Vikram and the Vampire by Sir Richard F. Burton Preface
THE VAMPIRE'S NINTH STORY.
That a Man's Wife Belongs Not to His Body but to His Head.
Far and wide through the lovely land overrun by the Arya from the
Western Highlands spread the fame of Unmadini, the beautiful daughter
of Haridas the Brahman. In the numberless odes, sonnets, and acrostics
addressed to her by a hundred Pandits and poets her charms were sung
with prodigious triteness. Her presence was compared to light shining
in a dark house; her face to the full moon; her complexion to the
yellow champaka flower; her curls to female snakes; her eyes to those
of the deer; her eyebrows to bent bows; her teeth to strings of little
opals; her feet to rubies and red gems,[FN#153] and her gait to that
of the wild goose. And none forgot to say that her voice affected the
author like the song of the kokila bird, sounding from the shadowy
brake, when the breeze blows coolly, or that the fairy beings of
Indra's heaven would have shrunk away abashed at her loveliness.
But, Raja Vikram! all the poets failed to win the fair Unmadini's
love. To praise the beauty of a beauty is not to praise her. Extol her
wit and talents, which has the zest of novelty, then you may succeed.
For the same reason, read inversely, the plainer and cleverer is the
bosom you would fire, the more personal you must be upon the subject
of its grace and loveliness. Flattery you know, is ever the match
which kindles the Flame of love. True it is that some by roughness of
demeanour and bluntness in speech, contrasting with those whom they
call the "herd," have the art to succeed in the service of the
bodyless god.[FN#154] But even they must—
The young prince Dharma Dhwaj could not help laughing at the
thought of how this must sound in his father's ear. And the Raja
hearing the ill-timed merriment, sternly ordered the Baital to cease
his immoralities and to continue his story.
Thus the lovely Unmadini, conceiving an extreme contempt for poets
and literati, one day told her father who greatly loved her, that her
husband must be a fine young man who never wrote verses. Withal she
insisted strongly on mental qualities and science, being a person of
moderate mind and an adorer of talent— when not perverted to poetry.
As you may imagine, Raja Vikram, all the beauty's bosom friends,
seeing her refuse so many good offers, confidently predicted that she
would pass through the jungle and content herself with a bad stick, or
that she would lead ring-tailed apes in Patala.
At length when some time had elapsed, four suitors appeared from
four different countries, all of them claiming equal excellence in
youth and beauty, strength and understanding. And after paying their
respects to Haridas, and telling him their wishes, they were directed
to come early on the next morning and to enter upon the first
ordeal—an intellectual conversation.
This they did.
"Foolish the man," quoth the young Mahasani, "that seeks
permanence in this world—frail as the stem of the plantain-tree,
transient as the ocean foam.
"All that is high shall presently fall; all that is low must
"Unwillingly do the manes of the dead taste the tears shed by their
kinsmen: then wail not, but perform the funeral obsequies with
"What ill-omened fellow is this?" quoth the fair Unmadini, who was
sitting behind her curtain;" besides, he has dared to quote poetry!
"There was little chance of success for that suitor.
"She is called a good woman, and a woman of pure descent," quoth
the second suitor, "who serves him to whom her father and mother have
given her; and it is written in the scriptures that a woman who in the
lifetime of her husband, becoming a devotee, engages in fasting, and
in austere devotion, shortens his days, and hereafter falls into the
fire. For it is said—
"A woman's bliss is found not in the smile
Of father, mother, friend, nor in herself;
Her husband is her only portion here,
Her heaven hereafter."
The word "serve," which might mean "obey," was peculiarly
disagreeable to the fair one's ears, and she did not admire the check
so soon placed upon her devotion, or the decided language and manner
of the youth. She therefore mentally resolved never again to see that
person, whom she determined to be stupid as an elephant.
"A mother," said Gunakar, the third candidate, "protects her son in
babyhood, and a father when his offspring is growing up. But the man
of warrior descent defends his brethren at all times. Such is the
custom of the world, and such is my state. I dwell on the heads of the
Therefore those assembled together looked with great respect upon
the man of velour.
Devasharma, the fourth suitor, contented himself with listening to
the others, who fancied that he was overawed by their cleverness. And
when it came to his turn he simply remarked, "Silence is better than
speech." Being further pressed, he said, "A wise man will not proclaim
his age, nor a deception practiced upon himself, nor his riches, nor
the loss of riches, nor family faults, nor incantations, nor conjugal
love, nor medicinal prescriptions, nor religious duties, nor gifts,
nor reproach, nor the infidelity of his wife."
Thus ended the first trial. The master of the house dismissed the
two former speakers, with many polite expressions and some trifling
presents. Then having given betel to them, scented their garments with
attar, and sprinkled rose-water over their heads, he accompanied them
to the door, showing much regret. The two latter speakers he begged to
come on the next day.
Gunakar and Devasharma did not fail. When they entered the
assembly-room and took the seats pointed out to them, the father
said, "Be ye pleased to explain and make manifest the effects of your
mental qualities. So shall I judge of them."
"I have made," said Gunakar, "a four-wheeled carriage, in which
the power resides to carry you in a moment wherever you may purpose
"I have such power over the angel of death," said Devasharma,
"that I can at all times raise a corpse, and enable my friends to do
Now tell me by thy brains, O warrior King Vikram, which of these
two youths was the fitter husband for the maid?
Either the Raja could not answer the question, or perhaps he would
not, being determined to break the spell which had already kept him
walking to and fro for so many hours. Then the Baital, who had paused
to let his royal carrier commit himself, seeing that the attempt had
failed, proceeded without making any further comment.
The beautiful Unmadini was brought out, but she hung down her head
and made no reply. Yet she took care to move both her eyes in the
direction of Devasharma. Whereupon Haridas, quoting the proverb that
"pearls string with pearls," formally betrothed to him his daughter.
The soldier suitor twisted the ends of his mustachios into his eyes,
which were red with wrath, and fumbled with his fingers about the
hilt of his sword. But he was a man of noble birth, and presently his
anger passed away.
Mahasani the poet, however, being a shameless person—and when can
we be safe from such?—forced himself into the assembly and began to
rage and to storm, and to quote proverbs in a loud tone of voice. He
remarked that in this world women are a mine of grief, a poisonous
root, the abode of solicitude, the destroyers of resolution, the
occasioners of fascination, and the plunderers of all virtuous
qualities. From the daughter he passed to the father, and after saying
hard things of him as a "Maha-Brahman,"[FN#155] who took cows and gold
and worshipped a monkey, he fell with a sweeping censure upon all
priests and sons of priests, more especially Devasharma. As the
bystanders remonstrated with him, he became more violent, and when
Haridas, who was a weak man, appeared terrified by his voice, look,
and gesture, he swore a solemn oath that despite all the betrothals in
the world, unless Unmadini became his wife he would commit suicide,
and as a demon haunt the house and injure the inmates.
Gunakar the soldier exhorted this shameless poet to slay himself at
once, and to go where he pleased. But as Haridas reproved the warrior
for inhumanity, Mahasani nerved by spite, love, rage, and perversity
to an heroic death, drew a noose from his bosom, rushed out of the
house, and suspended himself to the nearest tree.
And, true enough, as the midnight gong struck, he appeared in the
form of a gigantic and malignant Rakshasa (fiend), dreadfully
frightened the household of Haridas, and carried off the lovely
Unmadini, leaving word that she was to he found on the topmost peak
The unhappy father hastened to the house where Devasharma lived.
There, weeping bitterly and wringing his hands in despair, he told the
terrible tale, and besought his intended son-in-law to be up and
The young Brahman at once sought his late rival, and asked his
aid. This the soldier granted at once, although he had been nettled
at being conquered in love by a priestling.
The carriage was at once made ready, and the suitors set out,
bidding the father be of good cheer, and that before sunset he should
embrace his daughter. They then entered the vehicle; Gunakar with
cabalistic words caused it to rise high in the air, and Devasharma put
to flight the demon by reciting the sacred verse,[FN#156] "Let us
meditate on the supreme splendour (or adorable light) of that Divine
Ruler (the sun) who may illuminate our understandings. Venerable men,
guided by the intelligence, salute the divine sun (Sarvitri) with
oblations and praise. Om!"
Then they returned with the girl to the house, and Haridas blessed
them, praising the sun aloud in the joy of his heart. Lest other
accidents might happen, he chose an auspicious planetary conjunction,
and at a fortunate moment rubbed turmeric upon his daughter's hands.
The wedding was splendid, and broke the hearts of twenty-four
rivals. In due time Devasharma asked leave from his father-in-law to
revisit his home, and to carry with him his bride. This request being
granted, he set out accompanied by Gunakar the soldier, who swore not
to leave the couple before seeing them safe under their own roof-tree.
It so happened that their road lay over the summits of the wild
Vindhya hills, where dangers of all kinds are as thick as shells upon
the shore of the deep. Here were rocks and jagged precipices making
the traveller's brain whirl when he looked into them. There impetuous
torrents roared and flashed down their beds of black stone,
threatening destruction to those who would cross them. Now the path
was lost in the matted thorny underwood and the pitchy shades of the
jungle, deep and dark as the valley of death. Then the thunder-cloud
licked the earth with its fiery tongue, and its voice shook the crags
and filled their hollow caves. At times, the sun was so hot, that wild
birds fell dead from the air. And at every moment the wayfarers heard
the trumpeting of giant elephants, the fierce howling of the tiger,
the grisly laugh of the foul hyaena, and the whimpering of the wild
dogs as they coursed by on the tracks of their prey.
Yet, sustained by the five-armed god[FN#157] the little party
passed safely through all these dangers. They had almost emerged from
the damp glooms of the forest into the open plains which skirt the
southern base of the hills, when one night the fair Unmadini saw a
She beheld herself wading through a sluggish pool of muddy water,
which rippled, curdling as she stepped into it, and which, as she
advanced, darkened with the slime raised by her feet. She was bearing
in her arms the semblance of a sick child, which struggled
convulsively and filled the air with dismal wails. These cries seemed
to be answered by a multitude of other children, some bloated like
toads, others mere skeletons lying upon the bank, or floating upon the
thick brown waters of the pond. And all seemed to address their cries
to her, as if she were the cause of their weeping; nor could all her
efforts quiet or console them for a moment.
When the bride awoke, she related all the particulars of her
ill-omened vision to her husband; and the latter, after a short
pause, informed her and his friend that a terrible calamity was about
to befall them. He then drew from his travelling wallet a skein of
thread. This he divided into three parts, one for each, and told his
companions that in case of grievous bodily injury, the bit of thread
wound round the wounded part would instantly make it whole. After
which he taught them the Mantra,[FN#158] or mystical word by which the
lives of men are restored to their bodies, even when they have taken
their allotted places amongst the stars, and which for evident reasons
I do not want to repeat. It concluded, however, with the three
Vyahritis, or sacred syllables— Bhuh, Bhuvah, Svar!
Raja Vikram was perhaps a little disappointed by this declaration.
He made no remark, however, and the Baital thus pursued:
As Devasharma foretold, an accident of a terrible nature did occur.
On the evening of that day, as they emerged upon the plain, they were
attacked by the Kiratas, or savage tribes of the mountain.[FN#159] A
small, black, wiry figure, armed with a bow and little cane arrows,
stood in their way, signifying by gestures that they must halt and lay
down their arms. As they continued to advance, he began to speak with
a shrill chattering, like the note of an affrighted bird, his restless
red eyes glared with rage, and he waved his weapon furiously round his
head. Then from the rocks and thickets on both sides of the path
poured a shower of shafts upon the three strangers.
The unequal combat did not last long. Gunakar, the soldier,
wielded his strong right arm with fatal effect and struck down some
threescore of the foes. But new swarms came on like angry hornets
buzzing round the destroyer of their nests. And when he fell,
Devasharma, who had left him for a moment to hide his beautiful wife
in the hollow of a tree, returned, and stood fighting over the body of
his friend till he also, overpowered by numbers, was thrown to the
ground. Then the wild men, drawing their knives, cut off the heads of
their helpless enemies, stripped their bodies of all their ornaments,
and departed, leaving the woman unharmed for good luck.
When Unmadini, who had been more dead than alive during the
affray, found silence succeed to the horrid din of shrieks and
shouts, she ventured to creep out of her refuge in the hollow tree.
And what does she behold? her husband and his friend are lying upon
the ground, with their heads at a short distance from their bodies.
She sat down and wept bitterly.
Presently, remembering the lesson which she had learned that very
morning, she drew forth from her bosom the bit of thread and
proceeded to use it. She approached the heads to the bodies, and tied
some of the magic string round each neck. But the shades of evening
were fast deepening, and in her agitation, confusion and terror, she
made a curious mistake by applying the heads to the wrong trunks.
After which, she again sat down, and having recited her prayers, she
pronounced, as her husband had taught her, the life-giving
In a moment the dead men were made alive. They opened their eyes,
shook themselves, sat up and handled their limbs as if to feel that
all was right. But something or other appeared to them all wrong. They
placed their palms upon their foreheads, and looked downwards, and
started to their feet and began to stare at their hands and legs. Upon
which they scrutinized the very scanty articles of dress which the
wild men had left upon them, and lastly one began to eye the other
with curious puzzled looks.
The wife, attributing their gestures to the confusion which one
might expect to find in the brains of men who have just undergone so
great a trial as amputation of the head must be, stood before them for
a moment or two. She then with a cry of gladness flew to the bosom of
the individual who was, as she supposed, her husband. He repulsed her,
telling her that she was mistaken. Then, blushing deeply in spite of
her other emotions, she threw both her beautiful arms round the neck
of the person who must be, she naturally concluded, the right man. To
her utter confusion, he also shrank back from her embrace.
Then a horrid thought flashed across her mind: she perceived her
fatal mistake, and her heart almost ceased to beat.
"This is thy wife!" cried the Brahman's head that had been fastened
to the soldier's body.
"No; she is thy wife!" replied the soldier's head which had been
placed upon the Brahman's body.
"Then she is my wife!" rejoined the first compound creature.
"By no means! she is my wife," cried the second.
"What then am I?" asked Devasharma-Gunakar.
"What do you think I am?" answered GunakarDevasharma, with another
"Unmadini shall be mine," quoth the head.
"You lie, she shall be mine," shouted the body.
"Holy Yama,[FN#160] hear the villain," exclaimed both of them at
the same moment.
* * * * *
In short, having thus begun, they continued
to quarrel violently, each one declaring that the beautiful Unmadini
belonged to him, and to him only. How to settle their dispute Brahma
the Lord of creatures only knows. I do not, except by cutting off
their heads once more, and by putting them in their proper places. And
I am quite sure, O Raja Vikram! that thy wits are quite unfit to
answer the question, To which of these two is the beautiful Unmadini
wife? It is even said—amongst us Baitals—that when this pair of
half-husbands appeared in the presence of the Just King, a terrible
confusion arose, each head declaiming all the sins and peccadilloes
which its body had committed, and that Yama the holy ruler himself
hit his forefinger with vexation.[FN#161]
Here the young prince Dharma Dhwaj burst out laughing at the
ridiculous idea of the wrong heads. And the warrior king, who, like
single-minded fathers in general, was ever in the idea that his son
had a velleity for deriding and otherwise vexing him, began a severe
course of reproof. He reminded the prince of the common saying that
merriment without cause degrades a man in the opinion of his fellows,
and indulged him with a quotation extensively used by grave fathers,
namely, that the loud laugh bespeaks a vacant mind. After which he
proceeded with much pompousness to pronounce the following opinion:
"It is said .n the Shastras——"
"Your majesty need hardly display so much erudition! Doubtless it
comes from the lips of Jayudeva or some other one of your Nine Gems
of Science, who know much more about their songs and their stanzas
than they do about their scriptures," insolently interrupted the
Baital, who never lost an opportunity of carping at those reverend
"It is said in the Shastras," continued Raja Vikram sternly, after
hesitating whether he should or should not administer a corporeal
correction to the Vampire, "that Mother Ganga[FN#162] is the queen
amongst rivers, and the mountain Sumeru[FN#163] is the monarch among
mountains, and the tree Kalpavriksha[FN#164] is the king of all trees,
and the head of man is the best and most excellent of limbs. And thus,
according to this reason, the wife belonged to him whose noblest
position claimed her."
"The next thing your majesty will do, I suppose," continued the
Baital, with a sneer, "is to support the opinions of the Digambara,
who maintains that the soul is exceedingly rarefied, confined to one
place, and of equal dimensions with the body, or the fancies of that
worthy philosopher Jaimani, who, conceiving soul and mind and matter
to be things purely synonymous, asserts outwardly and writes in his
books that the brain is the organ of the mind which is acted upon by
the immortal soul, but who inwardly and verily believes that the brain
is the mind, and consequently that the brain is the soul or spirit or
whatever you please to call it; in fact, that soul is a natural
faculty of the body. A pretty doctrine, indeed, for a Brahman to hold.
You might as well agree with me at once that the soul of man resides,
when at home, either in a vein in the breast, or in the pit of his
stomach, or that half of it is in a man's brain and the other or
reasoning half is in his heart, an organ of his body."
"What has all this string of words to do with the matter, Vampire?"
asked Raja Vikram angrily.
"Only," said the demon laughing, "that in my opinion, as opposed
to the Shastras and to Raja Vikram, that the beautiful Unmadini
belonged, not to the head part but to the body part. Because the
latter has an immortal soul in the pit of its stomach, whereas the
former is a box of bone, more or less thick, and contains brains
which are of much the same consistence as those of a calf."
"Villain!" exclaimed the Raja, "does not the soul or conscious life
enter the body through the sagittal suture and lodge in the brain,
thence to contemplate, through the same opening, the divine
"I must, however, bid you farewell for the moment, O warrior king,
Sakadhipati-Vikramadityal[FN#165]! I feel a sudden and ardent desire
to change this cramped position for one more natural to me."
The warrior monarch had so far committed himself that he could not
prevent the Vampire from flitting. But he lost no more time in
following him than a grain of mustard, in its fall, stays on a cow's
horn. And when he had thrown him over his shoulder, the king desired
him of his own accord to begin a new tale.
"O my left eyelid flutters," exclaimed the Baital in despair, "my
heart throbs, my sight is dim: surely now beginneth the end. It is as
Vidhata hath written on my forehead—how can it be otherwise[FN#166]?
Still listen, O mighty Raja, whilst I recount to you a true story, and
Saraswati[FN#167] sit on my tongue."
[FN#153] Because stained with the powder of Mhendi, or the
Lawsonia inermis shrub.
[FN#154] Kansa's son: so called because the god Shiva, when struck
by his shafts, destroyed him with a fiery glance.
[FN#155] "Great Brahman"; used contemptuously to priests who
officiate for servile men. Brahmans lose their honour by the
following things: By becoming servants to the king; by pursuing any
secular business; by acting priests to Shudras (serviles); by
officiating as priests for a whole village; and by neglecting any part
of the three daily services. Many violate these rules; yet to kill a
Brahman is still one of the five great Hindu sins. In the present age
of the world, the Brahman may not accept a gift of cows or of gold; of
course he despises the law. As regards monkey worship, a certain Rajah
of Nadiya is said to have expended œ10,000 in marrying two monkeys
with all the parade and splendour of the Hindu rite.
[FN#156] The celebrated Gayatri, the Moslem Kalmah.
[FN#157] Kama again.
[FN#158] From "Man," to think; primarily meaning, what makes man
[FN#159] The Cirrhadae of classical writers.
[FN#160] The Hindu Pluto; also called the Just King.
[FN#161] Yama judges the dead. whose souls go to him in four
hours and forty minutes; therefore a corpse cannot be burned till
after that time. His residence is Yamalaya. and it is on the south
side of the earth; down South, as we say. (I, Sam. xxv. 1, and xxx.
15). The Hebrews, like the Hindus, held the northern parts of the
world to be higher than the southern. Hindus often joke a man who is
seen walking in that direction, and ask him where he is going.
[FN#162] The "Ganges," in heaven called Mandakini. I have no idea
why we still adhere to our venerable corruption of the word.
[FN#163] The fabulous mountain supposed by Hindu geographers to
occupy the centre of the universe.
[FN#164] The all-bestowing tree in Indra's Paradise which grants
everything asked of it. It is the Tuba of Al-Islam and is not unknown
to the Apocryphal New Testament.
[FN#165] "Vikramaditya, Lord of the Saka." This is prevoyance on
the part of the Vampire; the king had not acquired the title.
[FN#166] On the sixth day after the child's birth, the god Vidhata
writes all its fate upon its forehead. The Moslems have a similar
idea, and probably it passed to the Hindus.
[FN#167] Goddess of eloquence. "The waters of the Saraswati " is
the classical Hindu phrase for the mirage.
THE VAMPIRE'S TENTH STORY.
Of the Marvellous Delicacy of Three Queens.