Vikram and the Vampire
by Sir Richard F. Burton
The Baital-Pachisi, or Twenty-five Tales of a Baital is the history
of a huge Bat, Vampire, or Evil Spirit which inhabited and animated
dead bodies. It is an old, and thoroughly Hindu, Legend composed in
Sanskrit, and is the germ which culminated in the Arabian Nights, and
which inspired the "Golden Ass" of Apuleius, Boccacio's "Decamerone,"
the "Pentamerone," and all that class of facetious fictitious
The story turns chiefly on a great king named Vikram, the King
Arthur of the East, who in pursuance of his promise to a Jogi or
Magician, brings to him the Baital (Vampire), who is hanging on a
tree. The difficulties King Vikram and his son have in bringing the
Vampire into the presence of the Jogi are truly laughable; and on
this thread is strung a series of Hindu fairy stories, which contain
much interesting information on Indian customs and manners. It also
alludes to that state, which induces Hindu devotees to allow
themselves to be buried alive, and to appear dead for weeks or
months, and then to return to life again; a curious state of mesmeric
catalepsy, into which they work themselves by concentrating the mind
and abstaining from food —a specimen of which I have given a
practical illustration in the Life of Sir Richard Burton.
The following translation is rendered peculiarly; valuable and
interesting by Sir Richard Burton's intimate knowledge of the
language. To all who understand the ways of the East, it is as witty,
and as full of what is popularly called "chaff" as it is possible to
be. There is not a dull page in it, and it will especially please
those who delight in the weird and supernatural, the grotesque, and
the wild life.
My husband only gives eleven of the best tales, as it was thought
the translation would prove more interesting in its abbreviated form.
August 18th, 1893.
PREFACE TO THE FIRST (1870) EDITION.
"THE genius of Eastern nations," says an established and
respectable authority, "was, from the earliest times, much turned
towards invention and the love of fiction. The Indians, the Persians,
and the Arabians, were all famous for their fables. Amongst the
ancient Greeks we hear of the Ionian and Milesian tales, but they have
now perished, and, from every account we hear of them, appear to have
been loose and indelicate." Similarly, the classical dictionaries
define "Milesiae fabulae" to be "licentious themes," "stories of an
amatory or mirthful nature," or "ludicrous and indecent plays." M.
Deriege seems indeed to confound them with the "Moeurs du Temps"
illustrated with artistic gouaches, when he says, "une de ces fables
milesiennes, rehaussees de peintures, que la corruption romaine
recherchait alors avec une folle ardeur."
My friend, Mr. Richard Charnock, F.A.S.L., more correctly defines
Milesian fables to have been originally " certain tales or novels,
composed by Aristides of Miletus "; gay in matter and graceful in
manner. "They were translated into Latin by the historian Sisenna, the
friend of Atticus, and they had a great success at Rome. Plutarch, in
his life of Crassus, tells us that after the defeat of Carhes
(Carrhae?) some Milesiacs were found in the baggage of the Roman
prisoners. The Greek text; and the Latin translation have long been
lost. The only surviving fable is the tale of Cupid and Psyche,[FN#1]
which Apuleius calls 'Milesius sermo,' and it makes us deeply regret
the disappearance of the others." Besides this there are the remains
of Apollodorus and Conon, and a few traces to be found in Pausanias,
Athenaeus, and the scholiasts.
I do not, therefore, agree with Blair, with the dictionaries, or
with M. Deriege. Miletus, the great maritime city of Asiatic Ionia,
was of old the meeting-place of the East and the West. Here the
Phoenician trader from the Baltic would meet the Hindu wandering to
Intra, from Extra, Gangem; and the Hyperborean would step on shore
side by side with the Nubian and the Aethiop. Here was produced and
published for the use of the then civilized world, the genuine
Oriental apologue, myth and tale combined, which, by amusing narrative
and romantic adventure, insinuates a lesson in morals or in humanity,
of which we often in our days must fail to perceive the drift. The
book of Apuleius, before quoted, is subject to as many discoveries of
recondite meaning as is Rabelais. As regards the licentiousness of the
Milesian fables, this sign of semi-civilization is still inherent in
most Eastern books of the description which we call "light
literature," and the ancestral tale-teller never collects a larger
purse of coppers than when he relates the worst of his "aurei." But
this looseness, resulting from the separation of the sexes, is
accidental, not necessary. The following collection will show that it
can be dispensed with, and that there is such a thing as camparative
purity in Hindu literature. The author, indeed, almost always takes
the trouble to marry his hero and his heroine, and if he cannot find a
priest, he generally adopts an exceedingly left-hand and Caledonian
but legal rite called "gandharbavivaha.[FN#2]"
The work of Apuleius, as ample internal evidence shows, is
borrowed from the East. The groundwork of the tale is the
metamorphosis of Lucius of Corinth into an ass, and the strange
accidents which precede his recovering the human form.
Another old Hindu story-book relates, in the popular fairy-book
style, the wondrous adventures of the hero and demigod, the great
Gandharba-Sena. That son of Indra, who was also the father of
Vikramajit, the subject of this and another collection, offended the
ruler of the firmament by his fondness for a certain nymph, and was
doomed to wander over earth under the form of a donkey. Through the
interposition of the gods, however, he was permitted to become a man
during the hours of darkness, thus comparing with the English legend
Amundeville is lord by day,
But the monk is lord by night.
Whilst labouring under this curse, Gandharba-Sena persuaded the
King of Dhara to give him a daughter in marriage, but it
unfortunately so happened that at the wedding hour he was unable to
show himself in any but asinine shape. After bathing, however, he
proceeded to the assembly, and, hearing songs and music, he resolved
to give them a specimen of his voice.
The guests were filled with sorrow that so beautiful a virgin
should be married to a donkey. They were afraid to express their
feelings to the king, but they could not refrain from smiling,
covering their mouths with their garments. At length some one
interrupted the general silence and said:
"O king, is this the son of Indra? You have found a fine
bridegroom; you are indeed happy; don't delay the marriage; delay is
improper in doing good; we never saw so glorious a wedding! It is true
that we once heard of a camel being married to a jenny-ass; when the
ass, looking up to the camel, said, 'Bless me, what a bridegroom!' and
the camel, hearing the voice of the ass, exclaimed, 'Bless me, what a
musical voice!' In that wedding, however, the bride and the bridegroom
were equal; but in this marriage, that such a bride should have such a
bridegroom is truly wonderful."
Other Brahmans then present said:
"O king, at the marriage hour, in sign of joy the sacred shell is
blown, but thou hast no need of that" (alluding to the donkey's
The women all cried out:
"O my mother![FN#3] what is this? at the time of marriage to have
an ass! What a miserable thing! What! will he give that angelic girl
in wedlock to a donkey?"
At length Gandharba-Sena, addressing the king in Sanskrit, urged
him to perform his promise. He reminded his future father-in-law that
there is no act more meritorious than speaking truth; that the mortal
frame is a mere dress, and that wise men never estimate the value of a
person by his clothes. He added that he was in that shape from the
curse of his sire, and that during the night he had the body of a man.
Of his being the son of Indra there could be no doubt.
Hearing the donkey thus speak Sanskrit, for it was never known
that an ass could discourse in that classical tongue, the minds of
the people were changed, and they confessed that, although he had an
asinine form he was unquestionably the son of Indra. The king,
therefore, gave him his daughter in marriage.[FN#4] The metamorphosis
brings with it many misfortunes and strange occurrences, and it lasts
till Fate in the author's hand restores the hero to his former shape
Gandharba-Sena is a quasi-historical personage, who lived in the
century preceding the Christian era. The story had, therefore, ample
time to reach the ears of the learned African Apuleius, who was born
The Baital-Pachisi, or Twenty-five (tales of a) Baital[FN#5] —a
Vampire or evil spirit which animates dead bodies — is an old and
thoroughly Hindu repertory. It is the rude beginning of that
fictitious history which ripened to the Arabian Nights'
Entertainments, and which, fostered by the genius of Boccaccio,
produced the romance of the chivalrous days, and its last
development, the novel — that prose-epic of modern Europe.
Composed in Sanskrit, "the language of the gods," alias the Latin
of India, it has been translated into all the Prakrit or vernacular
and modern dialects of the great peninsula. The reason why it has not
found favour with the Moslems is doubtless the highly polytheistic
spirit which pervades it; moreover, the Faithful had already a
specimen of that style of composition. This was the Hitopadesa, or
Advice of a Friend, which, as a line in its introduction informs us,
was borrowed from an older book, the Panchatantra, or Five Chapters.
It is a collection of apologues recited by a learned Brahman, Vishnu
Sharma by name, for the edification of his pupils, the sons of an
Indian Raja. They have been adapted to or translated into a number of
languages, notably into Pehlvi and Persian, Syriac and Turkish, Greek
and Latin, Hebrew and Arabic. And as the Fables of Pilpay,[FN#6] are
generally known, by name at least, to European litterateurs. .
Voltaire remarks,[FN#7] "Quand on fait reflexion que presque toute la
terre a ete infatuee de pareils comes, et qu'ils ont fait l'education
du genre humain, on trouve les fables de Pilpay, Lokman, d'Esope bien
raisonnables." These tales, detached, but strung together by
artificial means— pearls with a thread drawn through them—are
manifest precursors of the Decamerone, or Ten Days. A modern Italian
critic describes the now classical fiction as a collection of one
hundred of those novels which Boccaccio is believed to have read out
at the court of Queen Joanna of Naples, and which later in life were
by him assorted together by a most simple and ingenious contrivance.
But the great Florentine invented neither his stories nor his " plot,"
if we may so call it. He wrote in the middle of the fourteenth century
(1344-8) when the West had borrowed many things from the East,
rhymes[FN#8] and romance, lutes and drums, alchemy and
knight-errantry. Many of the "Novelle" are, as Orientalists well
know, to this day sung and recited almost textually by the wandering
tale-tellers, bards, and rhapsodists of Persia and Central Asia.
The great kshatriya,(soldier) king Vikramaditya,[FN#9] or
Vikramarka, meaning the "Sun of Heroism," plays in India the part of
King Arthur, and of Harun al-Rashid further West. He is a
semi-historical personage. The son of Gandharba-Sena the donkey and
the daughter of the King of Dhara, he was promised by his father the
strength of a thousand male elephants. When his sire died, his
grandfather, the deity Indra, resolved that the babe should not be
born, upon which his mother stabbed herself. But the tragic event duly
happening during the ninth month, Vikram came into the world by
himself, and was carried to Indra, who pitied and adopted him, and
gave him a good education.
The circumstances of his accession to the throne, as will presently
appear, are differently told. Once, however, made King of Malaya, the
modern Malwa, a province of Western Upper India, he so distinguished
himself that the Hindu fabulists, with their usual brave kind of
speaking, have made him "bring the whole earth under the shadow of one
The last ruler of the race of Mayura, which reigned 318 years, was
Raja-pal. He reigned 25 years, but giving himself up to effeminacy,
his country was invaded by Shakaditya, a king from the highlands of
Kumaon. Vikramaditya, in the fourteenth year of his reign, pretended
to espouse the cause of Raja-pal, attacked and destroyed Shakaditya,
and ascended the throne of Delhi. His capital was Avanti, or Ujjayani,
the modern Ujjain. It was 13 kos (26 miles) long by 18 miles wide, an
area of 468 square miles, but a trifle in Indian History. He obtained
the title of Shakari, "foe of the Shakas," the Sacae or Scythians, by
his victories over that redoubtable race. In the Kali Yug, or Iron
Age, he stands highest amongst the Hindu kings as the patron of
learning. Nine persons under his patronage, popularly known as the
"Nine Gems of Science," hold in India the honourable position of the
Seven Wise Men of Greece.
These learned persons wrote works in the eighteen original dialects
from which, say the Hindus, all the languages of the earth have been
derived.[FN#10] Dhanwantari enlightened the world upon the subjects of
medicine and of incantations. Kshapanaka treated the primary elements.
Amara-Singha compiled a Sanskrit dictionary and a philosophical
treatise. Shankubetalabhatta composed comments, and Ghatakarpara a
poetical work of no great merit. The books of Mihira are not
mentioned. Varaha produced two works on astrology and one on
arithmetic. And Bararuchi introduced certain improvements in grammar,
commented upon the incantations, and wrote a poem in praise of King
But the most celebrated of all the patronized ones was Kalidasa.
His two dramas, Sakuntala,[FN#11] and Vikram and Urvasi,[FN#12] have
descended to our day; besides which he produced a poem on the seasons,
a work on astronomy, a poetical history of the gods, and many other
Vikramaditya established the Sambat era, dating from A.C. 56.
After a long, happy, and glorious reign, he lost his life in a war
with Shalivahana, King of Pratisthana. That monarch also left behind
him an era called the " Shaka," beginning with A.D. 78. It is
employed, even now, by the Hindus in recording their births,
marriages, and similar occasions.
King Vikramaditya was succeeded by his infant son Vikrama-Sena,
and father and son reigned over a period of 93 years. At last the
latter was supplanted by a devotee named Samudra-pala, who entered
into his body by miraculous means. The usurper reigned 24 years and 2
months, and the throne of Delhi continued in the hands of his sixteen
successors, who reigned 641 years and 3 months. Vikrama-pala,, the
last, was slain in battle by Tilaka-chandra, King of
It is not pretended that the words of these Hindu tales are
preserved to the letter. The question about the metamorphosis of cats
into tigers, for instance, proceeded from a Gem of Learning in a
university much nearer home than Gaur. Similarly the learned and still
living Mgr. Gaume (Traite du Saint-Esprit, p.. 81) joins Camerarius in
the belief that serpents bite women rather than men. And he quotes
(p.. 192) Cornelius a Lapide, who informs us that the leopard is the
produce of a lioness with a hyena or a bard..
The merit of the old stories lies in their suggestiveness and in
their general applicability. I have ventured to remedy the conciseness
of their language, and to clothe the skeleton with flesh and blood.
To My Uncle,
ROBERT BAGSHAW, OF DOVERCOURT,
That Will Remind Him Of A Land Which
He Knows So Well,
Are Affectionately Inscribed.
VIKRAM AND THE VAMPIRE.
The sage Bhavabhuti—Eastern teller of these tales—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
He then teaches us how Vikramaditya the Brave became King of
Some nineteen centuries ago, the renowned city of Ujjayani
witnessed the birth of a prince to whom was given the gigantic name
Vikramaditya. Even the Sanskrit-speaking people, who are not usually
pressed for time, shortened it to "Vikram", and a little further West
it would infallibly have been docked down to "Vik".
Vikram was the second son of an old king Gandharba-Sena,
concerning whom little favourable has reached posterity, except that
he became an ass, married four queens, and had by them six sons, each
of whom was more learned and powerful than the other. It so happened
that in course of time the father died. Thereupon his eldest heir, who
was known as Shank, succeeded to the carpet of Rajaship, and was
instantly murdered by Vikram, his "scorpion", the hero of the
By this act of vigour and manly decision, which all younger-
brother princes should devoutly imitate, Vikram having obtained the
title of Bir, or the Brave, made himself Raja. He began to rule well,
and the gods so favoured him that day by day his dominions increased.
At length he became lord of all India, and having firmly established
his government, he instituted an era—an uncommon feat for a mere
monarch, especially when hereditary.
The steps,[FN#16] says the historian, which he took to arrive at
that pinnacle of grandeur, were these:
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 or
Indian clubs. 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 school, and were placed
under the care of excellent teachers, 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
The two brothers often conversed on the duties of kings, when the
great Vikramaditya gave the great Bhartari-hari the following
"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,[FN#18] 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."
Become a monarch, Vikram meditated deeply upon what is said of
monarchs:—"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, or institutes of government. 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. He swallowed— a thing allowed only to a khshatriya or
warrior— Mithridatic every morning on the saliva[FN#19], and he made
the cooks taste every dish before he ate of it. As soon as he had
risen, the pages in waiting repeated his splendid qualities, and as he
left his sleeping-room in full dress, several Brahmans rehearsed the
praises of the gods. Presently he bathed, worshipped his guardian
deity, again heard hymns, drank a little water, and saw alms
distributed to the poor. He ended this watch by auditing his accounts.
Next entering his court, he placed himself amidst the assembly. He
was always armed when he received strangers, and he caused even women
to be searched for concealed weapons. He was surrounded by so many
spies and so artful, that of a thousand, no two ever told the same
tale. At the levee, on his right sat his relations, the Brahmans, and
men of distinguished birth. The other castes were on the left, and
close to him stood the ministers and those whom he delighted to
consult. Afar 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. His poets wrote about him:
The lord of lone splendour an instant suspends
His course at mid~noon, ere he westward descends;
And brief are the moments our young monarch knows,
Devoted to pleasure or paid to repose!
Before the second sandhya,[FN#20] or noon, about the beginning of
the third watch, he recited the names of the gods, bathed, and broke
his fast in his private room; then rising from food, he was amused by
singers and dancing girls. 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 councillors.
On the announcement of the herald that it was the sixth watch—
about 2 or 3 P.M.—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, and reviewing the business of
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. Against the latter
he ceased not to use the five arts, namely—dividing the kingdom,
bribes, mischief-making, negotiations, and brute-force— especially
preferring the first two and the last. His forethought and prudence
taught him to regard all his nearest neighbours and their allies as
hostile. The powers beyond those natural enemies he considered
friendly because they were the foes of his foes. And all the remoter
nations he looked upon as neutrals, in a transitional or provisional
state as it were, till they became either his neighbours' neighbours,
or his own neighbours, that is to say, his friends or his foes.
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, namely—to pursue every object till it be accomplished; to
succour all dependents, and hospitably to receive guests, however
numerous. He was generous to his subjects respecting taxes, and kind
of speech; yet he was inexorable as death in the punishment of
offenses. He rarely hunted, and he visited his pleasure gardens only
on stated days. He acted in his own dominions with justice; he
chastised foreign foes with rigour; he behaved generously to Brahmans,
and he avoided favouritism amongst his friends. In war he never slew a
suppliant, a spectator, a person asleep or undressed, or anyone that
showed fear. Whatever country he conquered, offerings were presented
to its gods, and effects and money were given to the reverends. But
what benefited him most was his attention to the creature comforts of
the nine Gems of Science: those eminent men ate and drank themselves
into fits of enthusiasm, and ended by immortalizing their patron's
Become Vikram the Great he established his court at a delightful
and beautiful location rich in the best of water. The country was
difficult of access, and artificially made incapable of supporting a
host of invaders, but four great roads met near the city. The capital
was surrounded with durable ramparts, having gates of defence, and
near it was a mountain fortress, under the especial charge of a great
The metropolis was well garrisoned and provisioned, and it
surrounded the royal palace, a noble building without as well as
within. Grandeur seemed embodied there, and Prosperity had made it
her own. The nearer ground, viewed from the terraces and pleasure
pavilions, was a lovely mingling of rock and mountain, plain and
valley, field and fallow, crystal lake and glittering stream. The
banks of the winding Lavana were fringed with meads whose herbage,
pearly with morning dew, afforded choicest grazing for the sacred cow,
and were dotted with perfumed clumps of Bo-trees, tamarinds, and holy
figs: in one place Vikram planted 100,000 in a single orchard and gave
them to his spiritual advisers. The river valley separated the stream
from a belt of forest growth which extended to a hill range, dark with
impervious jungle, and cleared here and there for the cultivator's
village. Behind it, rose another sub-range, wooded with a lower bush
and already blue with air, whilst in the background towered range upon
range, here rising abruptly into points and peaks, there ramp-shaped
or wall- formed, with sheer descents, and all of light azure hue
adorned with glories of silver and gold.
After reigning for some years, Vikram the Brave found himself at
the age of thirty, a staid and sober middle-aged man, He had several
sons—daughters are naught in India—by his several wives, and he had
some paternal affection for nearly all—except of course, for his
eldest son, a youth who seemed to conduct himself as though he had a
claim to the succession. In fact, the king seemed to have taken up his
abode for life at Ujjayani, when suddenly he bethought himself, "I
must visit those countries of whose names I am ever hearing." The fact
is, he had determined to spy out in disguise the lands of all his
foes, and to find the best means of bringing against them his
* * * * * *
We now learn how Bhartari Raja becomes Regent of Ujjayani.
Having thus resolved, Vikram the Brave gave the government into
the charge of a younger brother, Bhartari Raja, and in the garb of a
religious mendicant, accompanied by Dharma Dhwaj, his second son, a
youth bordering on the age of puberty, he began to travel from city to
city, and from forest to forest.
The Regent was of a settled melancholic turn of mind, having lost
in early youth a very peculiar wife. One day, whilst out hunting, he
happened to pass a funeral pyre, upon which a Brahman's widow had
just become Sati (a holy woman) with the greatest fortitude. On his
return home he related the adventure to Sita Rani, his spouse, and she
at once made reply that virtuous women die with their husbands, killed
by the fire of grief, not by the flames of the pile. To prove her
truth the prince, after an affectionate farewell, rode forth to the
chase, and presently sent back the suite with his robes torn and
stained, to report his accidental death. Sita perished upon the spot,
and the widower remained inconsolable—for a time.
He led the dullest of lives, and took to himself sundry spouses,
all equally distinguished for birth, beauty, and modesty. Like his
brother, he performed all the proper devoirs of a Raja, rising before
the day to finish his ablutions, to worship the gods, and to do due
obeisance to the Brahmans. He then ascended the throne, to judge his
people according to the Shastra, carefully keeping in subjection lust,
anger, avarice, folly, drunkenness, and pride; preserving himself from
being seduced by the love of gaming and of the chase; restraining his
desire for dancing, singing, and playing on musical instruments, and
refraining from sleep during daytime, from wine, from molesting men of
worth, from dice, from putting human beings to death by artful means,
from useless travelling, and from holding any one guilty without the
commission of a crime. His levees were in a hall decently splendid,
and he was distinguished only by an umbrella of peacock's feathers; he
received all complainants, petitioners, and presenters of offenses
with kind looks and soft words. He united to himself the seven or
eight wise councillors, and the sober and virtuous secretary that
formed the high cabinet of his royal brother, and they met in some
secret lonely spot, as a mountain, a terrace, a bower or a forest,
whence women, parrots, and other talkative birds were carefully
And at the end of this useful and somewhat laborious day, he
retired to his private apartments, and, after listening to spiritual
songs and to soft music, he fell asleep. Sometimes he would summon
his brother's "Nine Gems of Science," and give ear to their learned
discourses. But it was observed that the viceroy reserved this
exercise for nights when he was troubled with insomnia—the words of
wisdom being to him an infallible remedy for that disorder.
Thus passed onwards his youth, doing nothing that it could desire,
forbidden all pleasures because they were unprincely, and working in
the palace harder than in the pauper's hut. Having, however,
fortunately for himself, few predilections and no imagination, he
began to pride himself upon being a philosopher. Much business from
an early age had dulled his wits, which were never of the most
brilliant; and in the steadily increasing torpidity of his spirit, he
traced the germs of that quietude which forms the highest happiness of
man in this storm of matter called the world. He therefore allowed
himself but one friend of his soul. He retained, I have said, his
brother's seven or eight ministers; he was constant in attendance upon
the Brahman priests who officiated at the palace, and who kept the
impious from touching sacred property; and he was courteous to the
commander-in-chief who directed his warriors, to the officers of
justice who inflicted punishment upon offenders, and to the lords of
towns, varying in number from one to a thousand. But he placed an
intimate of his own in the high position of confidential councillor,
the ambassador to regulate war and peace.
Mahi-pala was a person of noble birth, endowed with shining
abilities, popular, dexterous in business, acquainted with foreign
parts, famed for eloquence and intrepidity, and as Menu the Lawgiver
advises, remarkably handsome.
Bhartari Raja, as I have said, became a quietist and a philosopher.
But Kama,[FN#21] the bright god who exerts his sway over the three
worlds, heaven and earth and grewsome Hades,[FN#22] had marked out the
prince once more as the victim of his blossom- tipped shafts and his
flowery bow. How, indeed, could he hope to escape the doom which has
fallen equally upon Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver, and
dreadful Shiva the Three-eyed Destroyer[FN#23]?
By reason of her exceeding beauty, her face was a full moon
shining in the clearest sky; her hair was the purple cloud of autumn
when, gravid with rain, it hangs low over earth; and her complexion
mocked the pale waxen hue of the large-flowered jasmine. Her eyes were
those of the timid antelope; her lips were as red as those of the
pomegranate's bud, and when they opened, from them distilled a
fountain of ambrosia. Her neck was like a pigeon's; her hand the pink
lining of the conch-shell; her waist a leopard's; her feet the softest
lotuses. In a word, a model of grace and loveliness was Dangalah Rani,
Raja Bhartari's last and youngest wife.
The warrior laid down his arms before her; the politician spoke out
every secret in her presence. The religious prince would have
slaughtered a cow—that sole unforgivable sin—to save one of her
eyelashes: the absolute king would not drink a cup of water without
her permission; the staid philosopher, the sober quietist, to win from
her the shadow of a smile, would have danced before her like a
singing-girl. So desperately enamoured became Bhartari Raja.
It is written, however, that love, alas! breeds not love; and so it
happened to the Regent. The warmth of his affection, instead of
animating his wife, annoyed her; his protestations wearied her; his
vows gave her the headache; and his caresses were a colic that made
her blood run cold. Of course, the prince perceived nothing, being
lost in wonder and admiration of the beauty's coyness and coquetry.
And as women must give away their hearts, whether asked or not, so the
lovely Dangalah Rani lost no time in lavishing all the passion of her
idle soul upon Mahi-pala, the handsome ambassador of peace and war. By
this means the three were happy and were contented; their felicity,
however, being built on a rotten foundation, could not long endure. It
soon ended in the following extraordinary way.
In the city of Ujjayani,[FN#24] 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.[FN#25] 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.[FN#26] Callest thou this
state life? Better we die at once, and so escape the woes of the
Hearing these words, the Brahman sat undecided, with open jaws and
eyes fixed upon the apple. Presently he found tongue: "I have accepted
the fruit, and have brought it here; but having heard thy speech, my
intellect hath wasted away; now I will do whatever thou pointest out."
The wife resumed her discourse, which had been interrupted by a
more than usually copious flow of tears. "Moreover, O husband, we are
old, and what are the enjoyments of the stricken in years? Truly quoth
Die loved in youth, not hated in age.
If that fruit could have restored thy dimmed eyes, and deaf ears,
and blunted taste, and warmth of love, I had not spoken to thee
After which the Brahman threw away the apple, to the great joy of
his wife, who felt a natural indignation at the prospect of seeing
her goodman become immortal, whilst she still remained subject to the
laws of death; but she concealed this motive in the depths of her
thought, enlarging, as women are apt to do, upon everything but the
truth. And she spoke with such success, that 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, bade him arise and gird his loins and wend him to the Regent's
palace, and offer him the fruit—as King Vikram was absent—with a
right reverend brahmanical benediction. She concluded with impressing
upon her unworldly husband the necessity of requiring a large sum of
money as a return for his inestimable gift. "By this means, "she said,
"thou mayst promote thy present and future welfare.[FN#27]"
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. Having
dismissed the devotee groaning under the burden, the Regent entered
the apartments of his wives, and having summoned the beautiful Queen
Dangalah Rani, gave her the fruit, and said, "Eat this, light of my
eyes! This fruit—joy of my heart!—will make thee everlastingly young
The pretty queen, placing both hands upon her husband's bosom,
kissed his eyes and lips, and sweetly smiling on his face—for great
is the guile of women—whispered, "Eat it thyself, dear one, or at
least share it with me; for what is life and what is youth without
the presence of those we love?" But the Raja, whose heart was melted
by these unusual words, put her away tenderly, and, having explained
that the fruit would serve for only one person, departed.
Whereupon the pretty queen, sweetly smiling as before, slipped the
precious present into her pocket. When the Regent was transacting
business in the hall of audience she sent for the ambassador who
regulated war and peace, and presented him with the apple in a manner
at least as tender as that with which it had been offered to her.
Then the ambassador, after slipping the fruit into his pocket also,
retired from the presence of the pretty queen, and meeting Lakha, one
of the maids of honour, explained to her its wonderful power, and gave
it to her as a token of his love. But the maid of honour, being an
ambitious girl, determined that the fruit was a fit present to set
before the Regent in the absence of the King. Bhartari Raja accepted
it, bestowed on her great wealth, and dismissed her with many thanks.
He then took up the apple and looked at it with eyes brimful of
tears, for he knew the whole extent of his misfortune. His heart
ached, he felt a loathing for the world, and he said with sighs and
"Of what value are these delusions of wealth and affection, whose
sweetness endures for a moment and becomes eternal bitterness? Love
is like the drunkard's cup: delicious is the first drink, palling are
the draughts that succeed it, and most distasteful are the dregs. What
is life but a restless vision of imaginary pleasures and of real
pains, from which the only waking is the terrible day of death? The
affection of this world is of no use, since, in consequence of it, we
fall at last into hell. For which reason it is best to practice the
austerities of religion, that the Deity may bestow upon us hereafter
that happiness which he refuses to us here!"
Thus did Bhartari Raja determine to abandon the world. But before
setting out for the forest, he could not refrain from seeing the
queen once more, so hot was the flame which Kama had kindled in his
heart. He therefore went to the apartments of his women, and having
caused Dangalah Rani to be summoned, he asked her what had become of
the fruit which he had given to her. She answered that, according to
his command, she had eaten it. Upon which the Regent showed her the
apple, and she beholding it stood aghast, unable to make any reply.
The Raja gave careful orders for her beheading; he then went out, and
having had the fruit washed, ate it. He quitted the throne to be a
jogi, or religious mendicant, and without communicating with any one
departed into the jungle. There he became such a devotee that death
had no power over him, and he is wandering still. But some say that he
was duly absorbed into the essence of the Deity.
* * * * * *
We are next told how the valiant Vikram returned to his own
Thus Vikram's throne remained empty. When the news reached King
Indra, Regent of the Lower Firmament and Protector of Earthly
Monarchs, he sent Prithwi Pala, a fierce giant,[FN#29] to defend the
city of Ujjayani till such time as its lawful master might reappear,
and the guardian used to keep watch and ward night and day over his
In less than a year the valorous Raja Vikram became thoroughly
tired of wandering about the woods half dressed: now suffering from
famine, then exposed to the attacks of wild beasts, and at all times
very ill at ease. He reflected also that he was not doing his duty to
his wives and children; that the heir-apparent would probably make the
worst use of the parental absence; and finally, that his subjects,
deprived of his fatherly care, had been left in the hands of a man
who, for ought he could say, was not worthy of the high trust. He had
also spied out all the weak points of friend and foe. Whilst these and
other equally weighty considerations were hanging about the Raja's
mind, he heard a rumour of the state of things spread abroad; that
Bhartari, the regent, having abdicated his throne, had gone away into
the forest. Then quoth Vikram to his son,"We have ended our
wayfarings, now let us turn our steps homewards!"
The gong was striking the mysterious hour of midnight as the king
and the young prince approached the principal gate. And they were
pushing through it when a monstrous figure rose up before them and
called out with a fearful voice, "Who are ye, and where are ye going ?
Stand and deliver your names!"
"I am Raja Vikram," rejoined the king, half choked with rage, "and
I am come to mine own city. Who art thou that darest to stop or stay
"That question is easily answered," cried Prithwi Pala the giant,
in his roaring voice; "the gods have sent me to protect Ujjayani. If
thou be really Raja Vikram, prove thyself a man: first fight with me,
and then return to thine own."
The warrior king cried "Sadhu!" wanting nothing better. He girt his
girdle tight round his loins, summoned his opponent into the empty
space beyond the gate, told him to stand on guard, and presently
began to devise some means of closing with or running in upon him.
The giant's fists were large as watermelons, and his knotted arms
whistled through the air like falling trees, threatening fatal blows.
Besides which the Raja's head scarcely reached the giant's stomach,
and the latter, each time he struck out, whooped so abominably loud,
that no human nerves could remain unshaken.
At last Vikram's good luck prevailed. The giant's left foot
slipped, and the hero, seizing his antagonist's other leg, began to
trip him up. At the same moment the young prince, hastening to his
parent's assistance, jumped viciously upon the enemy's naked toes. By
their united exertions they brought him to the ground, when the son
sat down upon his stomach, making himself as weighty as he well
could, whilst the father, climbing up to the monster's throat, placed
himself astride upon it, and pressing both thumbs upon his eyes,
threatened to blind him if he would not yield.
Then the giant, modifying the bellow of his voice, cried out—
"O Raja, thou hast overthrown me, and I grant thee thy life."
"Surely thou art mad, monster," replied the king, in jeering tone,
half laughing, half angry. "To whom grantest thou life? If I desire
it I can kill thee; how, then, cost thou talk about granting me my
"Vikram of Ujjayani," said the giant, "be not too proud! I will
save thee from a nearly impending death. Only hearken to the tale
which I have to tell thee, and use thy judgment, and act upon it. So
shalt thou rule the world free from care, and live without danger,
and die happily."
"Proceed," quoth the Raja, after a moment's thought, dismounting
from the giant's throat, and beginning to listen with all his ears.
The giant raised himself from the ground, and when in a sitting
posture, began in solemn tones to speak as follows:
"In short, the history of the matter is, that three men were born
in this same city of Ujjayani, in the same lunar mansion, in the same
division of the great circle described upon the ecliptic, and in the
same period of time. You, the first, were born in the house of a
king. The second was an oilman's son, who was slain by the third, a
jogi, or anchorite, who kills all he can, wafting the sweet scent of
human sacrifice to the nostrils of Durga, goddess of destruction.
Moreover, the holy man, after compassing the death of the oilman's
son, has suspended him head downwards from a mimosa tree in a
cemetery. He is now anxiously plotting thy destruction. He hath
murdered his own child— "
"And how came an anchorite to have a child?" asked Raja Vikram,
"That is what I am about to tell thee," replied the giant. "In the
good days of thy generous father, Gandharba-Sena, as the court was
taking its pleasure in the forest, they saw a devotee, or rather a
devotee's head, protruding from a hole in the ground. The white ants
had surrounded his body with a case of earth, and had made their home
upon his skin. All kinds of insects and small animals crawled up and
down the face, yet not a muscle moved. Wasps had hung their nests to
its temples, and scorpions wandered in and out of the matted and
clotted hair; yet the hermit felt them not. He spoke to no one; he
received no gifts; and had it not been for the opening of his
nostrils, as he continually inhaled the pungent smoke of a thorn fire,
man would have deemed him dead. Such were his religious austerities.
"Thy father marvelled much at the sight, and rode home in profound
thought. That evening, as he sat in the hall of audience, he could
speak of nothing but the devotee; and his curiosity soon rose to such
a pitch, that he proclaimed about the city a reward of one hundred
gold pieces to any one that could bring to court this anchorite of his
own free will.
"Shortly afterwards, Vasantasena, a singing and dancing girl more
celebrated for wit and beauty than for sagesse or discretion,
appeared before thy sire, and offered for the petty inducement of a
gold bangle to bring the anchorite into the palace, carrying a baby
on his shoulder.
"The king hearing her speak was astonished, gave her a betel leaf
in token that he held her to her promise, and permitted her to
depart, which she did with a laugh of triumph.
"Vasantasena went directly to the jungle, where she found the
pious man faint with thirst, shriveled with hunger, and half dead
with heat and cold. She cautiously put out the fire. Then, having
prepared a confection, she approached from behind and rubbed upon his
lips a little of the sweetmeat, which he licked up with great relish.
Thereupon she made more and gave it to him. After two days of this
generous diet he gained some strength, and on the third, as he felt a
finger upon his mouth, he opened his eyes and said, "Why hast thou
"The girl, who had her story in readiness, replied: "I am the
daughter of a deity, and have practiced religious observances in the
heavenly regions. I have now come into this forest!" And the devotee,
who began to think how much more pleasant is such society than
solitude, asked her where her hut was, and requested to be led there.
"Then Vasantasena, having unearthed the holy man and compelled him
to purify himself, led him to the abode which she had caused to be
built for herself in the wood. She explained its luxuries by the
nature of her vow, which bound her to indulge in costly apparel, in
food with six flavours, and in every kind of indulgence.[FN#30] In
course of time the hermit learned to follow her example; he gave up
inhaling smoke, and he began to eat and drink as a daily occupation.
"At length Kama began to trouble him. Briefly the saint and
saintess were made man and wife, by the simple form of matrimony
called the Gandharba-vivaha,[FN#31] and about ten months afterwards a
son was born to them. Thus the anchorite came to have a child.
"Remained Vasantasena's last feat. Some months passed: then she
said to the devotee her husband, 'Oh saint! let us now, having
finished our devotions, perform a pilgrimage to some sacred place,
that all the sins of our bodies may be washed away, after which we
will die and depart into everlasting happiness.' Cajoled by these
speeches, the hermit mounted his child upon his shoulder and followed
her where she went—directly into Raja Gandharba-Sena's palace.
"When the king and the ministers and the officers and the courtiers
saw Vasantasena, and her spouse carrying the baby, they recognized
her from afar. The Raja exclaimed, 'Lo! this is the very singing girl
who went forth to bring back the devotee. 'And all replied: 'O great
monarch! thou speakest truly; this is the very same woman. And be
pleased to observe that whatever things she, having asked leave to
undertake, went forth to do, all these she hath done!' Then gathering
around her they asked her all manner of questions, as if the whole
matter had been the lightest and the most laughable thing in the
"But the anchorite, having heard the speeches of the king and his
courtiers, thought to himself, 'They have done this for the purpose
of taking away the fruits of my penance.' Cursing them all with
terrible curses, and taking up his child, he left the hall. Thence he
went to the forest, slaughtered the innocent, and began to practice
austerities with a view to revenge that hour, and having slain his
child, he will attempt thy life. His prayers have been heard. In the
first place they deprived thee of thy father. Secondly, they cast
enmity between thee and thy brother, thus dooming him to an untimely
end. Thirdly, they are now working thy ruin. The anchorite's design is
to offer up a king and a king's son to his patroness Durga, and by
virtue of such devotional act he will obtain the sovereignty of the
"But I have promised, O Vikram, to save thee, if such be the will
of Fortune, from impending destruction. Therefore hearken well unto
my words. Distrust them that dwell amongst the dead, and remember that
it is lawful and right to strike off his head that would slay thee. So
shalt thou rule the universal earth, and leave behind thee an immortal
Suddenly Prithwi Pala, the giant, ceased speaking, and
disappeared. Vikram and his son then passed through the city gates,
feeling their limbs to be certain that no bones were broken, and
thinking over the scene that had occurred.
* * * * * *
We now are informed how the valiant King Vikram met with the
It was the spring season when the Raja returned, and the Holi
festival[FN#32] caused dancing and singing in every house. Ujjayani
was extraordinarily happy and joyful at the return of her ruler, who
joined in her gladness with all his kingly heart. The faces and
dresses of the public were red and yellow with gulal and
abir,—perfumed powders,[FN#33]—which were sprinkled upon one
another in token of merriment. Musicians deafened the citizens' ears,
dancing girls performed till ready to faint with fatigue, the
manufacturers of comfits made their fortunes, and the Nine Gems of
Science celebrated the auspicious day with the most long- winded odes.
The royal hero, decked in regal attire, and attended by many thousands
of state palanquins glittering with their various ornaments, and
escorted by a suite of a hundred kingly personages, with their martial
array of the four hosts, of cavalry, elephants, chariots, and
infantry, and accompanied by Amazon girls, lovely as the suite of the
gods, himself a personification of majesty, bearing the white parasol
of dominion, with a golden staff and tassels, began once more to
After the first pleasures of return, the king applied himself
unremittingly to good government and to eradicating the abuses which
had crept into the administration during the period of his wanderings.
Mindful of the wise saying, "if the Rajadid not punish the guilty,
the stronger would roast the weaker like a fish on the spit," he
began the work of reform with an iron hand. He confiscated the
property of a councillor who had the reputation of taking bribes; he
branded the forehead of a sudra or servile man whose breath smelt of
ardent spirits, and a goldsmith having been detected in fraud he
ordered him to be cut in shreds with razors as the law in its mercy
directs. In the case of a notorious evil-speaker he opened the back
of his head and had his tongue drawn through the wound. A few
murderers he burned alive on iron beds, praying the while that Vishnu
might have mercy upon their souls. His spies were ordered, as the
shastra called "The Prince" advises, to mix with robbers and thieves
with a view of leading them into situations where they might most
easily be entrapped, and once or twice when the fellows were too wary,
he seized them and their relations and impaled them all, thereby
conclusively proving, without any mistake, that he was king of earth.
With the sex feminine he was equally severe. A woman convicted of
having poisoned an elderly husband in order to marry a younger man was
thrown to the dogs, which speedily devoured her. He punished simple
infidelity by cutting off the offender's nose—an admirable practice,
which is not only a severe penalty to the culprit, but also a standing
warning to others, and an efficient preventative to any recurrence of
the fault. Faithlessness combined with bad example or brazen-facedness
was further treated by being led in solemn procession through the
bazar mounted on a diminutive and crop-eared donkey, with the face
turned towards the crupper. After a few such examples the women of
Ujjayani became almost modest; it is the fault of man when they are
not tolerably well behaved in one point at least.
Every day as Vikram sat upon the judgment-seat, trying causes and
punishing offenses, he narrowly observed the speech, the gestures,
and the countenances of the various criminals and litigants and their
witnesses. Ever suspecting women, as I have said, and holding them to
be the root of all evil, he never failed when some sin or crime more
horrible than usual came before him, to ask the accused, "Who is she?"
and the suddenness of the question often elicited the truth by
accident. For there can be nothing thoroughly and entirely bad unless
a woman is at the bottom of it; and, knowing this, Raja Vikram made
certain notable hits under the most improbable circumstances, which
had almost given him a reputation for omniscience. But this is easily
explained: a man intent upon squaring the circle will see squares in
circles wherever he looks, and sometimes he will find them.
In disputed cases of money claims, the king adhered strictly to
established practice, and consulted persons learned in the law. He
seldom decided a cause on his own judgment, and he showed great
temper and patience in bearing with rough language from irritated
plaintiffs and defendants, from the infirm, and from old men beyond
eighty. That humble petitioners might not be baulked in having access
to the "fountain of justice," he caused an iron box to be suspended by
a chain from the windows of his sleeping apartment. Every morning he
ordered the box to be opened before him, and listened to all the
placets at full length. Even in this simple process he displayed
abundant cautiousness. For, having forgotten what little of the
humanities he had mastered in his youth, he would hand the paper to a
secretary whose business it was to read it out before him; after which
operation the man of letters was sent into an inner room, and the
petition was placed in the hands of a second scribe. Once it so
happened by the bungling of the deceitful kayasths(clerks) that an
important difference was found to occur in the same sheet. So upon
strict inquiry one secretary lost his ears and the other his right
hand. After this petitions were rarely if ever falsified.
The Raja Vikram also lost no time in attacking the cities and towns
and villages of his enemies, but the people rose to a man against
him, and hewing his army to pieces with their weapons, vanquished
him. This took place so often that he despaired of bringing all the
earth under the shadow of his umbrella.
At length on one occasion when near a village he listened to a
conversation of the inhabitants. A woman having baked some cakes was
giving them to her child, who leaving the edges would eat only the
middle. On his asking for another cake, she cried, "This boy's way is
like Vikram's in his attempt to conquer the world!" On his inquiring
"Mother, why, what am I doing; and what has Vikram done?" " Thou, my
boy," she replied, "throwing away the outside of the cake eatest the
middle only. Vikram also in his ambition, without subduing the
frontiers before attacking the towns, invades the heart of the country
and lays it waste. On that account, both the townspeople and others
rising, close upon him from the frontiers to the centre, and destroy
his army. That is his folly."
Vikram took notice of the woman's words. He strengthened his army
and resumed his attack on the provinces and cities, beginning with the
frontiers, reducing the outer towns and stationing troops in the
intervals. Thus he proceeded regularly with his invasions. After a
respite, adopting the same system and marshalling huge armies, he
reduced in regular course each kingdom and province till he became
monarch of the whole world.
It so happened that one day as Vikram the Brave sat upon the
judgment-seat, a young merchant, by name Mal Deo, who had lately
arrived at Ujjayani with loaded camels and elephants, and with the
reputation of immense wealth, entered the palace court. Having been
received with extreme condescension, he gave into the king's hand a
fruit which he had brought in his own, and then spreading a prayer
carpet on the floor he sat down. Presently, after a quarter of an
hour, he arose and went away. When he had gone the king reflected in
his mind: "Under this disguise, perhaps, is the very man of whom the
giant spoke." Suspecting this, he did not eat the fruit, but calling
the master of the household he gave the present to him, ordering him
to keep it in a very careful manner. The young merchant, however,
continued every day to court the honour of an interview, each time
presenting a similar gift.
By chance one morning Raja Vikram went, attended by his ministers,
to see his stables. At this time the young merchant also arrived
there, and in the usual manner placed a fruit in the royal hand. As
the king was thoughtfully tossing it in the air, it accidentally fell
from his fingers to the ground. Then the monkey, who was tethered
amongst the horses to draw calamities from their heads,[FN#34]
snatched it up and tore it to pieces. Whereupon a ruby of such size
and water came forth that the king and his ministers, beholding its
brilliancy, gave vent to expressions of wonder.
Quoth Vikram to the young merchant severely—for his suspicions
were now thoroughly roused—"Why hast thou given to us all this
"O great king," replied Mal Deo, demurely, "it is written in the
scriptures (shastra) 'Of Ceremony' that 'we must not go empty- handed
into the presence of the following persons, namely, Rajas, spiritual
teachers, judges, young maidens, and old women whose daughters we
would marry.' But why, O Vikram, cost thou speak of one ruby only,
since in each of the fruits which I have laid at thy feet there is a
similar jewel?" Having heard this speech, the king said to the master
of his household, "Bring all the fruits which I have entrusted to
thee." The treasurer, on receiving the royal command, immediately
brought them, and having split them, there was found in each one a
ruby, one and all equally perfect in size and water. Raja Vibram
beholding such treasures was excessively pleased. Having sent for a
lapidary, he ordered him to examine the rubies, saying, "We cannot
take anything with us out of this world. Virtue is a noble quality to
possess here below—so tell justly what is the value of each of these
To so moral a speech the lapidary replied, " Maha-Raja[FN#36]!
thou hast said truly; whoever possesses virtue, possesses everything;
virtue indeed accompanies us always, and is of advantage in both
worlds. Hear, O great king! each gem is perfect in colour, quality and
beauty. If I were to say that the value of each was ten million
millions of suvarnas (gold pieces), even then thou couldst not
understand its real worth. In fact, each ruby would buy one of the
seven regions into which the earth is divided."
The king on hearing this was delighted, although his suspicions
were not satisfied; and, having bestowed a robe of honour upon the
lapidary, dismissed him. Thereon, taking the young merchant's hand,
he led him into the palace, seated him upon his own carpet in presence
of the court, and began to say, "My entire kingdom is not worth one of
these rubies: tell me how it is that thou who buyest and sellest hast
given me such and so many pearls?"
Mal Deo replied: "O great king, the speaking of matters like the
following in public is not right; these things—prayers, spells,
drugs, good qualities, household affairs, the eating of forbidden
food, and the evil we may have heard of our neighbour—should not be
discussed in full assembly. Privately I will disclose to thee my
wishes. This is the way of the world; when an affair comes to six
ears, it does not remain secret; if a matter is confided to four ears
it may escape further hearing; and if to two ears even Brahma the
Creator does not know it; how then can any rumour of it come to man?"
Having heard this speech, Raja Vikram took Mal Deo aside, and
began to ask him, saying, "O generous man! you have given me so many
rubies, and even for a single day you have not eaten food with me; I
am exceedingly ashamed, tell me what you desire."
"Raja," said the young merchant, "I am not Mal Deo, but Shanta-
Shil,[FN#37] a devotee. I am about to perform spells, incantations
and magical rites on the banks of the river Godavari, in a large
smashana, a cemetery where bodies are burned. By this means the Eight
Powers of Nature will all become mine. This thing I ask of you as
alms, that you and the young prince Dharma Dhwaj will pass one night
with me, doing my bidding. By you remaining near me my incantations
will be successful."
The valiant Vikram nearly started from his seat at the word
cemetery, but, like a ruler of men, he restrained his face from
expressing his feelings, and he presently replied, "Good, we will
come, tell us on what day!"
"You are to come to me," said the devotee, "armed, but without
followers, on the Monday evening the 14th of the dark half of the
month Bhadra.[FN#38]" The Raja said: "Do you go your ways, we will
certainly come." In this manner, having received a promise from the
king, and having taken leave, the devotee returned to his house:
thence he repaired to the temple, and having made preparations, and
taken all the necessary things, he went back into the cemetery and sat
down to his ceremonies.
The valiant Vikram, on the other hand, retired into an inner
apartment, to consult his own judgment about an adventure with which,
for fear of ridicule, he was unwilling to acquaint even the most
trustworthy of his ministers.
In due time came the evening moon's day, the 14th of the dark half
of the month Bhadra. As the short twilight fell gloomily on earth,
the warrior king accompanied by his son, with turband-ends tied under
their chins, and with trusty blades tucked under their arms ready for
foes, human, bestial, or devilish, slipped out unseen through the
palace wicket, and took the road leading to the cemetery on the river
Dark and drear was the night. Urged by the furious blast of the
lingering winter-rains, masses of bistre-coloured cloud, like the
forms of unwieldy beasts, rolled heavily over the firmament plain.
Whenever the crescent of the young moon, rising from an horizon sable
as the sad Tamala's hue,[FN#39] glanced upon the wayfarers, it was no
brighter than the fine tip of an elephant's tusk protruding from the
muddy wave. A heavy storm was impending; big drops fell in showers
from the forest trees as they groaned under the blast, and beneath the
gloomy avenue the clayey ground gleamed ghastly white. As the Raja and
his son advanced, a faint ray of light, like the line of pure gold
streaking the dark surface of the touchstone, caught their eyes, and
directed their footsteps towards the cemetery.
When Vikram came upon the open space on the riverbank where
corpses were burned, he hesitated for a moment to tread its impure
ground. But seeing his son undismayed, he advanced boldly, trampling
upon remnants of bones, and only covering his mouth with his
Presently, at the further extremity of the smashana, or burning
ground, appeared a group. By the lurid flames that flared and
flickered round the half-extinguished funeral pyres, with remnants of
their dreadful loads, Raja Vikram and Dharma Dhwaj could note the
several features of the ill-omened spot. There was an outer circle of
hideous bestial forms; tigers were roaring, and elephants were
trumpeting; wolves, whose foul hairy coats blazed with sparks of
bluish phosphoric light, were devouring the remnants of human bodies;
foxes, jackals, and hyenas were disputing over their prey; whilst
bears were chewing the livers of children. The space within was
peopled by a multitude of fiends. There were the subtle bodies of men
that had escaped their grosser frames prowling about the charnel
ground, where their corpses had been reduced to ashes, or hovering in
the air, waiting till the new bodies which they were to animate were
made ready for their reception. The spirits of those that had been
foully slain wandered about with gashed limbs; and skeletons, whose
mouldy bones were held together by bits of blackened sinew, followed
them as the murderer does his victim. Malignant witches with shriveled
skins, horrid eyes and distorted forms, crawled and crouched over the
earth; whilst spectres and goblins now stood motionless, and tall as
lofty palm trees; then, as if in fits, leaped, danced, and tumbled
before their evocator. The air was filled with shrill and strident
cries, with the fitful moaning of the storm-wind, with the hooting of
the owl, with the jackal's long wild cry, and with the hoarse gurgling
of the swollen river, from whose banks the earth-slip thundered in its
In the midst of all, close to the fire which lit up his evil
countenance, sat Shanta-Shil, the jogi, with the banner that denoted
his calling and his magic staff planted in the ground behind him. He
was clad in the ochre-coloured loin-wrap of his class; from his head
streamed long tangled locks of hair like horsehair; his black body was
striped with lines of chalk, and a girdle of thighbones encircled his
waist. His face was smeared with ashes from a funeral pyre, and his
eyes, fixed as those of a statue, gleamed from this mask with an
infernal light of hate. His cheeks were shaven, and he had not
forgotten to draw the horizontal sectarian mark. But this was of
blood; and Vikram, as he drew near saw that he was playing upon a
human skull with two shank bones, making music for the horrid revelry.
Now Raja Vibram, as has been shown by his encounter with Indra's
watchman, was a bold prince, and he was cautious as he was brave. The
sight of a human being in the midst of these terrors raised his
mettle; he determined to prove himself a hero, and feeling that the
critical moment was now come, he hoped to rid himself and his house
forever of the family curse that hovered over them.
For a moment he thought of the giant's words, "And remember that
it is lawful and right to strike off his head that would slay thee." A
stroke with his good sword might at once and effectually put an end
to the danger. But then he remembered that he had passed his royal
word to do the devotee's bidding that night. Besides, he felt assured
that the hour for action had not yet sounded.
These reflections having passed through his mind with the rapid
course of a star that has lost its honours,[FN#40] Vikram courteously
saluted Shanta-Shil. The jogi briefly replied, "Come sit down, both of
ye." The father and son took their places, by no means surprised or
frightened by the devil dances before and around them. Presently the
valiant Raja reminded the devotee that he was come to perform his
promise, and lastly asked, "What commands are there for us?"
The jogi replied, "O king, since you have come, just perform one
piece of business. About two kos[FN#41] hence, in a southerly
direction, there is another place where dead bodies are burned; and
in that place is a mimosa tree, on which a body is hanging. Bring it
to me immediately."
Raja Vikram took his son's hand, unwilling to leave him in such
company; and, catching up a fire-brand, went rapidly away in the
proper direction. He was now certain that Shanta-Shil was the
anchorite who, enraged by his father, had resolved his destruction;
and his uppermost thought was a firm resolve "to breakfast upon his
enemy, ere his enemy could dine upon him." He muttered this old saying
as he went, whilst the tom-toming of the anchorite upon the skull
resounded in his ears, and the devil-crowd, which had held its peace
during his meeting with Shanta-Shil, broke out again in an infernal
din of whoops and screams, yells and laughter.
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. Baleful gleams tipped the black
cones of the trees and fitfully scampered like fireflies over the
waste. Unclean goblins dogged the travellers 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
At length having passed over, somehow or other, a very difficult
road, the Raja arrived at the smashana, or burning place pointed out
by the jogi. Suddenly he sighted the tree where from root to top every
branch and leaf was in a blaze of crimson flame. And when he, still
dauntless, advanced towards it, a clamour continued to be raised, and
voices kept crying, "Kill them! kill them! seize them! seize them!
take care that they do not get away! let them scorch themselves to
cinders! let them suffer the pains of Patala.[FN#42]"
Far from being terrified by this state of things the valiant Raja
increased in boldness, seeing a prospect of an end to his adventure.
Approaching the tree he felt that the fire did not burn him, and so
he sat there for a while to observe the body, which hung, head
downwards, from a branch a little above him.
Its eyes, which were wide open, were of a greenish-brown, and
never twinkled; its hair also was brown,[FN#43] and brown was its
face—three several shades which, notwithstanding, approached one
another in an unpleasant way, as in an over-dried cocoa-nut. Its body
was thin and ribbed like a skeleton or a bamboo framework, and as it
held on to a bough, like a flying fox,[FN#44] by the toe- tips, its
drawn muscles stood out as if they were ropes of coin. Blood it
appeared to have none, or there would have been a decided
determination of that curious juice to the head; and as the Raja
handled its skin it felt icy cold and clammy as might a snake. The
only sign of life was the whisking of a ragged little tail much
resembling a goat's.
Judging from these signs the brave king at once determined the
creature to be a Baital—a Vampire. For a short time he was puzzled
to reconcile the appearance with the words of the giant, who informed
him that the anchorite had hung the oilman's son to a tree. But soon
he explained to himself the difficulty, remembering the exceeding
cunning of jogis and other reverend men, and determining that his
enemy, the better to deceive him, had doubtless altered the shape and
form of the young oilman's body.
With this idea, Vikram was pleased, saying, "My trouble has been
productive of fruit." Remained the task of carrying the Vampire to
Shanta-Shil the devotee. Having taken his sword, the Raja fearlessly
climbed the tree, and ordering his son to stand away from below,
clutched the Vampire's hair with one hand, and with the other struck
such a blow of the sword, that the bough was cut and the thing fell
heavily upon the ground. Immediately on falling it gnashed its teeth
and began to utter a loud wailing cry like the screams of an infant in
pain. Vikram having heard the sound of its lamentations, was pleased,
and began to say to himself, "This devil must be alive." Then nimbly
sliding down the trunk, he made a captive of the body, and asked " Who
Scarcely, however, had the words passed the royal lips, when the
Vampire slipped through the fingers like a worm, and uttering a loud
shout of laughter, rose in the air with its legs uppermost, and as
before suspended itself by its toes to another bough. And there it
swung to and fro, moved by the violence of its cachinnation.
"Decidedly this is the young oilman!" exclaimed the Raja, after he
had stood for a minute or two with mouth open, gazing upwards and
wondering what he should do next. Presently he directed Dharma Dhwaj
not to lose an instant in laying hands upon the thing when it next
might touch the ground, and then he again swarmed up the tree. Having
reached his former position, he once more seized the Baital's hair,
and with all the force of his arms—for he was beginning to feel
really angry—he tore it from its hold and dashed it to the ground,
saying, "O wretch, tell me who thou art?"
Then, as before, the Raja slid deftly down the trunk, and hurried
to the aid of his son, who in obedience to orders, had fixed his grasp
upon the Vampire's neck. Then, too, as before, the Vampire, laughing
aloud, slipped through their fingers and returned to its
To fail twice was too much for Raja Vikram's temper, which was
right kingly and somewhat hot. This time he bade his son strike the
Baital's head with his sword. Then, more like a wounded bear of
Himalaya than a prince who had established an era, he hurried up the
tree, and directed a furious blow with his sabre at the Vampire's lean
and calfless legs. The violence of the stroke made its toes loose
their hold of the bough, and when it touched the ground, Dharma
Dhwaj's blade fell heavily upon its matted brown hair. But the blows
appeared to have lighted on iron-wood—to judge at least from the
behaviour of the Baital, who no sooner heard the question, "O wretch,
who art thou?" than it returned in loud glee and merriment to its old
Five mortal times did Raja Vikram repeat this profitless labour.
But so far from losing heart, he quite entered into the spirit of the
adventure. Indeed he would have continued climbing up that tree and
taking that corpse under his arm—he found his sword useless— and
bringing it down, and asking it who it was, and seeing it slip through
his fingers, six times sixty times, or till the end of the fourth and
present age,[FN#45] had such extreme resolution been required.
However, it was not necessary. On the seventh time of falling, the
Baital, instead of eluding its capturer's grasp, allowed itself to be
seized, merely remarking that "even the gods cannot resist a
thoroughly obstinate man."[FN#46] And seeing that the stranger, for
the better protection of his prize, had stripped off his waistcloth
and was making it into a bag, the Vampire thought proper to seek the
most favourable conditions for himself, and asked his conqueror who he
was, and what he was about to do?
"Vile wretch," replied the breathless hero, "know me to be Vikram
the Great, Raja of Ujjayani, and I bear thee to a man who is amusing
himself by drumming to devils on a skull."
"Remember the old saying, mighty Vikram!" said the Baital, with a
sneer, "that many a tongue has cut many a throat. I have yielded to
thy resolution and I am about to accompany thee, bound to thy back
like a beggar's wallet. But hearken to my words, ere we set out upon
the way. I am of a loquacious disposition, and it is well nigh an
hour's walk between this tree and the place where thy friend sits,
favouring his friends with the peculiar music which they love.
Therefore, I shall try to distract my thoughts, which otherwise might
not be of the most pleasing nature, by means of sprightly tales and
profitable reflections. Sages and men of sense spend their days in the
delights of light and heavy literature, whereas dolts and fools waste
time in sleep and idleness. And I purpose to ask thee a number of
questions, concerning which we will, if it seems fit to thee, make
"Whenever thou answerest me, either compelled by Fate or entrapped
by my cunning into so doing, or thereby gratifying thy vanity and
conceit, I leave thee and return to my favourite place and position in
the siras-tree, but when thou shalt remain silent, confused, and at a
loss to reply, either through humility or thereby confessing thine
ignorance, and impotence, and want of comprehension, then will I allow
thee, of mine own free will, to place me before thine employer.
Perhaps I should not say so; it may sound like bribing thee, but—take
my counsel, and mortify thy pride, and assumption, and arrogance, and
haughtiness, as soon as possible. So shalt thou derive from me a
benefit which none but myself can bestow."
Raja Vikram hearing these rough words, so strange to his royal
ear, winced; then he rejoiced that his heir apparent was not near;
then he looked round at his son Dharma Dhwaj, to see if he was
impertinent enough to be amused by the Baital. But the first glance
showed him the young prince busily employed in pinching and screwing
the monster's legs, so as to make it fit better into the cloth. Vikram
then seized the ends of the waistcloth, twisted them into a convenient
form for handling, stooped, raised the bundle with a jerk, tossed it
over his shoulder, and bidding his son not to lag behind, set off at a
round pace towards the western end of the cemetery.
The shower had ceased, and, as they gained ground, the weather
The Vampire asked a few indifferent questions about the wind and
the rain and the mud. When he received no answer, he began to feel
uncomfortable, and he broke out with these words: "O King Vikram,
listen to the true story which I am about to tell thee."
[FN#1] Metamorphoseon, seu de Asino Aureo, libri Xl. The well
known and beautiful episode is in the fourth. the fifth, and the sixth
[FN#2] This ceremony will be explained in a future page.
[FN#3] A common exclamation of sorrow, surprise, fear, and other
emotions. It is especially used by women.
[FN#4] Quoted from view of the Hindoos, by William Ward, of
Serampore (vol. i. p. 25).
[FN#5] In Sanskrit, Vetala-pancha-Vinshati. "Baital" is the
modern form of " Vetala.
[FN#6] In Arabic, Badpai el Hakim.
[FN#7] Dictionnaire philosophique sub v. " Apocryphes."
[FN#8] I do not mean that rhymes were not known before the days
of Al-Islam, but that the Arabs popularized assonance and consonance
in Southern Europe.
[FN#9] "Vikrama" means "valour " or " prowess."
[FN#10] Mr. Ward of Serampore is unable to quote the names of more
than nine out of the eighteen, namely: Sanskrit, Prakrit, Naga,
Paisacha, Gandharba, Rakshasa, Ardhamagadi, Apa, and Guhyaka —most
of them being the languages of different orders of fabulous beings. He
tells us, however, that an account of these dialects may be found in
the work called Pingala.
[FN#11] Translated by Sir Wm. Jones, 1789; and by Professor
[FN#12] Translated by Professor H. H. Wilson.
[FN#13] The time was propitious to savans. Whilst Vikramaditya
lived, Magha, another king, caused to be written a poem called after
his name For each verse he is said to have paid to learned men a gold
piece, which amounted to a total of 5,280l.—a large sum in those
days, which preceded those of Paradise Lost. About the same period
Karnata, a third king, was famed for patronizing the learned men who
rose to honour at Vikram's court. Dhavaka, a poet of nearly the same
period, received from King Shriharsha the magnificent present of
10,000l. for a poem called the Ratna-Mala.
[FN#14] Lieut. Wilford supports the theory that there were eight
Vikramadityas, the last of whom established the era. For further
particulars, the curious reader will consult Lassen's Anthologia, and
Professor H. H. Wilson's Essay on Vikram (New), As. Red.. ix. 117.
[FN#15] History tells us another tale. The god Indra and the King
of Dhara gave the kingdom to Bhartari-hari, another son of
Gandhar-ba-Sena, by a handmaiden. For some time, the brothers lived
together; but presently they quarrelled. Vikram being dismissed from
court, wandered from place to place in abject poverty, and at one time
hired himself as a servant to a merchant living in Guzerat. At length,
Bhartari-hari, disgusted with the world on account of the infidelity
of his wife, to whom he was ardently attached, became a religious
devotee, and left the kingdom to its fate. In the course of his
travels, Vikram came to Ujjayani, and finding it without a head,
assumed the sovereignty. He reigned with great splendour, conquering
by his arms Utkala, Vanga, Kuch-bahar, Guzerat, Somnat, Delhi, and
other places; until, in his turn, he was conquered, and slain by
[FN#16] The words are found, says Mr. Ward, in the Hindu History
compiled by Mrityungaya.
[FN#17] These duties of kings are thus laid down in the
Rajtarangini. It is evident, as Professor H. H. Wilson says, that the
royal status was by no means a sinecure. But the rules are evidently
the closet work of some pedantic, dogmatic Brahman, teaching kingcraft
to kings. He directs his instructions, not to subordinate judges, but
to the Raja as the chief magistrate, and through him to all appointed
for the administration of his justice.
[FN#18] Lunus, not Luna.
[FN#19] That is to say, "upon an empty stomach."
[FN#20] There are three sandhyas amongst the Hindus—morning,
mid-day, and sunset; and all three are times for prayer.
[FN#21] The Hindu Cupid.
[FN#22] Patali, the regions beneath the earth.
[FN#23] The Hindu Triad.
[FN#24] Or Avanti, also called Padmavati. It is the first meridian
of the Hindus, who found their longitude by observation of lunar
eclipses, calculated for it and Lanka, or Ceylon. The clepsydra was
used for taking time.
[FN#25] In the original only the husband ''practiced austere
devotion." For the benefit of those amongst whom the "pious wife" is
an institution, I have extended the privilege.
[FN#26] A Moslem would say, "This is our fate." A Hindu refers at
once to metempsychosis, as naturally as a modern Swedenborgian to
[FN#27] In Europe, money buys this world, and delivers you from
the pains of purgatory; amongst the Hindus, it furthermore opens the
gate of heaven.
[FN#28] This part of the introduction will remind the reader of
the two royal brothers and their false wives in the introduction to
the Arabian Nights. The fate of Bhartari Raja, however, is historical.
[FN#29] In the original, "Div"—a supernatural being god, or
demon. This part of the plot is variously told. According to some,
Raja Vikram was surprised, when entering the city to see a grand
procession at the house of a potter and a boy being carried off on an
elephant to the violent grief of his parents The King inquired the
reason of their sorrow, and was told that the wicked Div that guarded
the city was in the habit of eating a citizen per diem. Whereupon the
valorous Raja caused the boy to dismount; took his place; entered the
palace; and, when presented as food for the demon, displayed his
pugilistic powers in a way to excite the monsters admiration.
[FN#30] In India, there is still a monastic order the pleasant
duty of whose members is to enjoy themselves as much as possible. It
has been much the same in Europe. "Representez-vous le convent de
l'Escurial ou du Mont Cassin, ou les cenobites ont toutes sortes de
commodities, necessaires, utiles, delectables. superflues,
surabondantes, puisqu'ils ont les cent cinquante mille, les quatre
cent mille, les cinq cent mille ecus de rente; et jugez si monsieur
l'abbe a de quoi laisser dormir la meridienne a ceux qui
voudront."—Saint Augustin, de l'Ouvrage des Moines, by Le Camus,
Bishop of Belley, quoted by Voltaire, Dict. Phil., sub v.
[FN#31] This form of matrimony was recognized by the ancient
Hindus, and is frequent in books. It is a kind of Scotch wedding—
ultra-Caledonian—taking place by mutual consent, without any form or
ceremony. The Gandharbas are heavenly minstrels of Indra's court, who
are supposed to be witnesses.
[FN#32] The Hindu Saturnalia.
[FN#33] The powders are of wheaten flour, mixed with wild
ginger-root, sappan-wood, and other ingredients. Sometimes the stuff
is thrown in syringes.
[FN#34] The Persian proverb is— "Bala e tavilah bar sat i
maimun": "The woes of the stable be on the monkey's head!" In some
Moslem countries a hog acts prophylactic. Hence probably Mungo Park's
troublesome pig at Ludamar.
[FN#35] So the moribund father of the "babes in the wood"
lectures his wicked brother, their guardian:
"To God and you I recommend
My children deare this day:
But little while, be sure, we have
Within this world to stay."
But, to appeal to the moral sense of a goldsmith!
[FN#36] Maha (great) raja (king): common address even to those
who are not royal.
[FN#37] The name means. "Quietistic Disposition."
[FN#38] August. In the solar-lunar year of the Hindu the months
are divided into fortnights—light and dark.
[FN#39] A flower, whose name frequently occurs in Sanskrit
[FN#40] The stars being men's souls raised to the sky for a time
pro portioned to their virtuous deeds on earth.
[FN#41] A measure of length, each two miles.
[FN#42] The warm region below.
[FN#43] Hindus admire only glossy black hair; the "bonny brown
hair" loved by our ballads is assigned by them to low-caste men,
witches, and fiends.
[FN#44] A large kind of bat; a popular and silly Anglo-Indian
name. It almost justified the irate Scotchman in calling "prodigious
leears" those who told him in India that foxes flew and tress were
tapped for toddy.
[FN#45] The Hindus, like the European classics and other ancient
peoples, reckon four ages:—The Satya Yug, or Golden Age, numbered
1,728,000 years: the second, or Treta Yug, comprised 1,296,000; the
Dwapar Yug had 864,000 and the present, the Kali Yug, has shrunk to
[FN#46] Especially alluding to prayer. On this point, Southey
justly remarks (Preface to Curse of Kehama): "In the religion of the
Hindoos there is one remarkable peculiarity. Prayers, penances, and
sacrifices are supposed to possess an inherent and actual value, in
one degree depending upon the disposition or motive of the person who
performs them. They are drafts upon heaven for which the gods cannot
refuse payment. The worst men, bent upon the worst designs, have in
this manner obtained power which has made them formidable to the
supreme deities themselves." Moreover, the Hindu gods hear the prayers
of those who desire the evil of others. Hence when a rich man becomes
poor, his friends say, "See how sharp are men's teeth!" and, "He is
ruined because others could not bear to see his happiness!"
At Raja Vikram's silence the Baital was greatly surprised, and he
praised the royal courage and resolution to the skies. Still he did
not give up the contest at once.
"Allow me, great king," pursued the Demon, in a dry tone of voice,
"to wish you joy. After so many failures you have at length succeeded
in repressing your loquacity. I will not stop to enquire whether it
was humility and self-restraint which prevented your answering my last
question, or whether Rajait was mere ignorance and inability. Of
course I suspect the latter, but to say the truth your condescension
in at last taking a Vampire's advice, flatters me so much, that I will
not look too narrowly into cause or motive."
Raja Vikram winced, but maintained a stubborn silence, squeezing
his lips lest they should open involuntarily.
"Now, however, your majesty has mortified, we will suppose, a
somewhat exacting vanity, I also will in my turn forego the pleasure
which I had anticipated in seeing you a corpse and in entering your
royal body for a short time, just to know how queer it must feel to be
a king. And what is more, I will now perform my original promise, and
you shall derive from me a benefit which none but myself can bestow.
First, however, allow me to ask you, will you let me have a little
Dharma Dhwaj pulled his father's sleeve, but this time Raja Vikram
required no reminder: wild horses or the executioner's saw, beginning
at the shoulder, would not have drawn a word from him. Observing his
obstinate silence, the Baital, with an ominous smile, continued:
"Now give ear, O warrior king, to what I am about to tell thee, and
bear in mind the giant's saying, 'A man is justified in killing one
who has a design to kill him.' The young merchant Mal Deo, who placed
such magnificent presents at your royal feet, and Shanta-Shil the
devotee saint, who works his spells, incantations, and magical rites
in a cemetery on the banks of the Godaveri river, are, as thou
knowest, one person—the terrible Jogi, whose wrath your father
aroused in his folly, and whose revenge your blood alone can satisfy.
With regard to myself, the oilman's son, the same Jogi, fearing lest I
might interfere with his projects of universal dominion, slew me by
the power of his penance, and has kept me suspended, a trap for you,
head downwards from the sires-tree.
"That Jogi it was, you now know, who sent you to fetch me back to
him on your back. And when you cast me at his feet he will return
thanks to you and praise your velour, perseverance and resolution to
the skies. I warn you to beware. He will lead you to the shrine of
Durga, and when he has finished his adoration he will say to you, 'O
great king, salute my deity with the eightlimbed reverence.' "
Here the Vampire whispered for a time and in a low tone, lest some
listening goblin might carry his words if spoken out loud to the ears
of the devotee Shanta-Shil.
At the end of the monologue a rustling sound was heard. It
proceeded from the Baital, who was disengaging himself from the dead
body in the bundle, and the burden became sensibly lighter upon the
The departing Baital, however, did not forget to bid farewell to
the warrior king and to his son. He complimented the former for the
last time, in his own way, upon the royal humility and the prodigious
self-mortification which he had displayed—qualities, he remarked,
which never failed to ensure the proprietor's success in all the
Raja Vikram stepped out joyfully, and soon reached the burning
ground. There he found the Jogi, dressed in his usual habit, a
deerskin thrown over his back, and twisted reeds instead of a garment
hanging round his loins. The hair had fallen from his limbs and his
skin was bleached ghastly white by exposure to the elements. A fire
seemed to proceed from his mouth, and the matted locks dropping from
his head to the ground were changed by the rays of the sun to the
colour of gold or saffron. He had the beard of a goat and the
ornaments of a king; his shoulders were high and his arms long,
reaching to his knees: his nails grew to such a length as to curl
round the ends of his fingers, and his feet resembled those of a
tiger. He was drumming upon a skull, and incessantly exclaiming, "Ho,
Kali! ho, Durga! ho, Devi!"
As before, strange beings were holding their carnival in the Jogi's
presence. Monstrous Asuras, giant goblins, stood grimly gazing upon
the scene with fixed eyes and motionless features. Rakshasas and
messengers of Yama, fierce and hideous, assumed at pleasure the shapes
of foul and ferocious beasts. Nagas and Bhutas, partly human and
partly bestial, disported themselves in throngs about the upper air,
and were dimly seen in the faint light of the dawn. Mighty Daityas,
Bramba-daityas, and Pretas, the size of a man's thumb, or dried up
like leaves, and Pisachas of terrible power guarded the place. There
were enormous goats, vivified by the spirits of those who had slain
Brahmans; things with the bodies of men and the faces of horses,
camels and monkeys; hideous worms containing the souls of those
priests who had drunk spirituous liquors; men with one leg and one
ear, and mischievous blood-sucking demons, who in life had stolen
church property. There were vultures, wretches that had violated the
beds of their spiritual fathers, restless ghosts that had loved
low-caste women, shades for whom funeral rites had not been performed,
and who could not cross the dread Vaitarani stream,[FN#188] and vital
souls fresh from the horrors of Tamisra, or utter darkness, and the
Usipatra Vana, or the sword-leaved forest. Pale spirits, Alayas,
Gumas, Baitals, and Yakshas,[FN#189] beings of a base and vulgar
order, glided over the ground, amongst corpses and skeletons animated
by female fiends, Dakinis, Yoginis, Hakinis, and Shankinis, which were
dancing in frightful revelry. The air was filled with supernatural
sights and sounds, cries of owls and jackals, cats and crows, dogs,
asses, and vultures, high above which rose the clashing of the bones
with which the Jogi sat drumming upon the skull before him, and
tending a huge cauldron of oil whose smoke was of blue fire. But as he
raised his long lank arm, silver-white with ashes, the demons fled,
and a momentary silence succeeded to their uproar. The tigers ceased
to roar and the elephants to scream; the bears raised their snouts
from their foul banquets, and the wolves dropped from their jaws the
remnants of human flesh. And when they disappeared, the hooting of the
owl, and ghastly "ha! ha!" of the curlew, and the howling of the
jackal died away in the far distance, leaving a silence still more
As Raja Vikram entered the burning-ground, the hollow sound of
solitude alone met his ear. Sadly wailed the wet autumnal blast. The
tall gaunt trees groaned aloud, and bowed and trembled like slaves
bending before their masters. Huge purple clouds and patches and lines
of glaring white mist coursed furiously across the black expanse of
firmament, discharging threads and chains and lozenges and balls of
white and blue, purple and pink lightning, followed by the deafening
crash and roll of thunder, the dreadful roaring of the mighty wind,
and the torrents of plashing rain. At times was heard in the distance
the dull gurgling of the swollen river, interrupted by explosions, as
slips of earth-bank fell headlong into the stream. But once more the
Jogi raised his arm and all was still: nature lay breathless, as if
awaiting the effect of his tremendous spells.
The warrior king drew near the terrible man, unstrung his bundle
from his back, untwisted the portion which he held, threw open the
cloth, and exposed to Shanta-Shil's glittering eyes the corpse, which
had now recovered its proper form—that of a young child. Seeing it,
the devotee was highly pleased, and thanked Vikram the Brave,
extolling his courage and daring above any monarch that had yet lived.
After which he repeated certain charms facing towards the south,
awakened the dead body, and placed it in a sitting position. He then
in its presence sacrificed to his goddess, the White One,[FN#190] all
that he had ready by his side—betel leaf and flowers, sandal wood and
unbroken rice, fruits, perfumes, and the flesh of man untouched by
steel. Lastly, he half filled his skull with burning embers, blew upon
them till they shot forth tongues of crimson light, serving as a lamp,
and motioning the Raja and his son to follow him, led the way to a
little fane of the Destroying Deity erected in a dark clump of wood,
outside and close to the burning ground.
They passed through the quadrangular outer court of the temple
whose piazza was hung with deep shade.[FN#191] In silence they
circumambulated the small central shrine, and whenever Shanta-Shil
directed, Raja Vikram entered the Sabha, or vestibule, and struck
three times upon the gong, which gave forth a loud and warning sound.
They then passed over the threshold, and looked into the gloomy
inner depths. There stood Smashana-Kali,[FN#192] the goddess, in her
most horrid form. She was a naked and very black woman, with
half-severed head, partly cut and partly painted, resting on her
shoulder; and her tongue lolled out from her wide yawning
mouth[FN#193]; her eyes were red like those of a drunkard; and her
eyebrows were of the same colour: her thick coarse hair hung like a
mantle to her heels. She was robed in an elephant's hide, dried and
withered, confined at the waist with a belt composed of the hands of
the giants whom she had slain in war: two dead bodies formed her
earrings, and her necklace was of bleached skulls. Her four arms
supported a scimitar, a noose, a trident, and a ponderous mace. She
stood with one leg on the breast of her husband, Shiva, and she rested
the other on his thigh. Before the idol lay the utensils of worship,
namely, dishes for the offerings, lamps, jugs, incense, copper cups,
conches and gongs; and all of them smelt of blood.
As Raja Vikram and his son stood gazing upon the hideous
spectacle, the devotee stooped down to place his skull-lamp upon the
ground, and drew from out his ochre-coloured cloth a sharp sword which
he hid behind his back.
"Prosperity to shine and thy son's for ever and ever, O mighty
Vikram!" exclaimed Shanta-Shil, after he had muttered a prayer before
the image. "Verily thou hast right royally redeemed thy pledge, and by
the virtue of thy presence all my wishes shall presently be
accomplished. Behold! the Sun is about to drive his car over the
eastern hills, and our task now ends. Do thou reverence before this my
deity, worshipping the earth through thy nose, and so prostrating
thyself that thy eight limbs may touch the ground.[FN#194] Thus shall
thy glory and splendour be great; the Eight Powers[FN#195] and the
Nine Treasures shall be thine, and prosperity shall ever remain under
Raja Vikram, hearing these words, recalled suddenly to mind all
that the Vampire had whispered to him. He brought his joined hands
open up to his forehead, caused his two thumbs to touch his brow
several times, and replied with the greatest humility,
"O pious person! I am a king ignorant of the way to do such
obeisance. Thou art a spiritual preceptor: be pleased to teach me and
I will do even as thou desirest."
Then the Jogi, being a cunning man, fell into his own net. As he
bent him down to salute the goddess, Vikram, drawing his sword,
struck him upon the neck so violent a blow, that his head rolled from
his body upon the ground. At the same moment Dharma Dhwaj, seizing his
father's arm, pulled him out of the way in time to escape being
crushed by the image, which fell with the sound of thunder upon the
floor of the temple.
A small thin voice in the upper air was heard to cry, "A man is
justified in killing one who has the desire to kill him." Then glad
shouts of triumph and victory were heard in all directions. They
proceeded from the celestial choristers, the heavenly dancers, the
mistresses of the gods, and the nymphs of Indra's Paradise, who left
their beds of gold and precious stones, their seats glorious as the
meridian sun, their canals of crystal water, their perfumed groves,
and their gardens where the wind ever blows in softest breezes, to
applaud the velour and good fortune of the warrior king.
At last the brilliant god, Indra himself, with the thousand eyes,
rising from the shade of the Parigat tree, the fragrance of whose
flowers fills the heavens, appeared in his car drawn by yellow steeds
and cleaving the thick vapours which surround the earth— whilst his
attendants sounded the heavenly drums and rained a shower of blossoms
and perfumes—bade the Vikramajit the Brave ask a boon.
The Raja joined his hands and respectfully replied,
"O mighty ruler of the lower firmament, let this my history become
famous throughout the world!"
"It is well," rejoined the god. "As long as the sun and moon
endure, and the sky looks down upon the ground, so long shall this
thy adventure be remembered over all the earth. Meanwhile rule thou
Thus saying, Indra retired to the delicious Amrawati[FN#196]
Vikram took up the corpses and threw them into the cauldron which
Shanta-Shil had been tending. At once two heroes started into life,
and Vikram said to them, "When I call you, come!"
With these mysterious words the king, followed by his son,
returned to the palace unmolested. As the Vampire had predicted,
everything was prosperous to him, and he presently obtained the
remarkable titles, Sakaro, or foe of the Sakas, and
And when, after a long and happy life spent in bringing the world
under the shadow of one umbrella, and in ruling it free from care,
the warrior king Vikram entered the gloomy realms of Yama, from whom
for mortals there is no escape, he left behind him a name that endured
amongst men like the odour of the flower whose memory remains long
after its form has mingled with the dust.[FN#197]
[FN#188] The Hindu Styx.
[FN#189] From Yaksha, to eat; as Rakshasas are from Raksha, to
preserve.—See Hardy's Manual of Buddhism, p. 57.
[FN#190] Shiva is always painted white, no one knows why. His
wife Gauri has also a European complexion. Hence it is generally said
that the sect popularly called "Thugs," who were worshippers of these
murderous gods. spared Englishmen, the latter being supposed to have
some rapport with their deities.
[FN#191] The Hindu shrine is mostly a small building, with two
inner compartments. the vestibule and the Garbagriha, or adytum, in
which stands the image.
[FN#192] Meaning Kali of the cemetery (Smashana); another form of
[FN#193] Not being able to find victims, this pleasant deity, to
satisfy her thirst for the curious juice, cut her own throat that the
blood might spout up into her mouth. She once found herself dancing
on her husband, and was so shocked that in surprise she put out her
tongue to a great length, and remained motionless. She is often
represented in this form.
[FN#194] This ashtanga, the most ceremonious of the five forms of
Hindu salutation, consists of prostrating and of making the eight
parts of the body—namely, the temples, nose and chin, knees and
hands— touch the ground.
[FN#195] "Sidhis," the personified Powers of Nature. At least, so
we explain them: but people do not worship abstract powers.
[FN#196] The residence of Indra, king of heaven, built by Wishwa-
Karma, the architect of the gods.
[FN#197] In other words, to the present day, whenever a Hindu
novelist, romancer, or tale writer seeks a peg upon which to suspend
the texture of his story, he invariably pitches upon the glorious,
pious, and immortal memory of that Eastern King Arthur, Vikramaditya,
shortly called Vikram.
THE VAMPIRE'S FIRST STORY. In which
a man deceives a woman.