second question. You come to know that a group of rebels are stirring up a popular revolt by instigating the masses against the king. What would be your next step?
Using my spies, I would get details about the rebels moves. I would find out how strong they are, what kind of arms they possess, and who their leader is. I would also learn whether they enjoy the support of the common people and whether any neighbouring king is helping them. Then I would bring out the army in full force to crush them. No one can revolt against my king and get away with it! declared Roopsen passionately.

But Sushils answer was different. If so many people commit an act of treason, it is surely an indication of some lapse in the administration. I would talk to the rebels and find out the reason for their revolt. If they have a genuine grievance, I would present the matter to the king for redress and set them free. If, on the other hand, their only motive was ambition, I would punish them without hesitation.
The minister nodded in approval and said, And now for my third question. You are out on a hunt with the king, when he is attacked by a lion all of a sudden. What would you do?

I would remove the king from the spot and confront the lion alone. I would even give my life to save the king, if necessary! answered Roopsen unhesitatingly.
What about you? asked Dharmasila, turning to Sushil f I were with the king, there is no question of such a situation ever arising, for, I am always watchful! declared Sushil confidently. Again, his reply was greeted with loud applause.

For a moment, the minister was lost in thought. Then, he turned to the two youths and said, Gentlemen, I had thought of asking you three questions. But now, I have decided to ask one more. Imagine that three countries border our kingdom. One of them is rich in gold and gems; the second is equipped with an excellent armoury; and the third has a very well-stocked granary. If you had to go to war with all the three, which would you attack first?
The commanders job is to obey the kingïs order. It is for the king and the minister to decide who should be attacked first. I shall launch the war campaign as per the kingïs order, said Roopsen.
Sushil said calmly,The primary duty of the commander is to strengthen the army. Good weapons are essential for a powerful army, as they boost the soldiersï morale and enable them to win in battle. So, I would launch the campaign with an attack on the second kingdom, so that we can gain possession of its weapons.
His answer left the entire assembly gasping in admiration. There was no doubt among the courtiers that Sushil would be the one to be chosen for the commanders post. But much to the surprise of the assembly, Dharmasila announced that Roopsen had been selected as the new commander. The king agreed with his decision.
Concluding the stor,  the Vetal demanded, O king, after Sushil and Roopsen had proved equally well-matched in all the martial arts, Dharmasila announced that a decision would be taken, based on their intelligence. The entire assembly, including the minister himself, was impressed by Sushilïs astuteness. Still, the minister chose the less intelligent Roopsen for the post and whats more, the king too agreed with his decision! Isnt this a grave error of judgment on their part? If you know the answer to my question, speak out . otherwise, your head shall shatter into smithereens!
King Vikram replied, . Sushil was obviously more intelligent. But a commanders job is to motivate his soldiers and carry out the kings orders. Taking policy decisions is the king’s prerogative. Even the minister only gives advice; it is for the king to accept or reject it. A commander who takes decisions on his own is a major threat for the king and the kingdom. A man skilled in warfare, possessing ordinary intelligence and loyal to the king, is definitely a better choice for commander than a highly intelligent but self-willed man. By nominating Roopsen to the post, Dharmasila proved himself to be a far-sighted, shrewd minister.
On hearing this, the Vetal nodded in approval, before going off into peals of thunderous laughter. The next moment, he moved off the kings shoulder with a jerk and flew back to the tree.

Intelligence In A Pot

It was a dark and moonless night. Only occasional flashes of lightning lit up the somber scene and caused an eerie dance of shadows in the cremation ground. But King Vikram was undaunted. He went up the old banyan tree to bring the corpse down. The Vetal that possessed the corpse said, “I do not know why you are so very persistent. You can achieve much more by using this time in a constructive way. Let me tell you the story of King Parakrama. That will give you some relief”.
The Vetal then narrated the story:
“Virpur was a small kingdom. It was ruled by King Virasen. The king, though young, was extremely clever and intelligent. He never took any hasty decisions. He would always consult his council of ministers and discuss the problems facing the kingdom. As a result, peace and tranquility prevailed throughout Virpur.
Virpur was surrounded on three sides by a bigger kingdom, Surpur. It was ruled by a king called Parakrama. He had long desired to annex Virpur to his kingdom. He could not do anything as long as Virasen’s father was alive. He was very powerful and everyone feared him. Now that he was no more, and Virasen who had succeeded him was quite young, Parakrama revived his designs to annex Virpur. He called a meeting of all his ministers and told them about his plans to invade Virpur. The chief minister had some reservations.
He said, “Your majesty, what you say is right. But we must collect all the details about our enemy before we go for an attack. Let’s ascertain the young king’s mettle before we invade Virpur”. King Parakrama felt that it was a wise suggestion and set about to draft a letter to Virasen. The king and the ministers thought they would know all about Virasen’s courage and intelligence from his reply to their letter.
Parakrama’s messenger gave the letter to King Virasen. The letter was read out in the court. It said: ‘King Virasen, your late father kept his kingdom in good shape with the help of his wisdom. I, King Parakrama of Surpur, wish to test your eligibility to don the mantle of your father. Send me a quantity of that which I value the most — intelligence! If you are unable to meet my request in three months, you must get ready to pay for the consequences of your failure!’

The young king was astonished at the strange request. The ministers realised that there must be some sinister motive behind it. Madiyugi, one of the senior ministers, stood up and said, “Your majesty, give me three months time and I’ll solve the riddle of this letter”.
Virasen accepted the proposal and wrote back to Parakrama that his request would be met within three months. By the end of the third month, Madiyugi came to the court, bringing along a huge sack. He then told King Virasen, “The intelligence that King Parakrama wanted is in this sack. Let’s send it to him right away”. Everyone wondered what was in the sack, but no one dared to ask. Even King Virasen was silent. The sack was immediately sent off to King Parakrama.
The sack was opened in the full assembly of King Parakrama’s court. To everyone’s astonishment, it contained a small-mouthed earthen pot. Inside the pot was a bigwatermelon which hugged the sides of the pot tightly.
The tendril of the melon sprouted through the narrow mouth of the pot.
The earthen pot was intact and there were no cracks anywhere. Along with it was a letter addressed to King Parakrama. It read: “As requested by you, I’m sending intelligence inside a pot. Please take it out without breaking the pot”.
The king pondered for some time and then said, “It seems Virasen is not as naive as we had thought. We must be careful in dealing with him

He then wrote back to King Virasen, “Thank you for the thoughtful gift. I shall always treasure your friendship more than anything else”. King Virasen was delighted to receive such a friendly note from a formidable neighbour.
The Vetal completed the story and said, “Don’t you think King Parakrama was frivolous in sending a letter demanding intelligence and then backing out after seeing a mere earthen pot? If he had no idea of attacking Virpur, he need not have sent a letter like that in the first place. If you know the answer and yet prefer to keep mum, your head will be blown  to pieces!”
King Vikram answered immediately. “King Parakrama was a clever man. He understood the message sent by King Virasen. Madiyugi had planted a watermelon inside the pot and allowed it to grow inside. After a few days time, the watermelon had grown big enough to fill the pot. King Parakrama understood that King Virasen also had very intelligent people around him. That’s why he decided to abandon the line of confrontation and stretch out a hand of friendship”.

As soon as King Vikram answered, the Vetal slipped down from the king’s shoulder and glided back to his home on the tree along with the corpse. The king drew his sword and went after the Vetal once again

The King And The Bandit

Dark was the night and fearsome the atmosphere. Lashing gusts of wind were accompanied by intermittent showers. Flashes of lightning revealed weird faces. Eerie laughter got mixed up with the moaning of jackals.

But King Vikram did not swerve. He climbed the ancient tree again and brought the corpse down. However, as soon as he began walking through the desolate cremation ground, the vampire that possessed the corpse said, “O King! I don’t know whether it is in the service of some good people or for the sake of some unworthy fellows that you’re taking such pains. We know of kings who have patronized even bad characters. Let me give you the example of King Chandrasen. Listen to his story. That might bring you some relief.”

The vampire went on: King Chandrasen ruled over a kingdom which was famous for its trade and commerce. In the capital lived a number of prosperous merchants. They kept the king pleased by taking gifts to him every now and then.

Days passed smoothly until a bandit began proving a menace to the trading community. He burgled the houses of merchants one after another quite systematically. On their complaint, the king appointed special officers to track down the bandit. But all they could report to the king was that the bandit was distributing his loot among the poor of the land regularly. However, what was strange was that even those who benefited by the bandit’s benevolence did not know who he was!

The reason for the king’s failure to capture the bandit was simple. The officers were under the impression that the bandit who plundered the rich must be leading a luxurious life. They also surmised that he must be having a number of followers. They looked for such a person.
But the facts were different. The bandit, whose name was Gangaram , was a poor man and he wished to remain poor. He gave away everything to the needy. Secondly, he had no accomplice, he worked alone. There was no second man to know what he did
One day, the merchants went to the king in a delegation and proposed that a reward be announced for catching the bandit. “Let it be a handsome reward, say, a lakh of rupees, so that his own accomplices might feel tempted to betray him or the common people might be attracted to risk their lives to capture him,” they said.

“I can give that much money,” said a merchant.

“Well, any of us can give that!” said some others.

The king accepted the suggestion and an announcement was duly made.

Gangaram was one day coming out of a forest when he saw a young man lying wounded just outside the forest. He nursed the traveller who appeared to have been mauled by a leopard. He took him home and made him take rest.

The traveller, Prakash, soon became a friend of Gangaram. He soon observed that Gangaram was going out regularly at night. He expressed his curiosity to his kind host.

It was surprising that Gangaram trusted Prakash entirely. He confessed to his being the bandit, after Prakash had promised that he would keep his knowledge a secret.

Prakash was now in a dilemma. No doubt, he felt grateful towards Gangaram. Had it not been for Gangaram, he might have passed away on the roadside. At the same time, the promise of one lakh rupees as reward was too big a temptation to be resisted.
At last the temptation gained the upper hand.

After Gangaram went out one night, Prakash hurried to the palace and sought an urgent audience with the king. He promised to lure Gangaram right to the gates of the palace the next afternoon.

He was soon back at Gangaram’s hut. In the morning, he proposed that both of them visit the town. Gangaram agreed.

They reached the town by noon. They relaxed in a park and shared their lunch. A dog, obviously hungry, loitered around them looking wistfully at their food. Prakash was about to throw a stone at it. But Gangaram stopped him and gave it a piece of bread.

Thereafter, Prakash led Gangaram towards the palace. The dog followed them. On the balcony stood the king himself. Near the gate were some guards. Prakash expected them to pounce upon Gangaram. But minutes passed. Gangaram coolly began moving away. Prakash shouted, “Your majesty, this is the bandit! Why don’t you capture him?”
Gangaram realised his guest’s treachery. His hand went to pull out his sword. But Prakash was quicker. He pulled out a dagger and threw it at Gangaram. Gangaram might have been hit, but the dog which had been fed by him jumped up and the dagger hit the dog instead, and was killed.

By then Gangaram had his sword ready. He drove his sword deep into Prakash, shouting, “You nasty fellow! This dog gave its life for me because I gave it a piece of bread. But I had saved your life and this is what you nourished in your mind.”

Prakash fell dead. Instantly the king gave the signal for his guards to capture Gangaram.
The king spent a long time with Gangaram in his chamber. He then called all the leading merchants. Presenting Gangaram to them, he said, “This gentleman was working as my representative. So far as the bandit’s menace is concerned, we both have succeeded in putting an end to it. Each one of you was ready to give a lakh of rupees. Now I want you to give a lakh each to this representative of mine.”

The vampire paused and then demanded, “O King, what is the significance of the king not punishing the bandit and instead introducing him as his representative? Why didn’t he disclose to the merchants Gangaram’s identity as the bandit? Why did he ask the merchants to pay him a lakh of rupees each? How is it that the king did not order his guards to capture Gangaram as soon as he appeared in front of the palace? Answer my questions, O King, if you can. If you keep silent though you may know the answers, your head would roll off your shoulders!”

Answered King Vikram forthwith: “The king already knew that Gangaram was no ordinary bandit, for, he was distributing his loot among the poor. In course of his private discussions with him, he must have felt convinced that by taking care of the poor, Gangaram was doing what the king himself ought to have done
That is why he described Gangaram as his representative. He did not disclose Gangaram’s identity as a bandit because that was not Gangaram was not a real bandit. Gangaram was a friend of the poor. Secondly, the king must have decided to use Gangaram’s services as his minister. It would be awkward to present him first as a bandit and then to appoint him a minister.

“He wanted the merchants to pay a lakh of rupees each because they were willing to spend that much if someone had put an end to the menace. Secondly, he wanted Gangaram to use the money for the needy.

“The king did not order his guards to pounce on Gangaram because he wanted to make sure what the relation between he and Prakash was. Gangaram, of course, could not have escaped. The guards had already surrounded him. The delay also served a purpose. The treacherous Prakash got his due!”

No sooner had King Vikram finished replying than the vampire, along with corpse, gave him the slip. The king drew his sword and went after it.

All Because Of A Painting!

King Vikram, undeterred as ever, went right back to the ancient tree, brought down the corpse and slung it over his shoulder. As he started moving towards the cremation ground, the Vetala spoke up once again. “O King, I feel sorry for you. I’m one of your well-wishers, but you don’t seem to understand that. Why do you haunt me like this? It’s not safe for you to be roaming in a cremation ground like this at night. Any ghoul or wild animal may harm you. Listen to me. Don’t be adamant, return to your capital. Your travails remind me of Prabodh, who was caught in a similar dilemma as yours. An action that does not harm others and is done to take care of oneself is not selfishness. Prabodh faced many problems in life because he did not understand this. Listen to his story”. And the Vetala narrated that story:

Prabodh lived in the kingdom of Vaishalini . He was a marvellous artist and painted beautiful pictures. But, for some reason, his paintings did not get the recognition they deserved. He earned barely enough to feed his family. Prabodh felt very bad because for many days his wife and children did not have sufficient food to eat. At the same time, he could not change his vocation. After a lot of thinking, he got an idea. “Let me create a fabulous painting and take it to the crown prince”, he decided.
So he painted the picture of a beautiful damsel; it was his best work ever. He took it to the capital city of Vaishalini . There he tried to meet the prince, in vain. He was frustrated and felt that he was being chased by bad luck. That night Prabodh stayed in a lodge. When the other inmates saw his painting, they complimented him heartily. But Prabodh was unhappy that he could not meet the prince. Late that night, a young and handsome traveller walked into the lodge. He heard the other guests talk about the painting and was eager to see it. Prabodh was very happy to show it to him.

The young man was charmed by the portrait of the woman. He gazed at it, fascinated, for some time. He also learnt from Prabodh that he had wished to meet the prince and had failed to get an audience.

“You’re very talented. Come with me and I’ll take you to the prince”, the young man told Prabodh. The artist, with a lot of hope, accepted the invitation and happily accomp

When they reached the palace, the young man asked Prabodh to wait for sometime and went inside. Soon he returned, as a prince. It took some time for Prabodh to realise that the young man who had brought him to the palace was indeed the prince himself. He saluted him and said, “Forgive me, my lord! I didn’t recognise you!” Prince Abhishikt laughed. “I often roam about in disguise to find out how things are going around in my kingdom. So you cannot be blamed for not recognising me! Now, as for the painting, I’ve fallen in love with the woman you have drawn. If you can tell me more about her and her whereabouts, I shall reward you with ten thousand gold coins”.

“My lord, I just drew her from my imagination. There’s no such woman, actually”, exclaimed Prabodh. But Abhishikt did not accept it. “Prabodh, I can look at a painting and say whether it is drawn from imagination or based on something real. I shall keep whatever information you give me about the woman, confidential. Come on, tell me”, he insisted. Prabodh was in a dilemma and tried hard to convince the prince. “My lord, I speak the truth. It is just my imagination’. Abhishikt now lost his temper. He called some soldiers and ordered, ?Take this fool to the top of the mountain, behead him and throw the body into the valley”.

The soldiers took the artist to the summit of the mountain. Poor Prabodh was all along lamenting over his ill-luck. “My talent has let me down. I can’t escape this injunction. What will happen to my poor wife and children” The soldiers had hardly raised the sword to chop off his head when suddenly there appeared a strange woman before them. She stopped them with a horrified gesture and asked: “What are you doing? And why are you doing this?”

“We’re only obeying the prince’s orders”, answered the soldiers.
Prabodh looked up at the woman. And he froze with surprise. “This is all because of you”, he blurted out, almost inadvertently. The woman was stunned. “My name is Manimekhala and I am visible to men only if I wish. This is the first time you’re seeing me and yet you say that I’m the cause of all your misery” Prabodh explained all that had happened. Manimekhala’s surprise knew no bounds. “Amazing!” she exclaimed. “But how could you paint an exact image of me”

“when you see the portrait I have drawn, you’ll realise that I’m speaking the truth’, insisted Prabodh.
“I’ll reward you handsomely if the woman in your portrait really looks like me’, said Manimekhala.
As Prabodh and Manimekhala started for the palace, the soldiers tried to stop them. “We’ve orders to chop off his head!’
“Fools!” Manimekhala lashed out with contempt. ‘Are you trying to stop me’ You don’t know who I am. I curse you – become stones!’ And the poor soldiers turned into stones.

Manimekhala and Prabodh became invisible in a minute and were inside the palace in no time. Prince Abhishikt was surprised at Prabodh?s sudden appearance in the palace. ?How did you escape?? he asked sharply. Just then Manimekhala made herself visible to the prince, who stood happy and surprised. ?Oh! So this is the lady in your painting? If only you had brought her to me much earlier, you wouldn’t have suffered such miseries”.

Manimekhala interrupted. “Prince, may I see the painting”
Abhishikt sent for the painting. Manimekhala was stunned to see the mirror image of herself in the painting.
“O Prince”, she cried, ‘but this is the work of Prabodh’s imagination. I’m a gandharva ( demigod) woman and I swear he has never seen me before”.

“I don’t care whether you’re a gandharva or human. I’m thrilled to have seen you. Will you marry me” asked Abhishikt.
“I’m sorry, I cannot marry you, O Prince”, said Manimekhala. “But I shall keep my promise to Prabodh. I shall grant whatever he wishes for!’
Abhishikt immediately turned to Prabodh. “Ask her to marry me! And I promise to make you a vassal and give you a kingdom”.
Manimekhala was quick to assure Prabodh, too. “If you want me to marry the prince, I shall certainly do so. Don’t hesitate to tell me what you want?.
Prabodh folded his hands humbly. “O beautiful gandharva, I request you to give back those poor soldiers their human form?.

“So be it”, Manimekhala smiled and vanished.
Prabodh turned to Abhishikt with folded hands. “My lord, give me whatever punishment you wish to. I shall accept it without protest”.

But Abhishikt embraced the artist. “You’re a great artist, Prabodh, and a unique person”, he said. Loading him with gifts, Abhishikt sent him home.
The Vetala stopped the narration and asked the King: “Poverty made Prabodh face many problems in life. It was his good luck that Manimekhala rescued him from the throes of death. And yet when she granted him a boon, he did not ask anything for himself. He only prayed for the life of the soldiers. Wasn’t he a fool” And look at Abhishikt! He knew that Manimekhala would grant Prabodh whatever he wanted. And yet when Prabodh did not ask the gandharva woman to be the prince’s wife, instead of punishing him, he praised his talents and sent him home with gifts. Abhishikt seems to have been a fickle-minded fellow, don’t you think so? If you know the answers to these questions and yet choose to remain quiet, your head will break into a thousand little pieces!?

King Vikram answered: “Abhishikt tempted Prabodh with the offer of a kingdom. But Prabodh did not take the bait. Instead, he pleaded for the life of the soldiers. He clearly wanted to earn his livelihood only with the help of his art. That is why he did not ask the gandharva for wealth or prosperity. Don’t call him a fool. He was a sincere artist. As for Abhishikt, he learnt from Prabodh that Manimekhala had turned his soldiers to stones for no fault of theirs. After all they had only been obeying the orders of their prince! He realised that gandharvas and human beings had different perspectives and sense of values. That?s why he gave up all thoughts of marrying her and did not get angry with Prabodh for not asking her to marry him?.

King Vikramaditya had once again broken his silence, and the Vetala with an eerie-pitched laughter slipped down from his shoulder and glided back to the ancient tree.

Sinners In Heaven

King Vikram, determined to carry the corpse (Vetala) with him, climbed the tree and brought the corpse down again. As he started walking through the cremation ground, swept by the storm and frequented by terrible looking ghosts, Vetala said, “O King, you are probably taking these troubles in the hope of going to heaven. Remember, people who don’t deserve to go there, also find their place there sometimes. Let me tell you a story.”

Tej Singh, a brave young boy, was a disciple of a guru in he had a great yearning for learning and often roamed in the nearby forest, observing and learning new things. He wasn’t afraid of the wild animals as he knew how to protect himself.

One day, Tej met a boy called Aghor in the forest. They soon became good friends. Tej soon found out that his friend was a bandit chief’s son. The bandits not only looted passersby but also raided the nearby villages. They distributed the booty among their people.
Tej didn’t approve of his friend’s way of life. He talked to his friend and advised him to lead his elders to a civilized way of life. Aghor grew pensive. He showed him their deity and let out other secrets about their way of life. Though they looted passersby, they shared the wealth equally. He said, “I don’t know what to do. I am accustomed to the jungle life just like you are to village life. I don’t know which one is better.”
When Tej finished his studies, the two parted ways.

After several years, Tej was employed as an officer in the court of the king of Meanwhile Aghor lost his father and was now the leader of the bandits. He proved a far greater menace than his father. Everyday, reports of travellers being looted in the forest reached the king. It was difficult to capture the gang as the forest was wide and the bandits knew the forest better. When the menace of Aghor and his gang became grave, the king made a declaration. He announced that he would marry off the princess to the man who would put an end to Aghor’s menace. Since the king had no son, this meant that the man would succeed him to the throne.
Tej felt bad every time he heard of Aghor’s atrocities. He felt partly responsible for the situation. He often thought, “Only, if I had pressed my friend strongly, perhaps he would have come out of the forest and led a normal life.”

Tej Singh knew all the secrets of the gang. He dillydallied about using the secrets against Aghor. After weighing the issue for a while, he decided on saving his people from the bandits.

He entered the forest with a small group of trusted soldiers and hid in a ditch. It was the night before the annual ceremony of the bandits. When the bandits were engrossed in the ceremony, his soldiers attacked and captured them.
Tej Singh was married to the princess and became king soon. Aghor spent the rest of his life in prison and died a prisoner. A year later Tej Singh, who had ruled gloriously, died too. When Tej Singh’s soul reached heaven, it was welcomed by Aghor’s soul. Both became friends again.

Vetala ended the story and asked, “O King! Aghor was a bandit and a sinner. Tej Singh betrayed his friend and was a sinner too. Was it not strange that two sinners should find place in heaven? They had failed to continue as friends in the world, how could they become friends again in heaven? If you know the right answers and yet keep mum, your head will shatter into pieces!”

King Vikram answered, “Tej and Aghor belonged to two different cultures. Aghor followed his father’s footsteps without realising he was doing anything wrong. He was neither greedy nor cruel. What he received, he spent on his people. There is no proof of him hating his childhood friend who captured him. Tej followed a different code of conduct. As a royal officer, it was his duty to protect the subjects against the menace. He did not go to capture Aghor for the sake of marrying the princess or for becoming king. It was his sense of duty which prompted him to arrest his friend. Both were good souls. Hence they went to heaven. In heaven there is no question of difference in social status. So they became friends again!”

As soon as the king replied, Vetala gave him the slip and returned to the tree.

Friend Or Foe

The dark and scary night with fierce winds and heavy showers would have discouraged many from venturing out. But not King Vikram. He set forth on his given task in the rain. Lightning and the howls of jackals did not scare him. He climbed the ancient tree again and brought the corpse down. Throwing the corpse over his shoulders, he began to cross the cremation ground. Suddenly, the vetal that possessed the corpse said: “O king, I know you are doing this to help one of your well-wishers. But remember that the well-wisher might one day accuse you of cheating him.  Listen to the story of two friends.”

Basudev and Padmanabh grew up in the same village and were very good friends. Both got married and had sons. Padmanabh’s wife died all on a sudden and there was no one to look after the infant boy.  Within a short time, Padmanabh also fell seriously ill. Before dying, Padmanabh told Basudev: “Please take care of my son, Ravi after my death”. “Don’t you worry my friend. I promise to look after Ravi like my own son”, said Basudev.
Padmanabh died. Basudev, true to his word, brought up Ravi like his own son, Shekhar. He treated both boys in the same manner. In fact, Ravi felt that he was Basudev’s son. After the two boys completed their studies in the local school, Basudev sent them to the town for further studies. Since Shekhar was older than Ravi by a year, Basudev sent their monthly allowance to Shekhar. Unfortunately Shekhar fell into bad company and took to gambling and drinking. Ravi tried to warn and advise him but in vain. Ravi thought of telling Basudev about the change in Shekhar’s attitude and lifestyle, but on second thoughts he did not. After all, Basudev had been a good father to him and he did not want to sadden him. Shekhar had all the money and gave him his share every month, so he did not want to make him angry.
Ravi and Shekhar came home for a holiday. Shekhar gave Basudev the impression that he was doing well in his studies and all was well.  However Ravi kept quiet.

The day the two boys were to return to the town, a wad of notes went missing from Basudev’s box. Everyone thought that one of the two boys must have taken the money. They were questioned. Instantly, Shekhar pointed his finger at Ravi: “Ravi, you could have borrowed money from me instead of stealing my father’s money! This is too bad!”
Ravi was too shocked to protest immediately. He knew that Shekhar had stolen the money and he was about to protest and accuse him.  However he saw Basudev standing nearby, overhearing their conversation.
Basudev looked at Ravi with disappointment. “I’m sorry for you, Ravi. Keep the money since you need it. But I’ve lost all faith in you!” he exclaimed.
The two youths went back to town. Shekhar resumed his evil habits. One night, he had a quarrel with a gambler in the latter’s den. There was a duel and a strong blow from Shekhar killed the gambler. Shekhar was arrested. Basudev was informed of the incident and he came rushing to the town. He came to know that Shekhar had gone astray. In the court, Ravi declared that Shekhar was with him at the time of the gambler’s death. But the judge did not accept the alibi. There was overwhelming proof of Shekhar killing the gambler. The judge convicted Shekhar to a long term in prison.
People who knew that Ravi had tried his best to save Shekhar were all praise for him.  SoRavi expected that Basudev, too, would be pleased with him. But, to his surprise, Basudev looked very upset. “Don’t show your face to me. You have become a foe to a friend. You cheated me and your friend; you’re an enemy to society!  And your crime is unpardonable!” Saying this, Basudev returned to his village leaving behind both the young men to their fates.
The Vetala concluded the narration and challenged King Vikram: “Is it not surprising that Basudev should be furious with Ravi? Wasn’t Ravi a gentle youth who, even though he suffered at the hands of Shekar, put up with him so patiently? Didn’t he try to save Shekhar from punishment? How can Basudev’s strange accusation be justified? Answer me, O King, if you can. If, however, you keep quiet, despite knowing the answer, your head will roll down your shoulders”. King Vikram answered immediately. “Basudev’s wrath was entirely justified. Every word he said was applicable to Ravi. Had Ravi been a true well-wisher of Shekhar, he would have brought his waywardness to Basudev’s knowledge. He ought to have done so, as he himself had failed to mend Shekhar’s ways. He kept quiet because the purse strings were in Shekhar’s hands. By allowing his friend to go astray, he proved himself, a foe. He was sure that it was Ravi who had stolen Basudev’s money. His silence was a sign of cowardice. It was in a sense, treachery, too, for he betrayed the faith that Basudev had in him. His false statement before the judge showed that he did not hesitate to mislead the course of justice. Law and justice are some of the pillars on which society rests. By uttering a lie in the court, which is perjury and punishable too he proved himself an enemy to society”. No sooner had the king given his answer than the vampire, along with the corpse, gave him the slip! King Vikram drew his sword and went after the vampire.

New Tales Of King Vikram And The Vetala

It was a dark, moonless night. Occasional flashes of lightning lit up the sombre scene, causing an eerie dance of jerky and frightening shadows in the cremation ground. The spine-chilling howl of a jackal or the blood-curdling laughter of some unseen evil spirit cut into the silence that hung, shroud-like, over the area. Altogether, it was a scene that would strike terror into the bravest heart, nothing could daunt the intrepid King Vikram. Once again, he made his way to the ancient gnarled tree from which the corpse hung. Bones crunched under his feet and a screeching ghost rose from the dust in shuddering frenzy as he marched ahead.
Oblivious to all this, he reached the tree and brought down the corpse. Slinging it astride his shoulder, he had just begun his return journey when the vampire that possessed the corpse said, “O King! I do not know what inspires you to come to this graveyard at dead of night, braving all the danger and discomfort of such a venture! I have seen many idealistic youths who claimed willingness to lay down their very lives for the sake of their noble cause. But at the first sign of danger, they forgot all their ideals and turned into cowards! Let me tell you the story of one such youth, Giridhar.”
The vampire then narrated the following story:

The valley of Bhargavgiri
The valley of Bhargavgiri was inhabited by a group of tribals. Their chief, Kondadev, had a son named Giridhar who was a very self-respecting person. This was not to say that he was proud or haughty; in no way did he misuse his position as the chief’s son, nor did he ever display any sign of arrogance. On the contrary, he was helpful and friendly to all. His greatest desire was for the eventually relented.
Long ago, the valley had been a virtual treasure trove of medicinal herbs of all kinds, and rare species of flora and fauna. When the news of this natural bounty reached the ears of the King of Kanchanpur, greed inspired him to send his soldiers to the valley. They persecuted the tribals and took away by force the honey, herbs and animal products they had collected. Deprived of their means of livelihood, the innocent tribals were in despair.

As usual, the annual festival of Bhargavi took place that year with great fanfare. The army commander of Kanchanpur and his soldiers were among the worshippers. In the course of the festival, the tribal priest was possessed by the spirit of the goddess and he went into a trance. Jumping and leaping in a frenzy, he shouted, “If you desire the welfare of your people, do as I say! On every full-moon day, you must first make me an offering of three pots of honey, 31 deer horns and three basketfull of herbs, and then hand them over as your tribute to the soldiers of Kanchanpur. This practice should continue until the King of Kanchanpur, of his own accord, frees you from vassalage. Otherwise it will end in your ruin!”
The tribal chieftain bowed to the dictates of the goddess. From then on, Bhargavgiri was recognised as Kanchanpur’s vassal. The soldiers of Kanchanpur stopped persecuting the tribals, but continued to take away all the forest produce month after month. The practice continued, and it was in this manner that the tribals had reached their present impoverished condition.
Giridhar was enraged by the story. He addressed his fellow tribals: “Why should we surrender the honey and other things, collected by us with much difficulty, to others? This forest is our home and as such, whatever grows here is our property. We should resist this injustice. If we stand united, no one can take away our rights!”
Kondadev was upset to hear his son inciting the tribals against Kanchanpur. He warned him, “Remember, my son, we are no match for the king’s huge army!” After thinking the matter over, Giridhar told his father, “Didn’t the goddess say that the tribute-paying can stop when the king himself sets us free? I shall go to Kanchanpur, meet the king and tell him of the difficulties we’re facing.” His father advised him to present his case humbly and courteously, so that the king would be moved to relent. Giridhar agreed. Accompanied by two friends, he set out for the capital of Kanchanpur.

On reaching his destination, he met King Kanakasena, enlightened him about the plight of the tribals, and requested him to free the valley from bondage. The king heard him out, and finally declared “Bhargavgiri is our vassal, and is bound to obey us. If you don’t wish to pay the tribute due to us, you may leave the valley and go to live elsewhere!”Forgive me, Your Majesty,” said Giridhar politely, “but that’s impossible. The valley of Bhargavgiri is our mother, and we cannot even contemplate leaving her!” He bowed and left the court.
A week later, as the king was holding court, a tribal youth entered, bowed to him, and handed him a letter. It was from Giridhar, and read as follows:
“O’ King! My forefathers were scared by an oracle’s threat and agreed to pay tribute to you. For three generations now, we have continued the practice, undergoing much hardship in the process. We slave and slog, while you enjoy the fruits of our labour. This cannot go on any longer. I came in person to meet you and tell you of our problems, but you turned a deaf ear to my pleas. Now there is no other go but to tell you that we wish to break free of your tyranny. My men are ready to fight to the death, but I am not in favour of unnecessary bloodshed. So, I suggest an alternative. As the representative of the tribals, I am ready to fight a duel with any of your warriors. If I win, you must declare Bhargavgiri valley independent; if I lose, my people shall go away, leaving the valley to you. If you are ready to meet my challenge, kindly let me know where and when you intend to have the duel.”
Boiling with anger, the king snapped at the messenger, “Very well! On the evening of the next full-moon day, the duel shall be held in the palace grounds. Tell Giridhar to be ready!”

Arrangements were made for a duel as per the king’s order. Giridhar arrived at the venue, accompanied by two friends. Something totally unexpected happened. The king’s guards surrounded Giridhar, took him prisoner, and bound his hand and foot before dragging him to the king. In a tone brimming with sarcasm, the king declared: “Giridhar, your bravery is commendable indeed! But by defying me, you have put your life in danger. You have incited the peace-loving tribals and filled their innocent minds with fiery ideas of independence and pride. Your crime is nothing short of treason. You deserve to be punished with death. But like you, I wish to avoid unnecessary bloodshed. Now that the tribals are bent on getting their freedom, it will not be easy to rule over them. So I shall set them free on one condition.”
“What is it?” asked Giridhar. “If you desire freedom for your homeland, you should agree to give up your freedom. You shall remain in this palace for the rest of your life, as a slave of Kanchanpur!”
Giridhar was startled. A moment later, he bowed and said, “So be it. I willingly accept your condition!”
Having concluded the story, the vampire asked, “O King! How could Giridhar, a proud, freedom-loving youth, so tamely agree to become a slave? Was it not his cowardice that made him abandon his ideals when confronted with adverse conditions? Answer me, or your head shall shatter into a thousand fragments!”
King Vikram replied, “Giridhar never abandoned his ideals or changed his stand. He had all along desired freedom for his tribe. In the end, he succeeded in winning it – albeit at great personal cost. He sacrificed his own freedom for that of his tribe. Sacrificing one’s personal honour for that of his family, his family’s honour for that of his village, his village’s honour for that of his kingdom all these are examples of truly noble deeds. Giridhar was one who made such a noble sacrifice. In no way did he prove himself a coward. On the contrary, he deserves praise for his courage and selflessness!”
As soon as the King finished speaking, the vampire, along with the corpse, moved off his shoulder with a jerk and flew back to the tree. With a little sigh, King Vikram squared his shoulders and retraced his steps towards the tree.

Worship Of God

King Vikram went after the Vetal with determination and brought down the hanging corpse once again. The Vetal addressed the king saying, “O king, what do you expect to get from all this labour? Things are not always as you expect them to be. Sometimes you might work at something with great patience and persistence only to find that you have been barking up the wrong tree. Listen to this story and be warned about doing anything with such single-minded purpose.”
The Vetal began his narration. Once, the king of Chakrapuri, Chandrasena, fell very ill. All the royal doctors were called but he remained bedridden. One night, as the king slept, he had a dream. The divine being appeared before him and said, “A king is responsible for the ills affecting his country. All is not well in your kingdom. Everyone has become very selfish, and there is a lot of harassment of ordinary people in the name of caste, creed, and religion. That is why you’ve fallen so.”

Chandrasena promised the divine being that he would look into the affairs of the kingdom with care as soon he felt better. The divine being told him that just three leaves of theholy tulsi (basil) would cure him, but the leaves had to be handed to him by a holy man who had worshipped God for ten years continuously without even a moment’s break. On the orders of the king, the ministers set out to find such a holy man the very next day.
In a temple in Sitapur, a man named Ramachari had been worshipping God for twelve years continuously. He had vowed to leave the temple only after receiving proof that he had become a pure being. Chandrasena’s ministers sent messengers to bring Ramachari as he seemed to fit the requirements set by the divine being. However, Ramachari refused and said that he was bound by his vow. The only way out was to bring the king to the temple.
King Chandrasena set off in a palanquin accompanied by a big retinue. As the procession reached the borders of Sitapur, a strong gale began to blow. They halted under a tree. At that point, a yogi came that way, went to the king and asked him where he was going. The king told him the reason behind his journey and the yogi confidently replied that the king would be cured if he ate three tulsi leaves given by him. The king hesitantly enquired if the yogi had spent ten years in worship of God.

The Prince And The Gandharvas

The cremation ground presented an eerie spectacle on that dark night. The pitch darkness was relieved only by occasional flashes of lightning that lit up the sombre scene. Occasionally, a jackal’s spine-chilling howl or the blood-curdling laughter of some invisible evil spirit cut into the silence that hung like a shroud over the area. But nothing could daunt King Vikram. Once again, he made his way to the gnarled tree from which the corpse (Vetal) was hanging.

Oblivious to everything but the mission at hand, he brought the hanging corpse down by cutting the rope with his sword. Slinging it astride his shoulder, he had just begun his return journey when the Vetal said, “O King! This is a very difficult task that you are performing. Perhaps you have taken it on yourself as a favour for someone else. But I hope that when the person offers to reciprocate by doing something that will benefit you, you won’t rashly decline the offer in a fit of emotion, as Prince Vasant of Kirtipur did. Listen to his story.”

“Shaktiteja, the king of Gandharvaloka (the domain of the gandharvas , or demi-gods), had a beautiful daughter named Swarnamanjari. However,Chitravarnika – another nymph was considered to be the most beautifulin Gandharvaloka. This caused Swarnamanjari much heartburn. She becamebitterly jealous of Chitravarnika, and was forever looking for anopportunity to hurt her in some way.
Swarnamanjari’s opportunity came when her father took her on a visitto earth. She was so taken in by earth’s beauty that she lost no timein boasting to all her friends about the marvelous sights she had seenwhen she went back home. It was not long before her stories of theearth reached Chitravarnika’s ears. The vivid description caught herfancy, and filled her with a longing to visit this new place and seeits wonders with her own eyes. She told her friends that she had madeup her mind to leave for earth soon.

When King Shaktiteja heard the news from his daughter, he summonedChitravarnika to his court and curtly announced, “Chitra, no denizen ofGandharvaloka may descend to earth without my permission. If you stillinsist on going, you shall lose all your celestial powers. However, ifyou are able to worship at a sacred pilgrim spot within fifteen days ofreaching earth, you will regain your powers. Only then can you returnto Gandharvaloka.”

he king’s warning did not daunt Chitravarnika; if anything, it onlystrengthened her determination to make the journey. Floating throughair, she made her descent to earth. She landed beside a beautiful brookin the midst of a forest. The crystal clear water of the brook enticedher to take a dip. She stepped into the water and had a refreshingbath. As she emerged from the brook and tried to soar into the air, sherealised that she had lost her power to fly.

The gandharva king’s words had come true. Just then, a youngman came riding a horse. On seeing Chitravarnika, he reined his horseand asked, “Young lady, may I know who you are and what you’re doing atthis lonely spot? You don’t look like an ordinary woman, but like somecelestial nymph.” With a sigh, Chitravarnika answered, “You’re right,I’m a gandharvamaiden. But I have lost my celestial powers,only because I committed the crime of visiting your land!” Seeingsympathy in the young man’s eyes, she then told him the whole story.
The young man introduced himself. “I am Vasant, the crown-prince ofKirtipur. With a week left for my coronation, I’m currently out on atour of my kingdom to get to know it better. I shall take yousightseeing and show you the most beautiful places on earth. In return,I’d like you to take me to Gandharvaloka. I wish to study theadministrative policies there, so that I can implement them in my ownkingdom when I become the ruler.”

“Your aim is a lofty and commendable one indeed,” praisedChitravarnika. “But O prince, I myself have lost the power to fly backto Gandharvaloka. Unless I worship at the holiest pilgrim spot on earthwithin fifteen days, I cannot get my power back. So how can I take youthere – much as I would love to?”

Vasant assured her that he would help her. “The holiest destination that I can think of isMount Kailas , abode of Lord Siva and Goddess Parvati ,” he said, “I can take you there.”

On hearing this, Chitravarnika’s eyes lit up with hope and sheasked, “But would we be able to make it there in just fifteen days?””Why not? It can be done if we leave right away,” he repliedconfidently.

Concluding the story, the Vetal said, “O king, Prince Vasant took the trouble to escort Chitravarnika all the way to Kailas , as a result of which she was able to regain the powers she had lost. In return, he requested a chance to visit Gandharvaloka, not for his personal enjoyment, but for the noble cause of studying the methods of administration used there, with the intention of implementing them in his own kingdom. Then why did he change his mind and turn down Chitravarnika’s offer of taking him there? Wasn’t it the height of foolishness to turn down this golden opportunity? Was it out of fear of the gandharva king’s wrath? Or was it an impulsive decision spurred by hurt pride and anger? If you know the answer, speak out – otherwise, your head shall shatter into pieces!”

Calmly and unhesitatingly, King Vikram answered: “The reason Prince Vasant wished to study the administration of Gundharvaloka was because he had considered it an exemplary domain, inhabited by ideal beings. But the gandharva king Shaktiteja’s unjust and unreasonable behaviour, goaded by his daughter’s jealousy, which Vasant subsequently witnessed made him understand the gandharva s were far from ideal. They too had the same weaknesses as human beings – perhaps to a worse degree! So, there was nothing to be learnt from their methods of administration. This, coupled with the thought that Chitravarnika would have to suffer her king’s punishment for taking him to Gandharvaloka, made him drop the idea of visiting that land. There is nothing foolish about his decision.”

On hearing this, the Vetal nodded in approval and moved off the king’s shoulder with a jerk and flew back to the tree. King Vikram gave a little sigh as he gazed upon the scene. Then, he squared his shoulders, drew his sword and retraced his steps towards the ancient tree

Malathi?s Choice

Once again, King Vikram began walking towards the cremation ground with the corpse that was possessed by the Vetal. He had hardly taken a few steps when the Vetal said, “O king, it is now midnight and this place is dark and frightening. Your life could be in great danger. Are you trying to solve a difficult problem or escape from an embarrassing situation that you are willing to undertake such a hard and impossible task? The choices you make in life will seal your fate. Let me tell you the story of Malathi who threw away the good fortune that came her way in a most casual manner.”
In the jungles of Vindhyachal, a woodcutter lived in a hut with his daughter Malathi. The motherless girl was beautiful and her anxious father wished to find a suitable husband for her. One day, the woodcutter heard that his sister, who lived in a nearby village, was ill. He set off early the next day to visit her. Malathi finished her chores and was singing to herself in solitude when she heard a voice that said, “Even the nightingale has been silenced by your lovely song!”

Malathi was startled as a young man stepped forward and said, “My name is Madhu Kumar. I am a lover of music and I was enchanted by your sweet voice.” Before Malathi could react, there was a sudden cloudburst and it began to pour. Malathi asked the young man to step into the house. Just as the two of them began talking again, somebody called out from outside and requested shelter from the rain. Malathi opened the door to find a handsome young man on the verandah. She welcomed him inside too.
The young man introduced himself as Sundardas. He was taken in by Malathi’s beauty. Within a moment, yet another man came into the room, apologising for barging in. Named Ravishankar, he was a businessman who had also been caught in the rain.
The three men left one after the other once the rain let up. Madhu Kumar was the first to leave. He confessed to Malathi that her sweet voice had enchanted him and that he had fallen in love with her. He said that he would place the proposal before her father through his brother.
Similarly, Sundardas praised Malathi’s beauty and told her that they would make a perfect match. He informed her that his parents would approach her father the next day to propose marriage between the two of them.

Ravishankar found Malathi’s dwelling place to be attractive, a haven away from the strain of his business. He told Malathi that he would ask his mother to call on her father the next day with a marriage proposal.
When Malathi’s father returned, she enquired after her aunt’s health. To her dismay, her father told her that her aunt was nearing her end. Her only desire now was to see her son Ramapati married to Malathi. However, Ramapati had insisted that he would agree only if Malathi gave her consent.
Malathi smiled and recounted the day’s happenings to her father. He was overjoyed and he advised her to pick one of the three rich men and lead a comfortable life. To his surprise, Malathi unhesitatingly said that she would marry only Ramapati!”
The Vetal stopped his narration and said: “O king, it is clear that Malathi made a foolish decision. Her three suitors were rich and accomplished young men. She should have chosen one of them as her husband. Instead, she chose Ramapati — an illiterate farmer, as her groom. Malathi treated her marraige so casually and made up her mind without giving a thought to the consequences. Why did she act in such a way? If you know the answer and yet keep quiet, your head will explode into thousand pieces.”

King Vikram said: “Decision-making depends on the personality and emotional attitudes of the person facing the problem. Each of Malathi’s suitors, with the exception of Ramapati, took it for granted that she would only be too happy to marry him. Ramapati was the only one who asked for her opinion. Those who did not feel it necessary to ask for her opinion before marriage were unlikely to change their attitude later. So your statement that Malathi made a foolish decision and ruined her future is not valid,” concluded King Vikram.
The next moment, he shook his head wryly as the Vetal shrieked with laughter and flew off to the ancient tree with the corpse.

The Forgotten Quest

It was a dark and stormy night. Flashes of lightning lit up the evil faces of shrieking ghoulsand laughing vampires . Sheets of rain poured down. King Vikram strode fearlessly up to the ancient tree. He pulled the corpse down, put it on his shoulders and started for the cremation ground. The Vetal then said, “You come to this ghastly cremation ground alone every time. Your action makes me wonder what exactly you seek. In my view, what you are doing is very foolish. There are times when a learned person does not know what to do. Listen to the story of Shashanka and you’ll understand”.
“Shashanka was the son of the royal priest of the kingdom of Karnasuvarna . He and Prince Swarnakirti, the heir to the throne, were friends from childhood. King Makaranda decided that his son must go to the University of Takshashila for mastering the martial arts. While Swarnakirti made his way to Takshashila, Shashanka who had decided to become an ascetic, entered the forests to meditate. As the years went by, his spiritual strength grew by leaps and bounds, but he remained humble. However, Shashanka was not aware that his progress was being watched by the gandharvas who were starting to feel insecure and uncomfortable.
After a long and involved discussion, the gandharvas decided to play a simple trick on Shashanka. To put the plan into action, Guna, one of the gandharvas , assumed the form of asoothsayer and went to meet King Makaranda at Karnasuvarna. “Your son has the potential to become the greatest king on earth. You can help clear his way by performing a great animal sacrifice”, he said.
When the king expressed an interest, he continued, “On an auspicious day, you must sacrifice one of every species of animal and bird to be found in your kingdom. And the sacrifice must be done by someone who has conquered hunger and thirst, and has been subsisting only on tulsi -water for more than a year”.
Following the soothsayer’s advice, King Makaranda ordered one animal of every kind to be caught for the sacrifice. A team of ministers was sent to the forest to find a suitable ascetic. When the ministers discovered Shashanka, they requested him to perform the sacrifice. However, Shashanka refused since he believed killing animals, even for sacrifice, was wrong. When the news reached the king, he offered his kingdom and his daughter’s hand in marriage to the ascetic to win him over.

The king secretly planned to go back on his word once the sacrifice had been performed. When Shashanka looked at the blushing princess Bhargavi, he was enticed by her beauty. He renounced his spiritual quest and agreed to perform the sacrifice. The sacrificial pit was ready. Thousands of animals were lined up for the sacrifice. Shashanka stood at the mouth of the pit, sword in hand. As Shashanka raised the sword, an elephant, which was first in line, instinctively raised his trunk and trumpeted in terror. It was a death call; all the animals cried out in unison. The ascetic was overcome. He dropped the sword and turned away, his shoulders sagging. Unable to perform the sacrifice, he apologized to the king and walked away to atone for his sins”.

The Vetal finished his narration and posed his riddle to King Vikram: “O King, Shashanka had been enchanted by the beautiful princess and had agreed to conduct the animal sacrifice, even though it was against his principles to kill animals. And yet when it was time for the sacrifice, he suddenly changed his mind and bowed out of the scene. Did he suddenly lose his guts at the sight of so many animals waiting for the sacrifice? Or did he suspect that the king might cheat him of the princess and the kingdom? If you know the answer and still choose to remain silent, your head will split into a million pieces!”
King Vikram answered immediately, “Neither of your conclusions are true! You mentioned that on seeing the princess, Shashanka went into a trance. But when he was ready, sword in hand, and waiting for the sacrificial rites to commence, the death cry of the elephant and the panic of the other animals jerked him out of the trance. He realised the enormity of the sin that he was about to commit – all for the sake of a kingdom and a wife! That was why he begged the king’s pardon and went away — to atone for his evil desires”.
As soon as King Vikram answered the Vetal’s question, the corpse slipped away from his shoulders and glided back to the tree.

The Unexpected Choice

King Vikram was on his mission again ? the mission to get the corpse (Vetal) for the sage seeking occult powers. The cremation ground was dark and eerie, the moon hid behind the clouds. It rained intermittently. The only source of light was the occasional flashes of lightning. To add to the dread was the howls of jackals, and the laughter of evil spirits. This would scare the bravest of warriors but not the valiant King Vikram.

Undaunted, he made his way to the ancient tree from which the corpse was hanging. Unmindful of his surroundings, he brought the hanging corpse down by cutting the rope with his sword. Slinging it over his shoulder, he began his journey when the Vetal that possessed the corpse said, ?O king, from your perseveration in this difficult and dangerous task, it is evident that you are a dedicated king whose greatest concern is the welfare of his subjects. But sometimes even sincere kings throw their principles to the winds when a question of their greatness over that of their citizens arises. Let me tell you the story of one such king.?

There once lived a king in Vajrapur who had a son called Vir. He was interested in administration right from childhood. He trained in martial arts and picked various nuances of administration from his father. Wise and able, the king often consulted him on administrative issues. Soon the king retired leaving the kingdom in his able son?s hands.

Under King Vir?s leadership and competent administration, the kingdom flourished and the people were a happy lot. Soon there was pressure on him to get married. Contrary to the usual practice of choosing a bride from a royal family, he decided to marry a commoner. He was looking for a wife who was well educated and intelligent, who could help him with the administration and empathise with his subjects. He decided to hold a series of tests, open to all young, unmarried women of his kingdom. Women of the royal family were debarred from participation. He announced he would marry the winner.

The announcement received an enthusiastic response. Women from all walks of life were tested for resourcefulness, problem-solving abilities, and memory skills. After a series of tests, the competition was between two young women ? Devayani and Shivani

The final decision was the king’s. He called the two women and said, “I understand that you both are very intelligent and capable young women. This is my last task to you. Capture the warrior who has tamed seven horses and bring him to me. Whoever succeeds in this task will be my queen.” They both thought for a moment. Almost simultaneously, their eyes went to some bowls kept on the table. Each took a bowl and went away. Moments later, they returned and placed their bowls now filled with water, on the table before the king. As the king looked into the two bowls one after the other, he saw the morning sun’s reflection in the water. With both the women having solved the riddle, the king was in a quandary. Thinking for a while, he said, “Tell me about your families.”

Shivani answered without any hesitation. She said she was a daughter of a farmer fromRampur village. Diwani grew defensive, she said,” What does it matter who my parents are, or where I come from? If you want to assess my calibre, you must do so by conducting another test  not by going into my family background.” The king looked suspiciously at her and said, “Now aren’t you being secretive. Is there something to hide?”

“Yes, I am not a commoner, but a princess, heir to the throne of Kosala. I love you and wish to marry you. On learning that you intended to marry a commoner and that you were conducting a contest to choose your wife, I posed as one and tried my luck. Was it such a crime?” The king was dumbfounded. He asked, “In spite of knowing that this contest was for the commoners of my kingdom, was it right for you to participate in it under a false identity?”
“I wanted to marry you and I have proved myself worthy of it, by passing your tests. So, is it proper on your part to reject me, only because I’m a princess? You have insulted me. You shall pay for this someday!” So saying, Princess Devayani stormed out of the king’s chamber.

King Vir stared at her in confusion. The other contestant Shivani withdrew quietly, and returned to her village. Vir had never met Princess Devayani before, but he had heard a lot about her. She was the only child of Amarendra, the King of Kosala and was pampered by her doting father. However, she was very intelligent and capable. She ruled the kingdom, as he whiled away his time playing chess.

On reaching home, Devayani poured out her heart to her father. King Amarendra was saddened by his dejected daughter. He could easily subjugate Vir’s kingdom. But that wouldn’t please his grieving daughter.

So he thought of writing to King Vir. He said in his message: “Greetings to King Vir. My daughter flouted the rules of your competition, I apologise on her behalf. Her love for you got the better of her. As a father, I request you to marry her. If you do, the kingdom of Kosala will be yours. I know you are a righteous and intelligent king, I can be sure that the welfare of my kingdom as well as my daughter is in safe hands” Vir was lost in thought for some time and then he sent a reply accepting the proposal. Soon, Vir and Devayani were married. Vir became the ruler of both kingdoms.

Concluding the story, Vetal said,”O king, Vir pretended to be a man of great integrity, but had no compunctions about casting his principles aside when an attractive offer came up. He had announced that he would marry only a commoner. So, wasn’t it wrong on his part to reject the commoner Shivani and marry Devayani who had flouted the rules of the contest? Was it his desire to annex Kosala that prompted him to take this decision, or was it motivated by a fear of reprisal from Kosala’s powerful army? If you know the answer to my question, speak out – otherwise, your head shall shatter into smithereens.”
Without hesitation, King Vikram replied, “It was neither fear nor greed that motivated Vir to act the way he did. He was a king who was fully conscious of his responsibility towards his subjects, and who worked day and night to improve their lot. Selfish considerations had no place in his mind. He was aware of how the people of Kosala were suffering under the reign of an irresponsible king and an efficient, but moody princess.”

“If he became their king, he could do a lot of good for them. Although he was not in love with Devayani he realised that since she loved him, he could certainly count on her help if he married her. Thus, it was a well-thought of decision guided entirely by selfless motives.”

On hearing this, the vampire nodded in approval, before going off into of thunderous laughter. The next moment he, along with the corpse, moved off the king’s shoulder with a jerk and flew back to the ancient tree. King Vikram sighed and retraced his steps towards

The Astrologer’s Destiny

It was a dark, moonless night. Occasional flashes of lightning lit up the somber scene, causing an eerie dance of jerky and frightening shadows in the cremation ground. Occasionally, the spine-chilling howl of a jackal or the blood-curdling laughter of some unseen evil spirit cut into the silence that hung, shroud-like, over the area. Altogether, it was a scene that would strike terror into the bravest heart. But nothing could daunt the intrepid King Vikram. Once again, he made his way to the ancient gnarled tree from which the corpse hung. Bones crunched under his feet and a screeching ghost rose from the dust in shuddering frenzy as he marched ahead.
Oblivious to all this, he reached the tree and brought down the corpse. Slinging it astride his shoulder, he had just begun his return journey when the vampire that possessed the corpse said, “O King! No doubt you’re a very courageous and determined man to be out here on this midnight errand. But sometimes, determined and learned men like yourself have been known to abandon their learning and go to desperate limits in pursuit of their goal. Let me tell you the story of a famous astrologer who had to seek the advice of an ignorant youth when it came to taking a personal decision.”
The story narrated by the vampire was as follows – Shantaram of Sitapur village had a handsome, robust, and good-natured son named Bhaskar. Dinakar, a peasant from the same village, was attracted by the youth’s good qualities and desired to give his daughter in marriage to him.
However, when he approached him with a marriage proposal, Bhaskar demurred, saying, “Sir, I am to Matangpur. When their search for a house yielded no results, Bhaskar met a rich man and asked, “Would you please let us stay in your house? I’m looking for a job, and shall pay you the rent with arrears as soon as I get one!”
The rich man looked Bhaskar up and down, and finally replied, “My house is a big one, and can easily accommodate you. But before that, I’ll put you to a test. Four men ” Ram, Som, Naresh and Kiran” have taken loans from me, but evade all my efforts to realise the loans, on some pretext or the other. Today I want to recover the dues from at least one of them. You must tell me which of them I should meet to get my money.”

Bhaskar was flabbergasted. How could he answer such a question, about four men whom he had not even met? But he had to say something, and so at length he blurted out, “Go and meet Naresh, he will repay your loan in full.”
The man followed his advice. To his surprise, the hitherto evasive Naresh welcomed him warmly and handed over the full amount, exactly as predicted by Bhaskar!
This incident proved a turning point in Bhaskar’s life. Not only did he get the accommodation promised to him, he was also hailed as an astrologer with uncanny powers of foresight!
From then on, people began flocking to Bhaskar, requesting him to use his astrological skills to solve their problems. He listened attentively, drew out all the facts by asking questions, and then suggested solutions after giving considerable thought to the issue. As a result, his words generally came true. By and by his fame spread, until he was making a comfortable living in Matangpur by his fortune-telling.
One day, his wife Sandhya suggested, “You’re a really good astrologer. Why don’t we leave this place and settle in the capital? There you’ll be able to come up by the patronage of the king and the nobility, and we’ll soon become rich.”
Bhaskar laughed and said, “I don’t know astrology; nor do I believe in it. My words are coming true because luck is on my side. Yes, we can move to the capital and do some business there. It will prosper as long as my lucky streak continues.” But Sandhya persisted. “You don’t know your own strength. Pandit Sridhar had recognised you as a gifted astrologer. You mustn’t give up astrology without consulting him.”
As they were talking, who should come in but Pandit Sridhar himself! They received him courteously. The elderly astrologer complimented Bhaskar, saying, “Son, you’re truly a gifted astrologer. Your skill goes beyond mere science.”
“Sir, your visit comes at a juncture when I myself was thinking of coming to meet you,” said Bhaskar. “May I know what brings you here?”
Sridhar replied, ‘I’ve come to consult you in your professional capacity. Lakshman, a farmer of Sitapur, has five acres of farmland, which he wants to dispose of in order to go and live with his son, who has recently secured a job at the king’s court. The land is worth 500 gold coins at the most. But he wants me to purchase it for a thousand gold coins.”
“But why is he making such an unreasonable demand?” asked Bhaskar.
“That’s a long story,” replied the Pandit.

“Some time ago, Lakshman came to me in great distress. His crops had failed; he was heavily in debt; his son was jobless. To console him, I made my calculations and told him that things would soon change for him. He would get a bumper harvest and thus be able to repay his debts; his son would get a good job with the king; he would unearth a hidden treasure on his land. And the tide did turn for Lakshman. Except for the one about the treasure, all my predictions came true. Now he argues that I will be compensated for the price by the treasure, which will surely be worth much more. But as matters stand, the plot is not worth a thousand gold coins. I don’t know what to do. That’s why I’ve come to seek your advice on the matter.”
“But how can I help you?” asked Bhaskar in surprise.
“If you confirm my prediction about there being a hidden treasure in the land, I shall buy it,” asserted Sridhar.
“Sir! When I was wandering about, jobless, it was you who guided me to take up astrology for my vocation. How can I know something which you don’t?”
“Son, your words will come true! I may be learned, but you have luck on your side. I believe in you. Tell me whatever comes to your mind!”
Unable to refuse this request, Bhaskar finally advised Sridhar to go ahead with the purchase. Sridhar thanked him and returned to Sitapur.

Sandhya, who had been closely following the whole conversation, now told Bhaskar, “You better give up astrology. Let’s go to the capital and start a business.”
Bhaskar laughingly asked his wife, “So, you’ve finally lost your blind faith in my astrology?”
“Not at all,” said Sandhya. “What I have in mind is this ” through the business, we can quickly make enough money to buy the plot from Pandit Sridhar. We can dig out the hidden treasure, which then becomes rightfully ours!”
Bhaskar and Sandhya shifted to the capital, where they started a business. It prospered, and very soon they had earned no less than 10,000 gold coins.
Taking this money, they went to Sitapur. Bhaskar’s father, Shantaram, happily welcomed the couple and said, “You’ve come at a good time. Today Pandit Sridhar, the astrologer, is throwing a grand feast for the whole village.
You see, he recently unearthed a rich treasure on his land! It seems he knew of the existence of the treasure beforehand, by applying his astrological skills. Isn’t it a real windfall ” finding a treasure of 50,000 gold coins on a plot of land purchased for a mere thousand gold coins?”
Bhaskar was dumbstruck by this piece of news. He was in a dilemma as he should whether to resume his business or to return to practising astrology.
Concluding the story at this point, the vampire demanded, “O King! Sridhar was undoubtedly a learned astrologer; why then did he consult Bhaskar about buying the land? Did he lack confidence in his own knowledge? As for Bhaskar, he had no knowledge of astrology whatsoever. Then how did his predictions come true? Answer my questions, or else your head will shatter to a thousand pieces!”
The king replied, “A wise man is always alert and observant. Even a great physician, when he himself or one in his family falls ill, calls in another physician instead of giving the treatment himself. Similarly, there is nothing wrong in a learned astrologer consulting another astrologer before deciding on a serious personal issue. That is just what Sridhar did. As for Bhaskar, he was no astrologer, but his words came true because luck was always with him. Sridhar took his advice because he believed in his luck.”
No sooner had the king finished speaking than the vampire, along with the corpse, moved off his shoulder with a jerk and flew back to the tree. With a little sigh, King Vikram squared his shoulders and retraced his steps towards the tree, his dogged determination evident in his steady gait.

The Minister?s Ego

King Vikram was on his mission again — the mission to get the corpse (Vetal) for the sage seeking occult powers. He headed for the cremation ground. It was a dark, eerie night. To add to the spookiness, were the moans of jackals, the cackling of spirits and the howling wind. The bravest of warriors would have made their way home but the intrepid King Vikram kept at his task.
He made his way to the ancient tree where the Vetal hung from a branch and brought the Vetal down. Slinging him on his shoulder, he made his journey towards the sage. As he walked, the Vetal spoke, “O king, you are stubborn and fail to see reason. But don’t you worry; I am just as adamant as you. As I told you there are wild and dangerous animals in here and your life could be under threat. Why do you want to risk your life? You have failed so many times but you don’t seem to give up. I admire your patience. However, it’s good to be patient and brave; you must also be wise and practical. Let me tell you the story of a great and brave minister Vajradev, you will probably see reason then.”
Long ago, Magadha was ruled by a great administrator called King Mahipal. Sharp and vigilant, he kept a check on his enemies. He had the help of a shrewd general and a very wise minister. Unfortunately, the general died. Unexpected as his death was, the king was in a lurch. He called on his trusted minister, Vajradev and they decided to call a meeting of all the ministers.

At the meeting, the ministers brought to the king’s notice, the other news from the kingdom. A scoundrel called Bhairav was cheating the citizens of Magadha. Tired of his misdeeds, the people had threatened to kill him and banished him to the forest.

The other news was that kingdom was rife with stories of a rakshasa (demon) belonging to the treta yuga (The yuga in which Vishnu was born as Rama.) having taken shelter in the jungles of Magadha. There were all sorts of stories floating around, of Rama having punished him and then having blessed him. The villagers who believed these stories went to visit the rakshasa but none came back.

The king was intrigued and upset by this story. He told his ministers: “I would like to know what actually is happening in that jungle. I announce that whoever finds out the truth in this matter will be the next general of Magadha’s army. By this, we can solve our problem and find an able commander for our army.” The ministers agreed.

The truth about the treta yuga rakshasa was a clever tale spread by Bhairav himself.  While on his way to the forest, Bhairav heard a faint voice asking for water. On looking, he found arakshasa, weak with hunger and thirst, pinned under a rock. He took pity, set him free and gave him some water. The rakshasa thanked him and said that he could ask him for whatever he wished for and if it was in his powers he would surely give it to him. Now the greedy Bhairav looked at the old rakshasa who was quite lame and asked him for money. “But there is no money in the jungle. Nobody comes here,” said the rakshasa.

Bhairav thought for a while and came up with a wicked plan. “Look I will bring the people, you can eat them but you have to give me their jewels. Now, how does that sound?” Therakshasa laughed and said, “Delicious, I love it”. And the story spread, people flocked to the forest, only to be killed and looted.

Now would the king’s announcement throttle Bhairav and the rakshasa’s plans?

Prithvi, a childhood friend of the crown prince,  heard of the king’s announcement and decided to try his luck. He went into the forest to find out what exactly was happening. As he wandered about, he saw the place where the rakshasa lived but he did not confront him immediately. He decided to wait and watch. After a while, he saw Bhairav walking towards the rakshasa with a big bag. The rakshasa dug out the jewels and money he had collected and gave them to Bhairav. Prithvi now followed Bhairav, caught hold of him, and took him straight to the king. Bhairav’s wicked plan was now out in the open.
King Mahipal was pleased with Prithvi. He has not just managed to discover the truth but also sort out the problem without using any violence or force. He praised Prithvi and imprisoned Bhairav.

Vajradev, the king’s wise and knowledgeable minister decided to go in search of therakshasa. He searched the forest and was surprised at how frail the rakshasa was. Therakshasa who was making a meal of human flesh, fell prey to Vajradev’s sword. With therakshasa’s head as a trophy, he proceeded towards the kingdom.
The next day, as King Mahipal was making arrangements to announce the appointment of Prithvi as the new general, Vajradev came in carrying the head of the rakshasa. Holding up the head he said, “Your majesty, I’ve brought the head of the wicked rakshasa who was preying on our people and killing them in the jungle.” His supporters cheered him.
King Mahipal was not as impressed. He said, “Vajradev, someone had already solved the problem before you. You have cut off the head of a rakshasa who by himself could not have harmed anybody. Prithvi has caught the brain behind the mischief. And he did it without any violence. I think, by capturing Bhairav and putting him in jail we had solved the problem.”

The king’s words enraged Vajradev’s followers. They protested loudly but Vajradev   went away quietly. He was hurt and wanted to prove that he was the king’s confidant. He thought: ‘Prithvi is the crown prince’s friend so the king wants to make him the general. I must make sure that he changes his mind and makes me the general’.

The next day as instructed by Vajradev, his followers kidnapped a few prominent citizens ofMagadha and sent word to the king that unless Vajradev was made the general all those who had been kidnapped would be killed. King Mahipal’s spies worked overtime to find out everything about Vajradev and his gang. It was clear that Vajradev’s treason was the result of his ego. He was trying to sow deeds of discontent and anarchy in the kingdom.

The king, after a long and serious meeting with his ministers, announced that Vajradev would be appointed the general instead of Prithvi. The announcement pleased Vajradev’s followers. They went to congratulate Vajradev but all they found was a note which said: “Friends, I am not worthy of the post of general. I am punishing myself for my misdeeds and for having spread discontent among the loyal citizens of Magadha. I’m leaving this country.”
The Vetal stopped his narration and said, “O king, Mahipal should have punished Vajradev severely because he had committed a treacherous act by conspiring against the king’s orders and spreading rebellion. Instead, he announced that he would make him general. Doesn’t this present the king as a coward?  And Vajradev, instead of rejoicing in his victory and gladly accepting the post, chose to run away from the country. Doesn’t that seem an act of a foolish and unintelligent man? After all he would have become the general. If you know the correct answers and yet refuse to speak, your head will explode into small pieces.”

Vikram said: “The announcement of Vajradev’s appointment does not show King Mahipal’s cowardice or weakness but only his political acumen. If he had impulsively sent the army in to capture and destroy Vajradev and his followers, those kidnapped also might have been killed. On the other hand, when Vajradev and his followers, came to the palace, it would have been possible to isolate and arrest them. With this action the king avoided a lot of bloodshed.

“Vajradev was without doubt a brave and noble person. When his followers agitated against the king’s decision, he went away quietly. He was misled by his ego and lost his judgement in the desire to become a general. As soon as he heard the king’s announcement, he came to his senses and realised that he had committed a serious crime against the king and the country. He knew that Mahipal was a wise and just king. He also knew he would be caught if he entered the palace. Therefore, he wisely left the country thereby punishing himself for his wicked deeds.

King Vikram had broken his silence. The Vetal once again took off along with the corpse and disappeared. The king drew his sword and went after the Vetal.

Solution From A Casket

The night sky was overcast with clouds. An eerie silence prevailed. Once in a while the silence was broken either by the howl of jackals or by thunderclaps. In the intermittent lightning, sometimes horrible faces were revealed. They seemed amazed at the king’s valour. However, they did not come too close to him. But King Vikram advanced towards the lone banyan tree in the cremation ground with determined steps. He climbed it and brought the corpse down.

As soon as he began walking with the corpse on his shoulder, the vampire that possessed the corpse said, “I wonder if you have undertaken this queer job at the request of some hermit. Hermits are quite whimsical, you know. Take the case of the hermit Somadev. His behaviour towards two kings was rather strange. Let me tell you the story. That might bring you some relief.”

The vampire went on: Somadev, a great hermit, lived in a forest that spread along the borders of two kingdoms. Dhanadutta and Dhiradutta were the kings of the two neighbouring lands. Although the two kings competed with each other on many things, their reverence for Somadev was equal. Whenever they faced any problem, they met the hermit, who never failed to give them the right solution.
Generally, the kings met the hermit individually. There was never an occasion for both the kings to go to him together. The hermit had equal affection for both. In fact, it was because of the hermit that the two kings were on friendly terms.

One day, the two kings met in the forest while hunting. Leaving their entourage behind, both went to meet the hermit to pay him their obeisance. The hermit was pleased to see them.  He said, “It is very good that you came. I am about to go into a trance, and for five long years I shall remain in that state. You will not have the benefit of my advice. However, here are two small caskets. Each of you can take one home. If you face a crisis which proves too strong for you, then open the casket. The solution will come out of it. But make sure that before opening the casket you have tried all other means of solving the crisis. If you misuse the casket, I will take it back from you when I come out of my trance.”

The kings received the caskets with gratitude and returned to their palaces. Soon a severe drought befell both the kingdoms. Crops failed. The people grew panicky.

King Dhanadutta opened the casket given to him. A million gold coins spilled out of it. The king spent the wealth in buying foodstuff from distant lands for his subjects. Thus the drought, which could have resulted in a devastating famine, did not cause much hardship to his people.
But Dhiradutta, instead of opening the casket, mobilised all his resources, dug wells and canals, and encouraged the people to grow new crops. He did not allow a morsel of food to go out of his kingdom. The people had to experience hardship, but the crisis passed when the next monsoon came, and all were happy.

Dhanadutta now desired to launch new projects in his land so that his people would grow more prosperous than Dhiradutta’s subjects. He wished to know how to proceed in the matter, and so he opened his casket again. This time there was a line of writing inside the casket. It read: “Wait and see.”

Next day, a stranger met Dhanadutta and said, “I have invented a device by which I can tell if there are precious minerals in your kingdom hidden under the earth. I can help you locate them on one condition: I shall own half of whatever is discovered.” Dhanadutta found in it an easy way to prosperity. He utilised the services of the stranger and found large deposits of minerals.
A few days later, the stranger met Dhiradutta and put forth the same proposal. But Dhiradutta was not willing to accept his condition.
Five years passed. The hermit woke up from his trance and paid a visit to the two kingdoms. He saw the subjects of Dhanadutta prosperous and happy. But Dhiradutta’s subjects, though not unhappy, were working hard for their prosperity.

The hermit asked both the kings to meet him with the caskets. He let them tell what they had done with the caskets. Dhiradutta said he had not used the casket at all. Dhanadutta narrated how he had used it twice and stated, “The result is obvious. My subjects are happy”. But to Dhanadutta’s surprise, the hermit asked him to return the casket while he allowed Dhiradutta to keep his.

The vampire paused and demanded King Vikram, “Tell me, O King, why did the hermit take back the casket from one who had made proper use of it? If you know the answer and choose to keep mum, your head will roll off your shoulder”.

King Vikram replied: “Dhanadutta did not make proper use of the casket. He made no other effort to get over the crisis before opening the casket. He provided food for his subjects, but that he did at the cost of their own zeal to try solving the problem. Thereby he made them lazy. Without any thought he allowed the stranger to own half of the minerals of his land. Thereby he deprived the future generations of the land’s wealth. Dhiradutta, on the other hand, was confident that the casket will go to his rescue if his own efforts failed. He made best use of the casket by not using it! That is to say, the confidence he got from the mere possession of the casket was his strength. He did not sell away any part of his land’s minerals for immediate benefit. Hence, he deserved to keep the casket.”

No sooner had King Vikram finished his reply than the vampire, along with the corpse, gave him the slip.

The Seeker Of Praise

King Vikram was not afraid. The pitch darkness, the howls of the jackals, and the leering faces of the ghouls would have scared away many a brave warrior, but not him. Once again, he made his way to the gnarled tree from which Vetal was hanging and brought him down with a stroke of his sword. Slinging him astride his shoulder, he had just begun his return journey when Vetal said, ?O king, people sometimes perform dangerous feats for the sake of acquiring some miraculous powers. But later, they simply throw away those very powers! I hope this does not happen in your case. Let me tell you the story of Vitanga of Veerpuri.?
The tale that Vetal narrated went as follows:

Hordes of demons had descended on the kingdom of Vilopadesa and were wreaking havoc, devouring dozens of subjects each day. The king had no idea how he could put an end to the demons? menace. One day, a sage named Nityananda happened to visit his court and the king told him about the problem at hand. The sage pulled out amagic mirror which he had obtained by yogic powers. One could use it to summon anyone from any of the three worlds at will. Through the mirror, the sage contacted Mahabala, the king of the demons, and informed him of the problems his subjects were causing in Vilopadesa.

But Mahabala humbly answered that since human flesh was the natural food for his subjects, there was little he could do to alter the situation. After a moment?s thought, the sage declared, ?In that case, issue a decree that from now on, the demons may kill and eat only sinners. They must leave righteous people alone. If any demon violates this rule, he will be struck down with a terrible stomach ache which can be cured only if a herbal medicine is poured into the demon?s mouth by a courageous human being.?
Mahabala agreed to the sage?s condition. After this, the number of people being killed by the demons came down drastically. The news of the deal spread all over the kingdom. When the people realised that the demons would spare the righteous, they abandoned their sinful ways and became exemplary citizens.
Veerpuri was a village in Vilopadesa. Vitanga was the only son of the rich landlord of Veerpuri. Parental pampering had turned him into a vain, selfish lad. His grandfather, who realised that the young boy was becoming spoilt arranged to send him to Pandit Shardaprasad, the most eminent scholar of Veerpuri, for training.

Vitanga turned out to be an exceptionally bright student. Within a year, he outdid all the other students. Vitanga expected his fellow students to flatter him and when they did not, he would pick  fights with them. His fellow-pupils complained to the guru about his high-handed behaviour. Pandit Shardaprasad tried to advise his pupil, but made no attempt to change his ways.
A few years went by. One day, the guru asked his pupils to go to the neighbouring forest to collect some herbs. All the boys, except Vitanga, set out on the mission. A ferocious demon entered the forest. He had eaten a good man a few days ago and was suffering from chronic stomach ache. He was on the lookout for a man fearless enough to pour the medicine into his mouth so that he could be cured.
With this intention, he approached the group of students and requested them to help him. But so terrifying was the demon?s appearance that the pupils fainted when they caught sight of him! When they did not return, Pandit Shardaprasad sent Vitanga into the forest to investigate. Vitanga found the demon sitting morosely beside the unconscious students. On seeing him, the demon asked for his help. Vitanga stuck a deal with the demon that if he poured the medicine into the demon?s mouth, the demon should divulge the Stuteendra   mantra which would make everybody around him sing his praises.
The demon agreed and was cured when Vitanga poured the medicine down his throat. Delighted, he thanked Vitanga and taught him the mantra saying, ?All you have to do is to recite it every morning. Everyone you meet that day will praise you, irrespective of whether you do good or bad. You?ll soon earn a name for yourself.? He then went away

The demon was true to his words. Vitanga?s guru and his friends just couldn?t stop praising him. When he went back home after completing his education, he continued to recite theStuteendra mantra and soon became the undisputed leader of the village. Even when he did something wrong, no one questioned him. Under his influence, the village elders also took to vices and started failing in their duties. The misrule in Veerpuri did not escape the king?s eyes. He made enquiries and found out that the cause was Vitanga. Once again, he sought the advice of sage Nityananda.

The sage pondered deeply and finally said, ?Announce that I?m going to meet Mahabala and ask him to send his demons to devour all wrong-doers.? ?But, O sage,? protested the king, ?the problem lies not with others, but with Vitanga! It is he who sins and incites others to sin! What can be done with him?? ?Don?t worry! Issue an edict praising Vitanga and get it carved on stone . Along with that, make a proclamation about the fate that awaits sinners and wrongdoers. That will solve your problem,? said the sage confidently.
The king followed the advice. Within a year, a perceptible change came over Vitanga. He stopped using the Stuteendra mantra and took to honest work for a living. Along with him, the entire population of Veerpuri, too, underwent a change of heart and became law-abiding and the king heaved a sigh of relief.?
Concluding the story at this point, Vetal demanded, ?O King! What caused the miraculous transformation in Vitanga the praise-seeker? Was it a fear of death, or something else? If you know the answer to my question, speak out ? otherwise, your head shall shatter into smithereens!?
Calmly, King Vikram replied, ?It?s true that the fear of death is the greatest of all man?s fears. But for some people, the desire for praise is an even greater motivator than the fear of death. Vitanga was one such person. To save himself, he gave up criminal activities (because the demons were authorised to eat sinners). But if he gave up using theStuteendra mantra, it was because he derived greater pleasure from the edict the king put up on stone for posterity, than from the artificial praise he obtained by using the mantra. Thus, it is clear that there was no change in his basic nature.?

On hearing this, the Vetal laughed thunderously. The next moment he moved off the king?s shoulder with a jerk and flew back to the tree. King Vikram gave a little sigh as he gazed upon the scene. Then, he squared his shoulders and retraced his steps towards the ancient tree.

Viswasen’s Ambitions

King Vikram relentlessly followed the Vetala back to the ancient tree. He brought the corpse down from the tree and slung it over his shoulder. As he weaved his way through gliding ghouls, grinning skulls and screeching bats, the Vetala in the corpse spoke up:
“Why do you covet danger, even after I’ve pointed out to you how foolish and risky your effort is? Don’t you know that there are harmful wild animals, ghosts and vampires lurking around? No Kshatriya should endanger himself so foolishly. When I see you toiling hard to catch me, I’m convinced that you are driven by some ulterior motive. Listen to this story of King Viswasen. Just when his dreams were about to be fulfilled, he changed his mind and ruined himself. I’m afraid you too might make a similar critical mistake at a crucial moment in your life”. So saying, the Vetala narrated the story:
King Viswasen of Mithila loved hunting. Nothing could make him miss his hunting expeditions, not even a crisis in his kingdom.
Once he led his troops for hunting as usual. For two days, he and his men enjoyed the chase. On the third day, as he decided to return to his kingdom, he heard two of his men talking about a hermitage in the forest. Viswasen wished to meet the sage who lived there. He told his soldiers: “You may all return to the camp and wait for me there. I shall seek the blessings of the sage and join you before sunset”.

The king walked into the dense forest. The kingdom was reeling under a famine: the monsoon had failed for the second successive year. As he strode along, his mind was preoccupied with the crisis that loomed large over his kingdom, a baby monkey just ahead caught his attention. It fell off a tree in front of him and started wailing in pain. The king hurried forward to lift him, but even before he reached the animal, a female monkey, obviously the mother, jumped down from a nearby tree, picked up the baby and swung off in a hurry.
As she brushed past the king, the mother monkey viciously scratched his arms. This disturbed the king’s mind considerably. Was the mother monkey angry with him?
He soon reached the hermitage and was warmly welcomed by the sage. “You’ve been hunting, and that is something you love very much! And yet you don’t look happy. Why is it so?” asked the sage.

Viswasen sighed and narrated the incident of the monkey. “I was only trying to help the little monkey, and all the mother does in return is to scratch me! Is there no good left in the world?” he wondered. “Don’t we even have the authority to help defenceless animals? If this goes on, one would hesitate to the help a fellow creature!”
The sage laughed. “O king, I think you’re not one of those who think deeply on any issue. For, look at the irony of what you say now. You love hunting and have killed many animals without a thought of what would happen to their innocent orphaned babies. And now you feel pity for the baby monkey you came across. It is indeed surprising! Just look at the condition of your kingdom. The rain god seems to have abandoned us and a famine seems imminent. Have you thought of a solution to this problem?”
The king replied, “O holy one, this situation is not really unusual. The rains fail once in a few years and we face this crisis of famine and drought. My ancestors have gone through this crisis. And I am facing it now”.
“Then what can be done about it?” asked the sage.
“O holy one, there is a solution. And that is, to raise a powerful army, and invade and take over the neighbouring states that are prosperous. The wealth and the granary of these kingdoms can be put to good use for the sake of our own people”.

“Oh, so you wish to garner wealth and power and become great! But there’s another easy way to do it! If you go just four kos from here to the north, you will find some mountains of silver. Take as much silver as you want! It’s all yours”.
Viswasen thanked the holy man and walked in the direction the sage had showed. Soon he saw the silver mountains gleaming in the sun. “O god, what a lot of silver! I shall need hundreds of vehicles to take all this silver home!” he shouted in joy.
As he looked around in wonder, he noticed a hermitage close by. A hermit was standing by, feeding two lovely fawns with tender leaves. At some distance stood a male and a female deer, obviously the parents of the fawns, watching the scene. Viswasen was moved. ‘How beautiful these creatures are! And I’ve been cruelly killing them all along! What a sinner I am!’ he thought regretfully.
He hesitated to move forward and introduce himself. Perhaps his presence might frighten the innocent animals. But the hermit looked up and beckoned him.
“Please join us, O king. How come you’re here in this forest all alone?”

Viswasen paid his obeisance to the hermit and explained all about the silver mountains. He frankly disclosed that he wanted to take back silver to help him buy food for his starving people. The hermit listened to all that he had to say and then commented: “You seem to be satisfied with these silver mountains. But if you go four kos to the north, you’ll come across gold mountains”.
Viswasen was thrilled to hear this. He hurriedly bade goodbye to the hermit and made for the mountains of gold. When he came across the golden peaks glinting in the sun, he was jubilant. “All that gold belongs to me!” he shouted hysterically. “I am the wealthiest king on earth”.
Just then a yogi, who had been bathing in a pond nearby, came into sight. He heard the king’s triumphant shout. “O king!” he addressed him. “If these mountains of gold excite you so much, what will you do when you see the diamond mines that lie just four kos to the north from here?”

Diamond mines? The astounded king thanked the yogi profusely and followed his directions. Just as the yogi had said, he came upon the diamond mines. The diamonds were lying scattered on the ground, sparkling and winking in the sunlight. There were also several cobras which stood guard over the diamonds, with their hoods spread.
Viswasen went mad with excitement. He raved in trembling tones, “My soldiers can kill these snakes. I shall bring camels and elephants, load these diamonds on them and take them home. This wealth will bring prosperity to my kingdom. We shall buy food and all material comforts from all our prosperous neighbours. Why, I can raise a great army and make these neighbours my vassals. I shall become the emperor of the world, the most powerful man on the earth. I shall then be the happiest man in the universe”.
Just then he heard a loud booming voice: “O king, there are many men in this world who are wealthier, luckier and greater than you are! And I am one of them!”
A strange luminous figure suddenly appeared before King Viswasen. He stood rooted to the spot, as if hypnotised.

Then the saintly figure that glowed so strangely, continued: “So your dreams are coming true, O king? You wished to be wealthy, powerful, great! You wished to be a great conquering emperor, the dread of neighbouring kingdoms. The gold, silver and diamonds that you have just found will bring all that you have desired and more. But have you ever thought of the consequences of your foolish actions? How many innocent people will be sacrificed at the altar of your avarice? How much wealth and property will be destroyed!”
Viswasen replied boldly, “O great soul! I’m sure you know that the dharma of a kshatriya, and that too a king, binds him to war and battles. Every king is expected to invade territories and take over other states in the interests of his people”.
The strange man laughed and said: “If every king, in the name of kshatriya dharma, kept invading other territories, can you imagine the misery, tensions and insecurity that the common people would go through? Don’t think you can justify your actions in the name of kshatriya dharma. I’ll grant you one boon – either you can become a great emperor by virtue of your power and strength, or you will, in your lifetime, achieve greatness as a king who paid attention to the welfare of his people. But mind you, you cannot have both!” And the strange figure disappeared.
Viswasen immediately retraced his steps and returned to where his soldiers awaited him. He addressed them: “My men! Henceforth leave your arms safe at home. From now on, your duty will be to tour every nook and corner of our country, and then come back and tell me the conditions that prevail. Right now let’s return to the palace”.

After narrating the story, the Vetala spoke to King Vikram: “Viswasen had always wanted to be wealthy and powerful. His desires looked likely to be fulfilled. He found an immense treasure that would have filled his coffers and brought him name, fame and power. Besides, the strange figure had promised to grant him the boon of becoming a great powerful emperor or of becoming a noble king who cared for the welfare of his masses. Why didn’t he opt for the boon that would have made him a great emperor? If you know the answer and yet choose to remain silent, your head will split into a thousand pieces!”
King Vikram answered immediately: “A man who is ambitious to gain wealth and power need not necessarily be cruel and insensitive to the sufferings of others. Viswasen was moved to pity by the plight of the baby monkey and to remorse when he saw the young fawns being fed by the hermit. Besides, he had just been advised by the strange figure about the evil consequences of conquests and battles. And that is why he decided to take up the cause of his people rather than aspire to be a great conqueror”.

No sooner had King Vikram broken his silence when the Vetala once again gave him the slip and flew back to the ancient tree. Vikram drew his sword and went after the Vetala.

Innocents Get Punished
After King Vikram answered the question posed by Vetala, the vampire, Vetala slipped off his shoulder and hung on the tree. King Vikram returned again to the tree, climbed it and brought the corpse down. He continued his journey to the mendicant, when the vampire in the corpse spoke again. “O King, I do not know what you have done to deserve such trouble. But there are lots of people suffering for no fault of theirs. Let me tell you a story of two boys which might bring you some relief.”
Yajnasom was a Brahmin and had two sons, Harrisom and Devasom. The boys were brought up with great care and comfort. Unfortunately they lost their parents as teenagers and there was nobody to look after them. Soon, the boys left for their maternal grandfather’s house which was far. On their way, they were hungry and begged from travellers. They slept under trees and after suffering for many days, they reached their grandfather’s house to find he was no more.

Thankfully, their maternal uncle took charge of the boys. He was kind and took good care of them. He even sent them to a school. But the uncle was going through a rough patch and had no choice but to withdraw his nephews from the school. He asked them to look after his cows and goats.  He said, “All you have to do is  lead them to the fields and keep an eye on them while they graze and bring them back in the evening. What do you say?”
Harrisom and Devasom agreed to it happily. They went out into the fields in the morning with the herd of cattle and returned in the evening. But misfortune followed them.

There was a forest adjoining the fields. One day, a tiger swooped down on a cow and dragged it away. Another day some bandits led away another cow. Uncle was worried. He thought his cattle was not in worthy hands!
A few days later, while leading the goats back home, they found uncle’s favourite goat missing. They were scared of facing their uncle. As soon as the animals reached home, they went back into the forest, looking for the goat.
After wandering in the forest for a long time, they found the goat lying dead near a bush. Exhausted and worried, they decided against going back home again. They knew that their uncle would be angry and thought of going some place far away.

Harrisom was hungry and so was Devasom. They decided to roast the goat. While they were still at it, uncle came looking for them. Seeing them make a meal of his favourite pet, he fumed. He said, “How could you do this to my favourite goat? You ungrateful, greedy creatures! Have you no shame? I curse you turn into ghouls!”
The boys started running but the Brahmin’s curse turned them into ghouls. The two youngghouls roamed the wide forest. One day they stepped into a yogi’s hermitage. What luck, they were cursed again and this time they turned into goblins!
As goblins, they went to gobble up a mendicant’s food. Ill luck followed them there too; they were cursed to be chandals. A chandal was an outcaste, shunned by the society. Although the boys got back their human shape, they stayed in the forest.
One day, bandits captured them and handed them to their leader. When the leader heard their story, he smiled, and said, “Boys, you are welcome to join us. Eat to your heart’s content and take rest for a few days. You will be given the required training thereafter.”
The boys agreed and stayed on. The vampire ended the story and asked the king, “Tell me, O King, the boys had not done any wrong. Why did they suffer so much? While the society was cruel to them, how is it that the bandits were kind to them? If you know the answers and stay mum, your head will shatter into pieces!”
King Vikram answered, “Society is governed by certain general rules. People who live in the society have to guard their interests. They are disturbed when their interests are not met. The boys were harassed not because of their misdeeds, but because of circumstances. Though the uncle loved the boys, he cursed them in a fit of passion. The yogi’s and the mendicant’s curses were not really curses, but boons. To turn goblins from ghouls and then chandals from goblins were both turns towards the better.
So far as the sympathy of the bandits is concerned, we must remember that they were not bound by the laws of the society. Why should they then hesitate to accept two outcastes into their fold?”
On hearing these words, the corpse gave him a slip. The next moment it was found hanging from the branch of the lone tree in a corner of the ground.

The Strange Silence
t was a terrible night. The rain came down in torrents and thunder rumbled threateningly. The frequent flashes of lightning revealed the ugly vistas of grinning ghouls. King Vikram tripped over the gnarled, knotty roots of the ancient tree as he reached for the corpse that dangled from its branches. He put the corpse on his shoulder and started walking back. He had a rendezvous to keep with the strange mendicant.
“What makes you so determined to carry me away from here?” asked the Vetal who possessed the corpse. But King Vikram kept silent. “Your silence is enigmatic, rather like King Sushanta’s!” commented the Vetal. “Have you heard of him? Let me regale you with his story to make your journey easier!” And he narrated this story:
King Sushanta of Pushpanagar was wise and noble. He gave alms to holy men and gifts to deserving artists and poets. He made sure that his subjects were happy and that his kingdom was prosperous. If he had a fault, it was anger. He would fly into a rage if something did not happen as he wanted it to. Once when the royal cooks messed up a special dish that the king had ordered for some very special guests, they not only lost their jobs but were also sent out of the kingdom immediately.
If an officer was found to be guilty of some lapse in duty, he was punished immediately. He would lose his job and life. The king’s reputation of being an angry man made sure that the people lived in uneasy calm.

One day a holy man appeared in his court, and said that he wanted the king’s permission to hold discourses at the temples in the kingdom.
“Who are you, O noble one? Where are you from?” asked the king courteously.
“I’m Pranananda. I’ve just come here from the Himalayas where I was meditating for the last decade”, replied the saintly man. “Meditation brought me peace of mind. But my guru said the purpose of my life should be not only to seek salvation for myself, but to show the path to other less fortunate men and women. That is why I am here!”
King Sushanta was impressed. “Swamiji! We shall be grateful if you’ll settle down here and guide me and my subjects”, he said.
The saint laughed. “O King, I’ve decided not to settle down in any place. But your affection and kindness ties me to your kingdom. I shall stay here for some days and try to make myself useful to your people”.

The king ordered a cottage to be built for the swamiji in the royal park. He called the park keeper, Sumangala, and asked him to look after the swamiji’s comforts.
Soon Sumangala and the swamiji became great friends. Sumangala lived with his wife and two sons in a cottage in the park. Every morning, after prayers, Pranananda would spend a couple of hours with the king. Sushanta listened earnestly to swamiji’s discourses and tried to act according to his wise advice. Swamiji would then go around, addressing people gathered at the temples.
At night, he would have dinner at Sumangala’s house. The swamiji would tell wonderful stories to his two sons way into the night.
One day, when the king and the swamiji were at the park, Sumangala was trimming a bush nearby. He noticed that some bees were bothering the swamiji. He rushed to him, waving his hands to keep the bees away.
But the king did not like the way Sumangala had interrupted the conversation. “How dare you jump between us like that?” he shouted. “Who asked you to interfere? Had the bees got intolerable, wouldn’t I have helped swamiji? Get out of my sight! I don’t want to see you here again!” he shouted.
Sumangala was stunned. But swamiji went to his rescue. “Don’t shout at him, my son”, he urged the king. “After all, his intention was good. It is easy to get angry. But decisions taken in a moment of anger will prove to be wrong. When you are angry, the best course is to be silent till you feel that you are once again your old reasonable self. If in a fit of anger you send away Sumangala, you might not easily find another capable and honest man to replace him”.
King Sushanta accepted his advice and pardoned Sumangala. Pranananda’s words of wisdom had a tremendous impact on the king. A few months later, however, the swamiji became very restless.
One day, he told the king: “My goal in life is to help as many people as I can, and not just the citizens of your kingdom. I would like to travel to other lands and guide other people”.
But the king would not hear of his going away. Then swamiji relented and said he would return to Pushpanagar every third month and spend a month with the king. King Sushanta had to accept this.

The king ordered a cottage to be built for the swamiji in the royal park. He called the park keeper, Sumangala, and asked him to look after the swamiji’s comforts.
Soon Sumangala and the swamiji became great friends. Sumangala lived with his wife and two sons in a cottage in the park. Every morning, after prayers, Pranananda would spend a couple of hours with the king. Sushanta listened earnestly to swamiji’s discourses and tried to act according to his wise advice. Swamiji would then go around, addressing people gathered at the temples.
At night, he would have dinner at Sumangala’s house. The swamiji would tell wonderful stories to his two sons way into the night.

One day, when the king and the swamiji were at the park, Sumangala was trimming a bush nearby. He noticed that some bees were bothering the swamiji. He rushed to him, waving his hands to keep the bees away.
But the king did not like the way Sumangala had interrupted the conversation. “How dare you jump between us like that?” he shouted. “Who asked you to interfere? Had the bees got intolerable, wouldn’t I have helped swamiji? Get out of my sight! I don’t want to see you here again!” he shouted.
Sumangala was stunned. But swamiji went to his rescue. “Don’t shout at him, my son”, he urged the king. “After all, his intention was good. It is easy to get angry. But decisions taken in a moment of anger will prove to be wrong. When you are angry, the best course is to be silent till you feel that you are once again your old reasonable self. If in a fit of anger you send away Sumangala, you might not easily find another capable and honest man to replace him”.
King Sushanta accepted his advice and pardoned Sumangala. Pranananda’s words of wisdom had a tremendous impact on the king. A few months later, however, the swamiji became very restless.
One day, he told the king: “My goal in life is to help as many people as I can, and not just the citizens of your kingdom. I would like to travel to other lands and guide other people”.
But the king would not hear of his going away. Then swamiji relented and said he would return to Pushpanagar every third month and spend a month with the king. King Sushanta had to accept this.

Three months passed. One evening Pranananda came back to Pushpanagar and went to his cottage. Sumangala did not notice his arrival. It was now dark and swamiji was thirsty. He went to the pond in the park to fill his jug with water.
As he dipped his jug into the pond to fill it, it made a loud gurgling sound.
Sumangala, whose cottage was nearby, heard the noise. He thought some animals had entered the garden and were at the pond. He rushed out and threw his spear in the direction of the pond.

Alas! The spear pierced swamiji and he cried aloud. Sumangala recognised his voice and ran out in horror. He found swamiji gasping for breath. He fell at his feet and begged his pardon. The swamiji said, “Remove the spear from my back so that I can die in peace”. Sobbing, Sumangala did as he was told and gently laid him on the ground.
“Forgive me”, he sobbed. “I did not mean to do it”.
Swamiji smiled: “I know it. I forgive you”. And he breathed his last.
Suddenly, Sumangala was struck with fear. ‘What would happen to me and my family if the king were to hear of this?’ he wondered. He rushed to his cottage, told the whole story to his wife, and along with their two young children, they disappeared into the night.
The next day the guards discovered the swamiji’s body in the park. They searched for Sumangala but could not find him anywhere. They concluded that he must have killed the swamiji for some reason. They took the news to the king.
King Sushanta was furious. He ordered a manhunt, but Sumangala could not be traced.
Meanwhile Sumangala had taken up a job in a neighbouring kingdom. But he was not happy. He wanted to return to Pushpanagar. When one year had passed, he ventured into Pushpanagar and met an old friend, a courtier in the palace. He requested him to find out if the king had forgiven him for the swamji’s death.
The courtier found an opportunity to broach the subject with the king. The royal gardener was asking the king for some implements. The courtier intervened: “Sumangala was a wonderful gardener! He did not spend so much on implements”.
But the king did not say a word. The courtier told Sumangala to stay away. Six months later, at Sumangala’s request, the courtier took up his cause. This time, too, the king remained silent.
Another six months passed. Sumangala was now quite desperate. This time he risked his life and went to Pushpanagar with his family. Instead of going to his friend, he presented himself at the court and fell at the feet of the king. He narrated the whole story of the swamiji’s untimely death.
“I know it all, Sumangala. I know you could not have done it intentionally. Come back and join my service once again!” said the king.
Here Vetal stopped his narration and turned to the king. “O king, when Sumangala’s friend sang the park-keeper’s praises in the court for the first two times, the king would not react at all. But when Sumangala himself went and fell at the king’s feet two years after the accidental death of swamiji, the king took him back. Doesn’t this show the king to be inconsistent in his behaviour?
Do you think that only when he saw Sumangala he realised that he couldn’t have killed the swamiji deliberately? If you know the answers to these questions, but choose to remain silent, your head will split into a thousand pieces!”
King Vikram replied promptly: “No, King Sushanta was not inconsistent in his behaviour. And he must have realized long back that the swamiji’s death was an accident, for, didn’t you say that he was a wise ruler? Surely he knew his park-keeper well! If he had ordered a manhunt for Sumangala, it was because he was blinded by anger at the thought of the untimely and violent death of swamiji, whom he revered very much. We know that anger was the king’s greatest weakness. Swamiji had once advised him not to do anything when he was angry, but to wait till he was his old reasonable self. The king was still angry at the park-keeper when the courtier pleaded on his behalf. But he remembered his mentor’s words and remained silent, perhaps because he was afraid that he might, in a fit of rage, harm Sumangala if he were to present himself before him. Two years after the incident, the wound had healed. When Sumangala made his desperate appearance in the court, the king reacted in a reasonable way. The king was only following the wise words of his mentor when he held his tongue and let time heal his anger before he felt able to talk rationally to Sumangala”.
No sooner had King Vikram answered than the Vetal once again gave him the slip and glided back to the ancient tree. And King Vikram drew his sword and followed the Vetal.

A Pandit Corrects Himself

King Vikramaditya went to the ancient tree where the Vetal was hanging with the corpse, once again. He brought down the corpse, flung it over his shoulder, and set off toward the cremation ground.

Then the Vetal, who possessed the corpse, spoke to him. “O king”, he said, “you are very persistent and patient. What makes you go on and on? Be careful about being determined about your goals. If something happens to change your attitude and your principles, you will then feel that all this hard work has gone waste. To illustrate my point, I’ll now tell you a story.” And the Vetal began a new story.

The village of Uttarakhand was blessed by Nature with fertile fields which yielded bountiful harvests. Shrubbery, fruit trees and flowers abounded in all directions. But such beauty did not touch Pandit Jagannath’s heart that day. The words he had overheard at the marketplace made him too angry to appreciate nature. Two farmers, who had known that he was standing behind them, were talking about his sermons.
“I never understand what Jagannath says”, said the first one. “It’s all in too lyrical a language! But Sridhar, his son, is so much better”.
“Yes, how different the son is from his father!” agreed the second farmer. “He takes great care to explain the nuances of fine poetry. His poetry is simple and understandable to the common villager”.

The pandit was unhappy at this verdict given by his own villagers. Dejected, he walked back home. His son, Sridhar was talking to a group of farmers, who were listening to him in rapt attention.

Jagannath felt irritated. “This will not do, Sridhar”, said Jagannath in a firm voice. The young man did not pause in his recital. Only his audience seemed distracted. The farmers listening to him were now uneasy. They glanced at Jagannath unsurely.
“I asked you a question. Are you so busy to answer your father?” said the pandit in a loud voice.

The farmers quietly stood up and left the verandah. The young man looked at their departure with sadness.

“Father, you may be a great poet, but you certainly are not a great man”, said Sridhar calmly.

The older man flushed in anger. “Show me some respect, young man!” he thundered.

“Father, I have immense respect for you. But I am distressed to see you show contempt for these poor labourers”, said Sridhar. “They toil all day and come to me in the evening, to feed their minds and hearts with spiritual ideas. Yet, you don’t feel any compassion for them!”

“Why should I?” countered Jagannath. “I fail to understand the direction of your intellectual activity. To recite verse and poetry to unread and uncultured people as you do is to insult the Goddess Saraswati herself. It would be best for you to switch audience, as you will not progress and advance, otherwise”.

“What is progress?” asked Sridhar heatedly. “Your wisdom and verses are fodder for only the rich and the learned. Is that called progress? What about the uneducated, the ignorant, the innocent? Isn’t it our duty to spread true knowledge among people, without prejudice, without partiality?”

Jagannath was too incensed to argue further. He left the place in a rage and started walking, feeling too restless and unhappy. Eventually, his legs led him to the neighbouring village, Krishnapuri. Narayan Bhatt, a dear friend of his, lived there. “When the family lets you down, only friends can offer solace. Let me talk about my problems with Narayan”, thought Jagannath and set out for his friend’s house.

When he reached his friend’s house, the pandit saw a pretty young woman teaching rhymes to children. Her smiling face and patient voice impressed him and he stopped. She looked at him and exclaimed: “Uncle Jagannath! You are visiting us after a long time. Please come in”, she said and went inside the house.

“Oh, is this Sharada, Narayan’s daughter? She has grown so tall!” thought Jagannath. “What a pleasant young woman!”

Indeed, Sharada was a sweet woman, who took great pleasure in welcoming guests. Narayan was happy to see his longtime friend and they immediately started talking about their lives. Jagannath revealed his unhappiness to his friend.

I “I have raised him and educated him, but he takes pleasure in talking back”, he fretted. “Is it wrong to say that one must associate with learned people only? What good is it to spend time with good-for-nothing illiterates?”

“Arre, he’s a smart boy! I’m sure he will be alright”, said Narayan. “He must be quite a handsome young man now. Perhaps it is time to find a bride for Sridhar. If you get him married soon, he will be less inclined to spend time with peasants”.

While they were talking, Sharada prepared sweetmeats for them. “Just one minute, Uncle, I will get fresh milk for you”, she said and went to the backyard.
Soon, a very melodious voice was heard. It was Sharada, reciting a sloka from Krishnatharangini . Mesmerized by her voice, Jagannath went to the backyard. Sharada was singing a sloka in her melodious voice and Rattan, her manservant, was milking the cow though completely engrossed in Sharada’s song. At the end of the sloka, Sharada began to explain its meaning to Rattan.

“Rattan”, she said, “One day, Krishna ‘s mother Yashoda was milking cows in Gokul. Krishna came from behind her, hugged her arms and said, “Mother, when you will give me milk?’

Yashoda was surprised because it was not yet evening. She said, “Not now, Kanhaiya (Lord Krishna), you must drink milk only after it becomes dark”.
“What is darkness?” asked baby Krishna .

Yashoda answered, “We will be unable to see anything when it becomes dark.”

“Rattan, do you know what this little Krishna did? He closed his eyes with both hands and said, “It is now dark. I can see nothing. Won’t you give me milk now?” He asked this in such a sweet voice that Yashoda was so enthused that she immediately gave him a big glass of milk”. Sharada thus discoursed on Krishna Lila.

Jagannath was spellbound, not only by the tale, but by the expression on Rattan’s face. The cowherd looked at Sharada as if she herself were Yashoda. His face was tranquil and his eyes were peaceful, as if he had just had a deep spiritual and fulfilling experience.

Pandit Jagannath went back to the hall and faced his friend. “Narayan, Sridhar does need a good wife to aid him in his life. Would you be willing to offer your daughter to be his wife?” he asked.

Narayan was too surprised to react. “I did not expect this!” he cried. “It would be a great honour for our family to unite with yours. Sharada will be your daughter-in-law, Jagannath!” The two friends embraced and Jagannath left.

The next day, both Sridhar and the villagers were much surprised to see Jagannath reciting slokas to farmers and explaining the meaning to them in simple words. From then on, Jagannath spent all his free time describing the greatness of God to simple folks.

The Vetal concluded his story and addressed King Vikram. “Jagannath maintained that poets should recite their poetry only to educated and cultured listeners. The father and son had many arguments over this issue. The pandit had tried to change his son’s attitude in every way that he could, even using threats. Then, why did he suddenly change his views on hearing Sharada’s words? Was he jealous of his son’s popularity? Explain to me the reason for the Pandit’s change. If you refuse to speak, your head will explode into tiny pieces!”

So King Vikramaditya had to once again answer the Vetal. He said: ” Jagannath did not like to associate with illiterate or uneducated people because he was prejudiced against them. However, when he saw the effect of Sharada’s song and her explanation on Rattan, he realised the error of his ways for the first time. He understood that anyone who wants to can appreciate and enjoy poetry. By turning away from ordinary folks, he had actually done them and poetry, an injustice. That is why he changed his attitude and principles”.

As soon as Vikram spoke, the Vetal zoomed off to the tree with the corpse once more. And the king drew his sword and went after the Vetal.

The Heir

The night was dark and gloomy. The blinding lightning revealed ghoulish faces. But King Vikram would not be distracted. He went straight to the tree, brought the corpse down, slung it across his shoulder and began walking back.
The Vetal that possessed the corpse said. “I admire your valour. Don’t you ever tire? I am afraid too much wealth has made you insane. Let me narrate the story of Virender of Virpur to establish my point. Listen carefully, it may give you some relief.”
“Virender was a rich and prosperous merchant in Virpur. He was also a kind-hearted man and helped all those in need. However, he had no children. He was on the lookout for someone with immense faith in God who would be his heir”.
“One day, when Virender was on his way to the temple, he saw a young beggar boy who looked bright and cheerful. Virender was impressed by him, and gave him a few coins. The next day he saw the same boy at the temple again. But this time he did not see him begging ; instead he was stringing garlands of flowers and selling them”. When he saw Virender, he folded his hands respectfully and said, “Sir, usually I get alms enough to fetch me food. But yesterday, you were generous. I used the money for buying flowers. Some day, I hope to repay the money you gave me!”
Virender was very happy to hear this. Next day, at the temple, Virender saw a young handsome lad meditating. Over the week, he noticed that the young lad came to the temple daily and sat in meditation for hours together. One day, his curiosity got the better of him. He went up to the boy and asked him, “What is your name? What do you do?”
The boy replied that he was an orphan named Satya. He claimed that he was an ardent devotee and that he even forgot about his physical needs when he was in deep prayer! Virender was highly impressed by Satya’s reply.

He rushed home and told his wife that he had found the right person to be made heir. However, they decided to wait for a few more days and observe him before disclosing their desire.
Virender’s men noticed that Satya wept frequently though Virender tried his best to keep the boy happy. When questioned, Satya replied, “The time has come for me to tell you the truth. I used to be a thief. One day, I entered your house and happened to hear you tell your wife about the kind of boy you were looking for adoption. When I heard that, I thought this was a great opportunity. I sneaked out without stealing anything. Next day, knowing well that you will not fail to notice me, I went to the temple and pretended to meditate just to attract your attention. But as days went by, I truly became a devotee of God. I weep whenever I think of my past deeds and hypocrisy!”
Virender stood amazed. Satya prepared to leave, but to his astonishment, Virender stopped him and said, “There’s no need for you to leave the place. You’re my heir.” He then took Satya home.
The Vetala paused and challenged King Vikram.
“Don’t you think Virender was insane? Why else would he make a thief his heir, when he had better candidates before him: his relative, the boy whose education he had funded, and the beggar boy whom he had helped to set up a business? If you know the answer and still keep quiet, your head will blow up into a thousand pieces.”
King Vikram replied without any hesitation. “Virender was not foolish. He had immense faith in God. He was convinced that Satya had become a true devotee. Meditation had changed Satya’s character, although he had started doing it without any intention of changing himself. He had shown himself to be responsible and conscientious. These qualities would ensure that he would put Virender’s wealth to good use. Virender had helped his nephew with money. He knew that the boy was brilliant and could survive without his money. And he felt that the beggar boy was also smart and would grow well because he had enterprise. So he was quite right in choosing Satya as his heir.”
No sooner had King Vikram finished his reply than the Vetal, along with the corpse, gave him the slip and went back to the tree.

The Hermits Riddles

It was a dark night and the spirits laughed wildly. Bones and skulls strewn around made walking through the cremation ground difficult. But King Vikramaditya had to keep his promise to the mendicant and so he went back to the ancient tree. He climbed the tree, slung the corpse over his shoulder, and walked across the desolate cremation ground when once again the Vetal spoke:
�O King! Why do you continue in this fruitless exercise? Has someone asked you to perform this terrible task? Maybe you are doing this for some strange recluse or hermit who speaks in riddles. It is very difficult to make out what these hermits have in their minds when they quiz us. Let me tell you a story and maybe you�ll learn something from it�. And so the Vetal started on another story:
Vajrapur was ruled by a king called Martand Dev who was a wise and good ruler. He needed a knowledgeable adviser to aid him in his administrative tasks. He felt that Ratnakar, an intelligent and smart nobleman of his court would be the best person for the post. When he told his queen about his choice, she disagreed with him. �My uncle Vishwas is clever and as accomplished as Ratnakar. Moreover, he is older and more experienced; hence I feel he�ll make a very good adviser. Why don�t you give him the post?� she requested.
�I am sure he is as knowledgeable as you say, but I think we should test them both before we take a final decision�, the king replied.
The chance to test the potential advisers arose soon. A rich merchant with a very lovely daughter came to the king with his problem. The daughter apparently had three suitors, young men who were eligible in every way. The merchant could not make up his mind as to who was most suitable for his daughter. So he sent the three men to a wise hermit who lived in the hills and in whom he had tremendous faith. The holy man looked at the three men quietly for a while. Then, without a word, he handed over a shell full of earth to one of them, another shell full of water to the second young man and yet another shell full of grains to the third one.
The merchant was clueless. What does the hermit mean by this? Looked like only a smarter brain could crack the riddle! So he took the three young men to the king’s court with the hope of understanding the meaning of the hermit’s action. The king asked the three young men what they thought of the holy man’s action. “Your majesty”, said the first suitor, “I was given a shell full of earth. Without earth, neither water nor grain is of any use. So, I think the hermit has indicated that I’m the most suitable man for the merchant’s daughter”. The second one said, “Well, I feel that earth and grain are of no use without water. All life depends on water. So I think that by giving me the most precious thing, the sage has chosen me”. The third one had a totally different perspective. He said, “Water and earth are only conditions for the grains to grow. What’s important is the crop and everything works towards producing that. I was given the grains and so I think the sage’s choice is obvious”.
Now the king himself was in a quandary. He found all the three suitors’ replies credible. Then he had an idea: this would be the right opportunity to test the wisdom and resourcefulness of the two potential advisers. Fortunately, both Ratnakar and Vishwas were present in the court at that time.
The king turned to Vishwas. “What’s your opinion?”
“Well, I think water is the most important and significant of the three. It makes both earth and grains purposeful. Without water neither of them is of any use”, said Viswas.
“What do you think?” the king asked Ratnakar next.
“Your majesty, I must look at the things more closely before I give my opinion”, said Ratnakar. He then tasted the water, smelt the earth and ran his fingers through the grains. Then he said: “Your majesty, the hermit’s choice is the suitor who was given the earth”.
Which of the two was right? The king was in a fix. Therefore the king summoned the hermit to the court, the next day. He smiled serenely and said: “True gems are rare. O King! You have one in your court. Recognise it, for the good of the people of your kingdom!” King Martand Dev grasped the indication at once. He smiled back and decided on who would be his adviser.

The Vetal stopped his narration and asked King Vikramaditya. “O King! The hermit seems to have spoken in riddles. Can you tell me whom the king chose as his adviser and why? If you know the answer and still refuse to answer me, your head will explode into smithereens. Therefore, O King, think carefully and give me your answer”.
King Vikramaditya spoke right away. He said: “King Martand Dev was a wise man. The convincing answers of all the three young men to the riddle, left him confused. But being resourceful, he invited the two potential advisers to solve it. Again, when he could not decide which of them was right, he sent for the hermit. He was confident that the hermit, who had chosen the right suitor for the merchant’s daughter, would also choose the right man to be his adviser. The hermit, true to his nature, spoke in riddles again. But this time the king caught the hint in a trice. When the hermit spoke of true gems, he was actually referring to Ratnakar. ‘Ratnakar’, means ‘a good gem’, so there was the answer! King Martand appointed Ratnakar as his adviser. Everyone present in the court had seen the young men and looked at the three shells they carried. But none of them examined the contents carefully except Ratnakar. Superficially, the three things, earth, water and grain, are of equal importance, like the three equally good suitors. But when he examined each element carefully, he found that there was something wrong with the water and the grain. The water was perhaps saline or contaminated, while the grain had some chaff. On the other hand, the earth was clean and smelled sweet. Using that as substantiation, Ratnakar made his remarks confidently. And he was rightly made the king’s adviser”.
Finding King Vikram absolutely right as usual, the Vetal, without another word, flew away with the corpse to the ancient tree. King Vikram drew his sword and went after the Vetal.

A Sensible Move

Another new riddle was posed by the Vetal the following night. King Vikramaditya climbed the tree, placed the corpse on his shoulder and made his way through the edge of the forest to the desolate cremation ground. As he walked, the Vetal possessing the corpse spoke: “O King, children born in royal households are taught the arts and sciences that require a lot of courage and perseverance. Consequently, they become hard working and determined. They are as persistent as you are and work with one-pointedness towards their goal. But there are exceptions because some people lose heart at the last moment and give up before they reach their goal. Listen to what happened a long time ago to Shruthavarma, who was then the crown prince of the Uddhanda kingdom. Let me tell you his story”. The Vetal began its narration.

Marunthavarma, the King of Pravala, had a daughter who had beauty and brains. She was named Kaumudi because she was born on a full moon night. The king was very fond of his daughter and also proud of her. He knew that he would have to be very careful when he chose a groom for her because the boy would have to be a proper match for his brilliant daughter and also capable of ruling a kingdom. In fact, he had in mind his own nephew Shruthavarma.
Shruthavarma and Kaumudi were the Rajaguru Mukundacharya’s students. Manimanth, the minister’s son, also studied with them. Kaumudi, like the boys, got trained in archery, fencing and othermartial arts. The three of them thus spent a lot of their childhood together. Manimanth and Kaumudi enjoyed debating with each other. In fact, Mukundacharya was very impressed with some of their arguments and their ideas. Shruthavarma, too, joined them sometimes, but he was not as bright as they were.

King Marunthavarma observed the growing friendship between the two young men and his daughter with some misgiving. He suspected that Kaumudi had a soft corner for Manimanth. He feared that if this was not checked, he would face many problems. Would Manimanth be worthy enough to succeed him in Pravala? He wanted to know what was in his daughter’s mind before he took any decision. So he got a close friend of hers called Malathi to talk to Kaumudi. Kaumudi disclosed that she was not interested in marrying Shruthavarma and considered him only as a dear cousin. She was in love with Manimanth. She felt he alone could make her happy in every way. She also did not wish to leave Pravala and live in another country. If she married Manimanth, they could rule Pravala together.

Marunthavarma was not the only one who had sensed the growing love between Manimanth and Kaumudi. Shruthavarma also realised which way the wind was blowing. From their childhood, he had assumed that Kaumudi would one day be his wife. Now he felt betrayed and upset. He thought about the way matters had developed and then discussed them with his uncle, King Marunthavarma.

The king wondered how he could solve the problem. He advised his nephew to speak to Manimanth frankly. He said: “Tell Manimanth that you suspect that he is in love with Kaumudi. Tell him you love her more than anyone and, therefore, the only way out of this problem is to fight it out like honourable men. Whoever wins can claim Kaumudi’s hand. Then use all your strength and power to defeat Manimanth. If you have any problem, I’ll think of a way to ensure that you win?
Shruthavarma thought over his uncle’s suggestion and said: “The truth is that Manimanth and I are equal in strength and skill, but his self-confidence is such that it seems to give him greater stamina and power. Let’s do one thing. In the Aravalli ranges nearby, there is a martial arts school run by the great guru Krishnachandra. Let me go and study under him for a while and improve my skills. After that, we’ll do as you say?. Marunthavarma agreed and Shruthavarma went to guru Krishnachandra to learn whatever he could.

He worked with great determination and concentration for six months. After the course was over, when it was time for Shruthavarma to leave, the guru said: “You told me that the King of Pravala is your uncle. Do you know his minister’s son Manimanth” Shruthavarma was surprised to hear Manimanth’s name being mentioned. “Yes, I do know him very well. But why do you ask” he said curiously. “Well”, said the guru, “I often roam about in disguise to know what is happening in the countryside. One day, I happened to attend the Spring Festival held at Pravala. There I saw an exhibition of strength by Manimanth. I haven’t seen a brighter man or a better fighter than he. Not many have that kind of ability. When you see him, please tell him that he has an invitation to come here anytime?. Shruthavarma was silenced for a while by these words. Then he said: “I had also taken part in the competition that day”. The guru was surprised. “Really” Were you there” he asked, and then smiled.

The next day Shruthavarma went back to his uncle at Pravala and said: “My confidence and skills have certainly improved a lot in these last six months, but I feel it would not be fair to go against Kaumudi’s wishes. So it might be better if you permitted her to marry Manimanth?.
The Vetala stopped the story there and addressed King Vikramaditya. “O King, Shruthavarma spent six hard months improving his skill. Then why did he lose heart at the last minute and give up his goal” Wasn’t he foolish to give up when he had almost reached his goal” If you know the answers to my questions and still do not want to speak, be warned, your head will break into a thousand pieces!?

Vikramaditya spoke at once. “Shruthavarma respected guru Krishnachandra and his judgement greatly. When the guru praised Manimanth, Shruthavarma realised exactly how much stronger and more adept Manimanth was than him. When he revealed the fact that he too had taken part in the same event, the guru did not say anything. So, he understood that he was not even a patch on Manimanth. Being a realist, he knew he could never win against Manimanth and so decided not to make an attempt even. Certainly, Sruthavarman made a wise move. He proved himself to be a man of judgement who could accept face the truth gracefully”. As soon as the king spoke, the Vetal vanished to its favourite haunt on the same ancient tree.

The Magic Necklace

The dark night and cracks of thunder, preceded by flashes of lightning, revealed weird faces and created a frightening atmosphere. The jackals howled and peals of evil laughter could be heard. King Vikram was however undeterred. He climbed the ancient tree again, brought down the corpse and threw it across his shoulders. He began crossing the deserted cremation ground when the vampire that possessed the corpse spoke up: “O King, are you doing this to master some supernatural power? It is very risky to possess supernatural power. Bhimsingh was a person who had this kind of power. Do you think it did him any good? Listen to his story. This may enlighten you and bring you some relief from this dreary task”.

The vampire went on: “Bhimsingh was a farmer who worked hard on his farm. One day, while levelling the ground, his shovel clanged against something hard in the soil. And he dug out a jar! He opened it and was surprised to find in it a gold necklace and a palm leaf with something inscribed on it. He took both home, and deciphered the inscription on the palm leaf after a struggle. The inscription narrated the strange story of a man who lived more than a century before. This man had received a magic necklace from a mendicant. Whenever he wore the necklace, he was able to know the secret thoughts of anyone he met. He misused this power to blackmail many wealthy persons and the king’s officers, who nursed sinful or criminal desires. He became very rich through the bribes he received from them in order to remain silent. One day, when he wore the necklace, he found that his wife did not love him anymore and was in love with someone else. He went mad with fury and killed his wife. After a while, he was overcome with remorse. So he buried the necklace along with his account of the consequences of using the necklace. Then he left for the forest to live the life of a hermit.

The discovery of the necklace and the manuscript amazed Bhimsingh. However, curiosity got the better of him and he put the necklace on, and strolled through the village. He owed money to a certain Lombu Singh, a relative of the landlord. As soon as he saw Lombu, he realised that the fellow was plotting to kill the landlord. Lombu had employed two ruffians to attack the landlord during his daily evening stroll around his grove.

“But isn’t our landlord a noble soul?” Bhimsingh muttered. Astonished, Lombu looked at Bhimsingh with suspicion. Bhimsingh was now sure of the magic powers of the necklace, but he did not reveal anything. He proceeded to the grove where the ruffians were hiding and he himself hid behind some bushes. On seeing the landlord, the ruffians who had been waiting for him, got up and raised their sticks.

Instantly Bhimsingh jumped forward and brought down an iron rod on the ruffians. They fell down and groaned. Bhimsingh called out to the villagers and many came running. The ruffians confessed about their plan implicating Lombu Singh, who then had to flee from the village. Feeling grateful, the landlord gave Bhimsingh a big reward. The landlord praised Bhimsingh constantly.

In course of time, the people realized that Bhimsingh had the power to read the minds of other people. But nobody knew how Bhimsingh had acquired such powers. One day Bhimsingh came to know that his neighbour’s daughter Ratna loved him. He proposed to Ratna and got married to her with her father’s blessings. .

Once while talking to a group of well-dressed travellers, Bhimsingh became aware that they were imposters, who had come to loot the treasury. He sent word to the king, and the king’s soldiers rushed to capture the gang of bandits. In the same way, Bhimsingh helped to capture many bad elements and foiled many sinister plots. He grew famous for his amazing deductive powers. Gradually it became known that there was a threat to his life. Many criminals were waiting for a chance to kill him. But Bhimsingh had an advantage over his adversaries because he could know their plans in advance.

“Can you tell me what I am thinking about right now?” asked the king.
“Your Majesty, you are thinking that it won’t be possible for me to spell out your thought”, replied Bhimsingh. The king complimented him and appointed him as a courtier. Bhimsingh became richer and more famous. He ran a parallel centre of power since all the court officials paid him to find out what the king thought about them! One evening, the king sent for him and asked him confidentially: “Do you know why I called you?” “Yes, Your Majesty, you wish to know the mind of the queen!” “Excellent. Now, go and meet the queen under the pretext of delivering this message to her and read her mind”, said the king, handing him a letter. Bhimsingh took the letter to the queen. It contained information that a celebrated musician was expected to entertain them in the evening. Looking at the queen, Bhimsingh realised that she did not have any love or respect for the king. Her thoughts were about several persons to whom she felt attracted.

However Bhimsingh on his return to the king, said: “Your Majesty, the queen loves you very much”. The king was so happy that he gifted him the most precious jewel he was wearing then. At home, Bhimsingh behaved strangely; he hurled the magic necklace into the fire. Instead of melting, it just evaporated. Later that night, Bhimsingh and his wife left the kingdom for a far away town.

The vampire paused and turned to King Vikramaditya: “Tell me, O King, why did Bhimsingh destroy the magic necklace? Wasn’t the necklace helping him as well as others? Why did he leave the kingdom? Answer me, O King, if you can. If you keep mum though you may know the answer, your head would roll off your neck. Beware!”

The king answered forthwith: “Bhimsingh was a man with essentially good beliefs and values. He made proper use of the powers the necklace gave him as long as he could. But a stage came when he knew it was not possible for him to use the power and remain good at the same time forever. Though one may have special powers, one must be mentally strong, too. Both the qualities may not be found together in any person. Bhimsingh lacked the will to tell the king the truth as he knew it; at the same time he felt wretched for having told a lie to the king. He, therefore, decided to give up his power and position. He had to leave the kingdom, because the king and the others would continue to expect his service and they would only get annoyed if he did not oblige them. Besides, in the absence of the necklace, he knew that he could not survive in that land”. No sooner had the king concluded his answer than the vampire, along with the corpse, gave him the slip. Vikramaditya drew his sword and went after the vampire.

Intelligence In A Pot

It was a dark and moonless night. Only occasional flashes of lightning lit up the somber scene and caused an eerie dance of shadows in the cremation ground. But King Vikram was undaunted. He went up the old banyan tree to bring the corpse down. The Vetal that possessed the corpse said, “I do not know why you are so very persistent. You can achieve much more by using this time in a constructive way. Let me tell you the story of King Parakrama. That will give you some relief”.
The Vetal then narrated the story:
“Virpur was a small kingdom. It was ruled by King Virasen. The king, though young, was extremely clever and intelligent. He never took any hasty decisions. He would always consult his council of ministers and discuss the problems facing the kingdom. As a result, peace and tranquility prevailed throughout Virpur.
Virpur was surrounded on three sides by a bigger kingdom, Surpur. It was ruled by a king called Parakrama. He had long desired to annex Virpur to his kingdom. He could not do anything as long as Virasen’s father was alive. He was very powerful and everyone feared him. Now that he was no more, and Virasen who had succeeded him was quite young, Parakrama revived his designs to annex Virpur. He called a meeting of all his ministers and told them about his plans to invade Virpur. The chief minister had some reservations.
He said, “Your majesty, what you say is right. But we must collect all the details about our enemy before we go for an attack. Let’s ascertain the young king’s mettle before we invade Virpur”. King Parakrama felt that it was a wise suggestion and set about to draft a letter to Virasen. The king and the ministers thought they would know all about Virasen’s courage and intelligence from his reply to their letter.
Parakrama’s messenger gave the letter to King Virasen. The letter was read out in the court. It said: ‘King Virasen, your late father kept his kingdom in good shape with the help of his wisdom. I, King Parakrama of Surpur, wish to test your eligibility to don the mantle of your father. Send me a quantity of that which I value the most — intelligence! If you are unable to meet my request in three months, you must get ready to pay for the consequences of your failure!’
The young king was astonished at the strange request. The ministers realised that there must be some sinister motive behind it. Madiyugi, one of the senior ministers, stood up and said, “Your majesty, give me three months time and I’ll solve the riddle of this letter”.
Virasen accepted the proposal and wrote back to Parakrama that his request would be met within three months. By the end of the third month, Madiyugi came to the court, bringing along a huge sack. He then told King Virasen, “The intelligence that King Parakrama wanted is in this sack. Let’s send it to him right away”. Everyone wondered what was in the sack, but no one dared to ask. Even King Virasen was silent. The sack was immediately sent off to King Parakrama.
The sack was opened in the full assembly of King Parakrama’s court. To everyone’s astonishment, it contained a small-mouthed earthen pot. Inside the pot was a big watermelon which hugged the sides of the pot tightly.
The tendril of the melon sprouted through the narrow mouth of the pot.
The earthen pot was intact and there were no cracks anywhere. Along with it was a letter addressed to King Parakrama. It read: “As requested by you, I’m sending intelligence inside a pot. Please take it out without breaking the pot”.
The king pondered for some time and then said, “It seems Virasen is not as naive as we had thought. We must be careful in dealing with him”.
He then wrote back to King Virasen, “Thank you for the thoughtful gift. I shall always treasure your friendship more than anything else”. King Virasen was delighted to receive such a friendly note from a formidable neighbour.
The Vetal completed the story and said, “Don’t you think King Parakrama was frivolous in sending a letter demanding intelligence and then backing out after seeing a mere earthen pot? If he had no idea of attacking Virpur, he need not have sent a letter like that in the first place. If you know the answer and yet prefer to keep mum, your head will be blown to pieces!”
King Vikram answered immediately. “King Parakrama was a clever man. He understood the message sent by King Virasen. Madiyugi had planted a watermelon inside the pot and allowed it to grow inside. After a few days time, the watermelon had grown big enough to fill the pot. King Parakrama understood that King Virasen also had very intelligent people around him. That’s why he decided to abandon the line of confrontation and stretch out a hand of friendship”.As soon as King Vikram answered, the Vetal slipped down from the king’s shoulder and glided back to his home on the tree along with the corpse. The king drew his sword and went after the Vetal once again.

The Damsel And The Sea

Long ago, a great king Vikramaditya ruled a prosperous kingdom from his capital Ujjain. He had immense love for learning and adventure.
King Vikram rewarded the virtuous, punished the evil-doers and encouraged scholars, poets, musicians and artists. Many people came to meet him and they brought 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 handed over the fruit to the royal storekeeper.
One morning, the mendicant gave him his usual gift and the king accepted the fruit and went out playing with it. While playing with it, the fruit fell down. Instantly a monkey swooped down upon it and tried to crack it with his teeth. The fruit popped open and out came a ruby. The king was surprised. He picked up the ruby and sent for an expert to examine it. After examination, the ruby was rated as the finest ruby ever seen. The king asked the storekeeper to get all the fruits presented by the mendicant. He found a ruby in each one of those fruits and was amazed.
When the mendicant came the next day, the king asked him, “Why have you been so kind to me?”
“O king, I wish a favour from you.  But I can only tell you about it in private,” replied the mendicant.
The king led him to the private audience chamber. The mendicant then said, “I know how brave you are. Hence I wish you do something for me that requires courage. But, for that, you must meet me under a banyan tree in the middle off 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 decided to meet the mendicant at the appointed hour. It was a dark night. A terrible gale was blowing. When Vikram reached the cremation ground, he heard the howling of foxes and jackals. Ghouls and ghosts stared at him and danced. Vikram reached the banyan tree and met the mendicant.

”Yes, what work do you want me to do?” asked the king. “At the northern-most corner of this ground there is a very old tree. There is a corpse hanging from one of its branches. I am seeking certain occult powers which I will gain only if a king brings me this particular corpse and if practise certain rites sitting on it. Can you fetch the corpse for me?” asked the mendicant.

Getting a corpse that hung on a distant tree on that stormy night was not an easy task. But King Vikram managed to reach the old tree. Raising a burning torch he found the hanging corpse. He climbed the tree and by a stroke of his sword cut the rope with which the corpse was tied to the branch. The corpse fell on the ground, but gave out an eerie cry.

Vikram, unaware that the corpse was possessed by a spirit, thought it was alive. He came down and lifted the sprawling body. The corpse began to laugh. Surprised, the king asked, “Why do you laugh?”

When the king opened his mouth the corpse slipped away and hung on the tree again. This happened over six times and then he realised that his talking was the reason for the corpse to slip away.

The seventh time, Vikram put the corpse on his shoulder and began walking quietly. He took a few steps when the corpse, which was a vampire, said, “O King, tiresome is the way. Let me tell you a tale to keep you amused.” He began the tale.

Long ago Yasaketu ruled the kingdom of Anga. He led a lavish life and left the affairs of the state to his minister. Luckily, his minister was an extremely honest man and governed the kingdom well. But the other officers were jealous of him and spread rumours that he was a corrupt.

The disheartened minister asked his wife for advice. “Leave the country for a few months. Either the officers will realise your value or the king will come back to his senses. Whatever happens will be good for you,” she said.
The minister was convinced. He went to the king and said, “O King, I am going on a pilgrimage. Please do not neglect to discharge your duty during my absence.” “There is no use going on a pilgrimage,” shouted the king. The minister replied, “I must go when I have the strength to travel. I can’t go when I am old.” The King didn’t say anything and plunged back into merrymaking. The minister started travelling. He reached a harbour where he met an old merchant friend. The merchant was about to travel to an island and was happy to accommodate the minister. They reached the island. After the merchant finished his business they began their journey back home.
It was a moonlit night. The merchant and the minister were strolling on the ship’s deck when the water whirled before them and a bejewelled tree rose from the waves. They saw a beautiful damsel sitting on the tree and playing a veena.

”Beautiful!” exclaimed the minister. “No doubt but nothing unusual. We have seen this several times,” commented the minister. The tree and the damsel disappeared in a moment but the minister gazed in the direction for a long time.

King Yasaketu was worried about the minister’s absence. When he was informed by the spies that the minister was approaching the capital, he welcomed him and asked, “Tell me, where did you go and what all did you see?”

The minister narrated his experience including the damsel he had seen. The king was thrilled to hear of the strange sight and exclaimed, “My dear minister, take charge of the kingdom, I am off in search of the lady.”

They were not able to dissuade the king. He hired a ship and began his search. After a couple of days, on a moonlit night, he saw the strange sight that the minister had described. He looked on, spell-bound, at the damsel who emerged from the sea. As soon as she disappeared, he shouted, “Take me with you!”

The king plunged into the sea where he found a magnificent palace. He entered it and saw the damsel resting on an ivory cot. The doe-eyed damsel asked, “Who are you? What brings you here?”
“I am Yasaketu, the king of Anga. I have risked my life and come here to meet you,” answered Yasaketu. He asked, “But will you please tell me who you are?”

”I am Mrigankavati, a nymph. My father left me here. Once in a while I can rise above the water seated on a magical tree,” answered the nymph.
They enjoyed each other’s company. As days passed, the king requested the nymph to marry him. The nymph agreed but on a condition that every month on four different days she would go away from the house and shouldn’t be questioned about it. The king agreed and they got married.
They lived happily for a year. One day, while the nymph was on her mysterious mission, the nymph said, “Be cheerful, I will be back soon. Remember not to jump into the well in the corner of the house. If you do, you will find yourself in your kingdom!”
When the nymph left, the king followed her. On her way, a demon appeared before her and swallowed her. The king killed the demon and the happy nymph emerged from the demon’s corpse.
“Is this a dream?” asked the baffled king.  “No, it isn’t. Let me tell you a story. I used to attend to my father faithfully.  But on four auspicious days of the month I went to worship goddess Durga and neglected my father. My father was displeased and cursed me, as a result of which a demon swallowed me on those four days. He would vomit me at the end of the day. My father assured me that if the demon was killed, I would be free from the curse. You just did that. I am free now, a full-fledged nymph with supernatural powers. But the sad fact is that a man and a nymph cannot live as husband and wife. I must go back to my father and you must return to your kingdom.”

The king was disheartened when he heard the words of the nymph. He requested the nymph to stay with him for another week and she agreed. At the end of the week, the king stood near the well to jump into it. The nymph sobbed inconsolably.  Suddenly, the king held her hand and jumped into the well. They both landed in Yasaketu’s palace. Once on earth, the nymph became a human being.

The news of the king’s arrival spread and people flocked to the palace to meet him. The minister too arrived. As soon as he saw the damsel, he collapsed and died.
The vampire finished the story and asked King Vikram, “Tell me, O King, why do you think the minister died? Was it because he was going to lose authority now that the king was back?  Or was it because he had a secret desire to marry the nymph and was disappointed to see that the king had married her? If you know the right answer and yet choose to keep quiet, your head will be shattered to pieces!”

Answered King Vikram, “None of these was the cause of the minister’s death. As it is, the king neglected his duty and the poor minister had to bear the burden of administration and also the rumours spread about him.  With a beautiful queen, the minister knew the king would never find time for the kingdom. The minister’s agony will never come to an end. It was this thought that killed him.”

As soon as King Vikram spoke, the vampire slipped off his shoulder and hung on the tree.