King Vikram meets Betal :
Long ago there ruled a king called Vikramaditya. He was very famous for his courage, justice and wisdom. He was a king well loved by all his subjects. One day a hermit entered the court of King Vikram. The king humbly greeted the hermit and treated him with great honour and respect. The sage appeared very pleased and handed to the king a
strange looking fruit and departed. King Vikram believed that anything he received as a king was on behalf of the citizens of the country and therefore did not treat them as personal gifts. But he handed it over to the treasury so that it could be used for the people. And so the king handed the fruit over to the treasurer. A few days later, the same hermit honoured King Vikram by visiting him again and this time also presented the king with another of those strange fruits. King Vikram handed this also to the treasury. In the same way, the hermit visited King Vikram four times and each time presented the king with the same kind of fruit. But when the hermit came again for the fifth time, he demanded to
know what the king had done with his presents. The king explained to the hermit that he had handed it over to the royal treasury since any gift to a king was rightfully the property of the state. The sage then insisted on seeing the fruits.
King Vikram then led the hermit to the treasury and requested the treasurer to show the fruits. When the treasurer opened the vault, a strange sight greeted them. There in the place of the four fruits were four very valuable, brightly shining gems.
When King Vikram turned to the sage for an answer to this miracle, the hermit smiled and answered, “This was just a small reward for your righteousness. But a bigger test awaits you. If you want your citizens to live in peace and prosperity, you must go to the dense forest in the border of your kingdom. In the middle of the dense forest, you will
find a corpse hanging from a banyan tree. The corpse is possessed by a spirit called Betal. You must bring the corpse back to me. I need it to perform certain rites which in turn will help you become a better king and also bless your kingdom with peace and prosperity.
On the next moonless night King Vikram ventured into the thick forest as he had been instructed by the saint. He found the corpse hanging on the banyan tree. King Vikram placed the corpse on his shoulders and turned around to go back.
As he was walking, the spirit inside the corpse who was called Betal started to speak to the king. “O King Vikram, I have heard of you. You are a wise and just king. Even now you are taking me to the hermit because you want your people to be happy. This is indeed a noble thing to do. But there is one thing that you must remember while you take me. The moment you utter a word, I will leave you and fly back to the tree with the corpse. The journey is long and tiring. So to take your mind off this long walk, I will tell you a story. At the end of the story, there will be a puzzle. You must use your sense of justice and offer a solution to the puzzle. If you know the answer and still do not offer a
solution, your head will burst into a thousand pieces.”
The king nodded in agreement and Betal started narrating his first story.
King Vikram meets Betal
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