Indian Mythology: The fascinating Story of Betaal

King Vikram walked towards the graveyard’s tree and lowered the dead body hanging on its branch and carried it over his shoulder silently like always. Then Betaal, who possessed the dead body said, “Oh King! Let me make this journey easier and less tiresome for you. Listen to the story I tell you carefully. At the end of the story, I will ask you a question if you know the answer and you remain silent, I will break your head into a thousand pieces. And if you break your silence I will go back to the Banyan tree with the body.”VV

And that’s how the stories of King Vikramaditya and Betaal commenced. These 25 stories have been taken from the 11th-century book “Betaal Pachisi” written by Mahakavi Somdev Bhatt.

The best part about these 25 stories were the trick questions Betaal asked king Vikram and the thoughtful answers Vikram gave to them. These questions and answers revealed how moral principles need to be applied based on the situation an individual is in.

During your childhood, you may have heard or read many stories of Vikram and Betaal, but did you ever wonder.

  • Who was Betaal?

Don’t worry! In this article, you will find all the answers. Keep reading!

The Origin of Betaal:

 Once upon a time, a priest who worshipped Lord Shiva took care of and maintained the Tirshirapuram shiva temple. He opened and closed the temple and took care of all the rituals and ceremonies. One night the priest was roaming around the temple all alone and he heard some noises from inside the main temple. He walked towards the main temple to investigate whether there were any thieves lurking around. He looked inside the main temple through a small opening in the door.

His eyes flew wide open with surprise when he saw that Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati were the ones conversing inside the main temple. The priest heard the goddess who sat on Shiva’s lap say, “Oh Lord, I want to listen to stories which are unique, adventurous and exciting. If you know any such stories, please narrate them to me.” Giving into Goddess Parvati’s request, Lord Shiva narrated 25 such stories. He also told her the trick questions associated with each story and answered them eloquently. However, for the 25th story, Lord Shiva leaves the trick question unanswered. When the goddess asked him the answer, Lord Shiva said that the question cannot be answered because even the creator of the world Lord Brahma does not have an answer for it.

The priest heard all the stories and was stunned by them. Lord Shiva secretly addressed the priest and said “I know you have heard all the stories which were only meant for Goddess Parvati. It is an unforgivable crime that you have committed. But you are my devotee, thus I won’t punish you. My only condition before letting you go is that you do not tell these stories to anyone else.” The priest agrees to Lord Shiva’s condition and goes back to his home.

However, he narrates the strange stories to his wife, who in turn shares the stories with her friends. The stories got passed on from one person to the other. Soon, the entire world became aware of these 25 stories.

photo of monumental sculpture
Photo by Spoortesh Honey on Pexels.com

One fine day, Lord Shiva appeared to the priest and curses him to become a ghost Betaal. The priest begs for forgiveness and asks the Lord for a way to absolve this curse. Lord Shiva asks Betaal to possess a body hanging on a Banyan tree in the graveyard behind a goddess Kaali temple situated near a town called Ujjayini.

Betaal

Then he tells Betaal that one day the King of Ujjayini, Vikramaditya will try to carry him to the temple from the graveyard for an evil sage.

The evil sage is a devotee of Goddess Kaali, who will sacrifice 99 kings and will want King Vikram to be his 100th sacrifice. Lord Shiva also reveals that the sage will send king Vikram to bring Betaal from the graveyard before killing him as the sage had planned to enslave Betaal. He asks Betaal to narrate the 25 stories to King Vikram and to go back to the Banyan tree whenever King Vikram speaks.

Lord Shiva asks Betaal to reveal the sage’s true intentions to King Vikram after narrating the 25th story. Since King Vikram would not be able to answer the trick question related to the story and will succeed in taking Betaal to the evil sage.

Betaal follows all the instructions given by Lord Shiva and all the events Shiva described take place.

In the end, King Vikram kills the evil sage and frees Betaal. Goddess Kaali resurrects all the 99 kings the evil sage sacrificed on King Vikram’s request.

By reading the backstory of Betaal you might be wondering what the 25th story was and what was the trick question no one was able to answer. Don’t worry I will cover that for sure in another blog.

My main purpose behind writing about Betaal is to present the authentic story behind Vikram and Betaal. “Betaal” was launched as a zombie apocalypse series on 24th May 2020, by Netflix India, which seems like a cheap attempt to rank on the Search Engine page. Now whenever someone searches about Betaal they will find the Netflix show. This was my small attempt against in-authentic content and mythological adaptations which do not stay true to the source material when revised. These adaptations will only mislead future generations and drive them away from the actual meaning behind Indian epics and myths.

VV2

I also want to express my gratitude to Mr Ramanand Sagar, who adapted our great Indian Epics Ramayan, Mahabharat and even Vikram and Betaal and kept their original meaning intact. All the adapted series created by Mr Ramanand Sagar present our Indian culture in its truest form, thereby, making them accessible for new generations.

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