Vikram and the Vampire
Sir Richard F. Burton
Part 1 out of 5
Captain Sir Richard F. Burton's
Vikram and The Vampire
Classic Hindu Tales of
Adventure, Magic, and Romance
Edited by his Wife
"Les fables, loin de grandir les hommes, la Nature et Dieu,
"One who had eyes saw it; the blind will not understand it.
A poet, who is a boy, he has perceived it; he who understands it
his sire's sire." - Rig-Veda (I.164.16).
Preface to the First (1870) Edition
THE VAMPIRE'S FIRST STORY.
In which a Man deceives a Woman
THE VAMPIRE'S SECOND STORY.
Of the Relative Villany of Men and Woman
THE VAMPIRE'S THIRD STORY.
Of a High-minded Family
THE VAMPIRE'S FOURTH STORY.
Of a Woman who told the Truth
THE VAMPIRE'S FIFTH STORY.
Of the Thief who Laughed and Wept
THE VAMPIRE'S SIXTH STORY.
In which Three Men dispute about a Woman
THE VAMPIRE'S SEVENTH STORY.
Showng the exceeding Folly of many wise Fools
THE VAMPIRE'S EIGHTH STORY.
Of the Use and Misuse of Magic Pills
THE VAMPIRE'S NINTH STORY.
Showing that a Man's Wife belongs not to his body but to his
THE VAMPIRE'S TENTH STORY.
Of the Marvellous Delicacy of Three Queens
THE VAMPIRE'S ELEVENTH STORY.
Which puzzles Raja Vikram
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 literature.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 and honours.
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 A.D. 130.
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
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 umbrella,"
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 Madhava.
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 books.[FN#13]
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 Vaharannah[FN#14].
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 required.
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 following pages.[FN#15]
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 conduct.
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
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 day.
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
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 name.
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
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 formidable army.
* * * * * *
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 excluded.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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 the poet--
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 and beautiful."
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
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
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 trust.
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
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
"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 come here?"
"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
"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
"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 world.
"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 whole world!
"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 name!"
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 reign.
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
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
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
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 gems.[FN#35]"
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
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 bank.
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
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 turband-end.
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 fall.
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
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 his way.
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 art thou?"
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 position.
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
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 this covenant:
"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
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."
THE VAMPIRE'S FIRST STORY.
In which a man deceives a woman.
In Benares once reigned a mighty prince, by name Pratapamukut,
to whose eighth son Vajramukut happened the strangest adventure.
One morning, the young man, accompanied by the son of his
father's pradhan or prime minister, rode out hunting, and went far
into the jungle. At last the twain unexpectedly came upon a
beautiful "tank [FN#47]" of a prodigious size. It was surrounded
by short thick walls of fine baked brick; and flights and ramps of
cut-stone steps, half the length of each face, and adorned with
turrets, pendants, and finials, led down to the water. The
substantial plaster work and the masonry had fallen into disrepair,
and from the crevices sprang huge trees, under whose thick shade
the breeze blew freshly, and on whose balmy branches the birds
sang sweetly; the grey squirrels [FN#48] chirruped joyously as
they coursed one another up the gnarled trunks, and from the
pendent llianas the longtailed monkeys were swinging sportively.
The bountiful hand of Sravana [FN#49] had spread the earthen
rampart with a carpet of the softest grass and many-hued wild
flowers, in which were buzzing swarms of bees and myriads of
bright winged insects; and flocks of water fowl, wild geese
Brahmini ducks, bitterns, herons, and cranes, male and female,
were feeding on the narrow strip of brilliant green that belted the
long deep pool, amongst the broad-leaved lotuses with the lovely
blossoms, splashing through the pellucid waves, and basking
happily in the genial sun.
The prince and his friend wondered when they saw the beautiful
tank in the midst of a wild forest, and made many vain conjectures
about it. They dismounted, tethered their horses, and threw their
weapons upon the ground; then, having washed their hands and
faces, they entered a shrine dedicated to Mahadeva, and there
began to worship the presiding deity.
Whilst they were making their offerings, a bevy of maidens,
accompanied by a crowd of female slaves, descended the opposite
flight of steps. They stood there for a time, talking and laughing
and looking about them to see if any alligators infested the waters.
When convinced that the tank was safe, they disrobed themselves
in order to bathe. It was truly a splendid spectacle
"Concerning which the less said the better," interrupted
RajaVikram in an offended tone.[FN#50]
--but did not last long. The Raja's daughter -- for the principal
maiden was a princess -- soon left her companions, who were
scooping up water with their palms and dashing it over one
another's heads, and proceeded to perform the rites of purification,
meditation, and worship. Then she began strolling with a friend
under the shade of a small mango grove.
The prince also left his companion sitting in prayer, and walked
forth into the forest. Suddenly the eyes of the Raja's son and the
Raja's daughter met. She started back with a little scream. He was
fascinated by her beauty, and began to say to himself, " O thou vile
Karma,[FN#51] why worriest thou me?"
Hearing this, the maiden smiled encouragement, but the poor
youth, between palpitation of the heart and hesitation about what
to say, was so confused that his tongue crave to his teeth. She
raised her eyebrows a little. There is nothing which women despise
in a man more than modesty, [FN#52] for mo-des-ty --
A violent shaking of the bag which hung behind Vikram's royal
back broke off the end of this offensive sentence. And the warrior
king did not cease that discipline till the Baital promised him to
preserve more decorum in his observations.
Still the prince stood before her with downcast eyes and suffused
cheeks: even the spur of contempt failed to arouse his energies.
Then the maiden called to her friend, who was picking jasmine
flowers so as not to witness the scene, and angrily asked why that
strange man was allowed to stand and stare at her? The friend, in
hot wrath, threatened to call the slave, and throw Vajramukut into
the pond unless he instantly went away with his impudence. But as
the prince was rooted to the spot, and really had not heard a word
of what had been said to him, the two women were obliged to
make the first move.
As they almost reached the tank, the beautiful maiden turned her
head to see what the poor modest youth was doing.
Vajramukut was formed in every way to catch a woman's eye. The
Raja's daughter therefore half forgave him his offence of mod ----.
Again she sweetly smiled, disclosing two rows of little opals. Then
descending to the water's edge, she stooped down and plucked a
lotus This she worshipped; next she placed it in her hair, then she
put it in her ear, then she bit it with her teeth, then she trod upon it
with her foot, then she raised it up again, and lastly she stuck it in
her bosom. After which she mounted her conveyance and went
home to her friends; whilst the prince, having become thoroughly
desponding and drowned in grief at separation from her, returned
to the minister's son.
"Females!" ejaculated the minister's son, speaking to himself in a
careless tone, when, his prayer finished, he left the temple, and sat
down upon the tank steps to enjoy the breeze. He presently drew a
roll of paper from under his waist-belt, and in a short time was
engrossed with his study. The women seeing this conduct, exerted
themselves in every possible way of wile to attract his attention
and to distract his soul. They succeeded only so far as to make him
roll his head with a smile, and to remember that such is always the
custom of man's bane; after which he turned over a fresh page of
manuscript. And although he presently began to wonder what had
become of the prince his master, he did not look up even once
from his study.
He was a philosopher, that young man. But after all, Raja Vikram,
what is mortal philosophy? Nothing but another name for
indifference! Who was ever philosophical about a thing truly loved
or really hated? -- no one! Philosophy, says Shankharacharya, is
either a gift of nature or the reward of study. But I, the Baital, the
devil, ask you, what is a born philosopher, save a man of cold
desires? And what is a bred philosopher but a man who has
survived his desires? A young philosopher? - a cold-blooded
youth! An elderly philosopher? --a leuco-phlegmatic old man!
Much nonsense, of a verity, ye hear in praise of nothing from your
Rajaship's Nine Gems of Science, and from sundry other such wise
Then the prince began to relate the state of his case, saying, " O
friend, I have seen a damsel, but whether she be a musician from
Indra's heaven, a maiden of the sea, a daughter of the serpent
kings, or the child of an earthly Raja, I cannot say."
"Describe her," said the statesman in embryo.
"Her face," quoth the prince, "was that of the full moon, her hair
like a swarm of bees hanging from the blossoms of the acacia, the
corners of her eyes touched her ears, her lips were sweet with lunar
ambrosia, her waist was that of a lion, and her walk the walk of a
king goose. [FN#53] As a garment, she was white; as a season, the
spring; as a flower, the jasmine; as a speaker, the kokila bird; as a
perfume, musk; as a beauty, Kamadeva; and as a being, Love. And
if she does not come into my possession I will not live; this I have
certainly determined upon."
The young minister, who had heard his prince say the same thing
more than once before, did not attach great importance to these
awful words. He merely remarked that, unless they mounted at
once, night would surprise them in the forest. Then the two young
men returned to their horses, untethered them, drew on their
bridles, saddled them, and catching up their weapons, rode slowly
towards the Raja's palace. During the three hours of return hardly a
word passed between the pair. Vajramukut not only avoided
speaking; he never once replied till addressed thrice in the loudest
The young minister put no more questions, "for," quoth he to
himself, "when the prince wants my counsel, he will apply for it."
In this point he had borrowed wisdom from his father, who held in
peculiar horror the giving of unasked- for advice. So, when he saw
that conversation was irksome to his master, he held his peace and
meditated upon what he called his "day-thought." It was his
practice to choose every morning some tough food for reflection,
and to chew the cud of it in his mind at times when, without such
employment, his wits would have gone wool-gathering. You may
imagine, Raja Vikram, that with a few years of this head work, the
minister's son became a very crafty young person.
After the second day the Prince Vajramukut, being restless from
grief at separation, fretted himself into a fever. Having given up
writing, reading, drinking, sleeping, the affairs entrusted to him by
his father, and everything else, he sat down, as he said, to die. He
used constantly to paint the portrait of the beautiful lotus gatherer,
and to lie gazing upon it with tearful eyes; then he would start up
and tear it to pieces and beat his forehead, and begin another
picture of a yet more beautiful face.
At last, as the pradhan's son had foreseen, he was summoned by
the young Raja, whom he found upon his bed, looking yellow and
complaining bitterly of headache. Frequent discussions upon the
subject of the tender passion had passed between the two youths,
and one of them had ever spoken of it so very disrespectfully that
the other felt ashamed to introduce it. But when his friend, with a
view to provoke communicativeness, advised a course of boiled
and bitter herbs and great attention to diet, quoting the hemistich
attributed to the learned physician Charndatta
A fever starve, but feed a cold,
the unhappy Vajramukut's fortitude abandoned him; he burst into
tears, and exclaimed," Whosoever enters upon the path of love
cannot survive it; and if (by chance) he should live, what is life to
him but a prolongation of his misery?"
"Yea," replied the minister's son, "the sage hath said --
The road of love is that which hath no beginning nor end;
Take thou heed of thyself, man I ere thou place foot upon it.
And the wise, knowing that there are three things whose effect
upon himself no man can foretell --namely, desire of woman, the
dice-box, and the drinking of ardent spirits - find total abstinence
from them the best of rules. Yet, after all, if there is no cow, we
must milk the bull."
The advice was, of course, excellent, but the hapless lover could
not help thinking that on this occasion it came a little too late.
However, after a pause he returned to the subject and said, "I have
ventured to tread that dangerous way, be its end pain or pleasure,
happiness or destruction." He then hung down his head and sighed
from the bottom of his heart.
"She is the person who appeared to us at the tank?" asked the
pradhan's son, moved to compassion by the state of his master.
The prince assented.
"O great king," resumed the minister's son, "at the time of going
away had she said anything to you? or had you said anything to
"Nothing!" replied the other laconically, when he found his friend
beginning to take an interest in the affair.
"Then," said the minister's son, "it will be exceedingly difficult to
get possession of her."
"Then," repeated the Raja's son, "I am doomed to death; to an early
and melancholy death!"
"Humph!" ejaculated the young statesman rather impatiently, "did
she make any sign, or give any hint? Let me know all that
happened: half confidences are worse than none."
Upon which the prince related everything that took place by the
side of the tank, bewailing the false shame which had made him
dumb, and concluding with her pantomime.
The pradhan's son took thought for a while. He thereupon seized
the opportunity of representing to his master all the evil effects of
bashfulness when women are concerned, and advised him, as he
would be a happy lover, to brazen his countenance for the next
Which the young Raja faithfully promised to do.
"And, now," said the other, "be comforted, O my master! I know
her name and her dwelling-place. When she suddenly plucked the
lotus flower and worshipped it, she thanked the gods for having
blessed her with a sight of your beauty."
Vajramukut smiled, the first time for the last month.
"When she applied it to her ear, it was as if she would have
explained to thee, 'I am a daughter of the Carnatic: [FN#54] and
when she bit it with her teeth, she meant to say that 'My father is
Raja Dantawat, [FN#55]' who, by-the-bye, has been, is, and ever
will be, a mortal foe to thy father."
"When she put it under her foot it meant, 'My name is Padmavati.
Vajramukut uttered a cry of joy.
"And when she placed it in her bosom, 'You are truly dwelling in
my heart' was meant to be understood."
At these words the young Raja started up full of new life, and after
praising with enthusiasm the wondrous sagacity of his dear friend,
begged him by some contrivance to obtain the permission of his
parents, and to conduct him to her city. The minister's son easily
got leave for Vajramukut to travel, under pretext that his body
required change of water, and his mind change of scene. They both
dressed and armed themselves for the journey, and having taken
some jewels, mounted their horses and followed the road in that
direction in which the princess had gone.
Arrived after some days at the capital of the Carnatic, the
minister's son having disguised his master and himself in the garb
of travelling traders, alighted and pitched his little tent upon a clear
bit of ground in one of the suburbs. He then proceeded to inquire
for a wise woman, wanting, he said, to have his fortune told. When
the prince asked him what this meant, he replied that elderly dames
who professionally predict the future are never above [ministering
to the present, and therefore that, in such circumstances, they are
the properest persons to be consulted.
"Is this a treatise upon the subject of immorality, devil?"
demanded the King Vikram ferociously. The Baital declared that it
was not, but that he must tell his story.
The person addressed pointed to an old woman who, seated before
the door of her hut, was spinning at her wheel. Then the young
men went up to her with polite salutations and said, "Mother, we
are travelling traders, and our stock is coming after us; we have
come on in advance for the purpose of finding a place to live in. If
you will give us a house, we will remain there and pay you
The old woman, who was a physiognomist as well as a
fortune-teller, looked at the faces of the young men and liked
them, because their brows were wide, and their mouths denoted
generosity. Having listened to their words, she took pity upon them
and said kindly, "This hovel is yours, my masters, remain here as
long as you please." Then she led them into an inner room, again
welcomed them, lamented the poorness of her abode, and begged
them to lie down and rest themselves.
After some interval of time the old woman came to them once
more, and sitting down began to gossip. The minister's son upon
this asked her, "How is it with thy family, thy relatives, and
connections; and what are thy means of subsistence?" She replied,
``My son is a favourite servant in the household of our great king
Dantawat, and your slave is the wet-nurse of the Princess
Padmavati, his eldest child. From the coming on of old age," she
added, "I dwell in this house, but the king provides for my eating
and drinking. I go once a day to see the girl, who is a miracle of
beauty and goodness, wit and accomplishments, and returning
thence, I bear my own griefs at home. [FN#57]''
In a few days the young Vajramukut had, by his liberality, soft
speech, and good looks, made such progress in nurse Lakshmi's
affections that, by the advice of his companion, he ventured to
broach the subject ever nearest his heart. He begged his hostess,
when she went on the morrow to visit the charming Padmavati,
that she would be kind enough to slip a bit of paper into the
"Son," she replied, delighted with the proposal -- and what old
woman would not be? --"there is no need for putting off so urgent
an affair till the morrow. Get your paper ready, and I will
immediately give it."
Trembling with pleasure, the prince ran to find his friend, who was
seated in the garden reading, as usual, and told him what the old
nurse had engaged to do. He then began to debate about how he
should write his letter, to cull sentences and to weigh phrases;
whether "light of my eyes" was not too trite, and "blood of my
liver" rather too forcible. At this the minister's son smiled, and
bade the prince not trouble his head with composition. He then
drew his inkstand from his waist shawl, nibbed a reed pen, and
choosing a piece of pink and flowered paper, he wrote upon it a
few lines. He then folded it, gummed it, sketched a lotus flower
upon the outside, and handing it to the young prince, told him to
give it to their hostess, and that all would be well.
The old woman took her staff in her hand and hobbled straight to
the palace. Arrived there, she found the Raja's daughter sitting
alone in her apartment. The maiden, seeing her nurse, immediately
arose, and making a respectful bow, led her to a seat and began the
most affectionate inquiries. After giving her blessing and sitting
for some time and chatting about indifferent matters, the nurse
said, " O daughter! in infancy I reared and nourished thee, now the
Bhagwan (Deity) has rewarded me by giving thee stature, beauty,
health, and goodness. My heart only longs to see the happiness of
thy womanhood, [FN#58] after which I shall depart in peace. I
implore thee read this paper, given to me by the handsomest and
the properest young man that my eyes have ever seen."
The princess, glancing at the lotus on the outside of the note,
slowly unfolded it and perused its contents, which were as follows:
She was to me the pearl that clings
To sands all hid from mortal
Yet fit for diadems of kings,
The pure and lovely light.
She was to me the gleam of sun
That breaks the gloom of wintry
One moment shone my soul upon,
Then passed --how soon! - away.
She was to me the dreams of bliss
That float the dying eyes before,
For one short hour shed happiness,
And fly to bless no more.
O light, again upon me shine;
O pearl, again delight my eyes;
O dreams of bliss, again be mine! --
No! earth may not be Paradise.
I must not forget to remark, parenthetically, that the minister's son,
in order to make these lines generally useful, had provided them
with a last stanza in triplicate. "For lovers," he said sagely," are
either in the optative mood, the desperative, or the exultative."
This time he had used the optative. For the desperative he would
The joys of life lie dead, lie dead,
The light of day is quenched in
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