Vikramaditya was a great king and totally devoted himself to the welfare of his people. But the king was also interested in spiritual endeavours. He was a great devotee of Goddess Kali. However the King never neglected his kingdom for the sake of his spiritual activities.. He knew everything that happened in his country and solved any problems in the initial stages itself before it could blow up into any serious crisis. It is said that King Vikramditya had an extraordinarily efficient spy system and kept upto date information on neighbouring kingdoms as well.
Most of Vikramditaya’s life story is based on the Vetal Panchisi [The 25 tales of the Vetal] and Simhasan Bathisi [The 32 stories told by the 32 statues in Indra’s throne to Raja Bhoja extolling the virtues of King Vikramaditya.] The present story is how King Vikramaditya came to meet Vetal….
When King Vikramaditya was in court, a sage came to meet him. King Vikramaditya always kept his court door open to enable the public to come in at all times. So a sage approaching the king in itself was not unusual, but what he did surprised even Vikramaditya. The sage came forward and handed a mango to the king. He said nothing more and walked away.
King Vikramditya was curious. He kept the mango aside and wondered about the strange behaviour of the sage but could come up with no logical answer. The next day again the sage came and handed over another mango to him and without saying another word walked away….This went on for a few days as the king’s curiosity grew day by day….
Finally when the sage came one day and handed over the mango to him, the king saw a monkey in the palace walls. After the sage had left, the king gave the mango to the monkey. The monkey bit open the fruit and spat something out. The king saw something red and bent to pick it up. He was stunned to see one of the biggest ruby stone he had ever, king was shocked, the king ran to his palace where the other mangoes were being kept. He had all of them opened and found that each one of them had a ruby inside it….. The king was now baffled. A sage was coming out of nowhere and handing over the gem everyday and had not asked for anything in return….Who was the sage? What did he want? Why was he doing all this??
Determined to find the answers, the next day the king waited impatiently for the sage to come in.
The sage came in the next day and handed over the mango when the king stopped him. ‘Who are you sir? Why are you giving me all these precious gifts? I cannot take gifts from a man I do not know for no apparent reason!‘
The sage smiled. ‘King! I am a devotee of Goddess Kali! I have heard that you also worship her! I know that you are a brave and powerful man. I need an important work to be done which can be done only by someone who is brave, daring and courageous…. That was the reason I presented you with all those gifts….Would you help me?‘
The king’s curiosity had now increased a thousandfold. He knew that he had to know the reason for the strange behaviour of the sage. He nodded his head.
The sage’s face broke into a wrinkled smile. In the coming moonless night, please come to the burial ground in the far side of the city near the forest. I will tell you what needs to be done when you come there!’ The sage said enigmatically and walked away from there.
The promised night the king went to the burial ground and found the sage waiting for him there….The sage pointed to the forest. ‘In the middle of the forest, there was a tamarind tree. There is a corpse hanging from the tree. The king nodded his head. Dead bodies nor forests….neither scared him….’Your job is to bring the corpse to me….‘ The king looked at the sage waiting for an explanation. The sage smiled and continued. ‘You see I have to perform a ritual and the corpse is essential for the ritual….Only when I complete the ritual on the corpse, I would be blessed with power from the Goddess!‘
The king was not satisfied with the explanations but he had promised the sage and realized that he was bound by his word and soon set off.
After walking for some time, King Vikramaditya was deep inside the forest. There he found a tamarind tree and a corpse hanging from it just the way the sage had described.
The king climbed up the tree and pulled the corpse down. He put the corpse on his shoulder and about to walk when he heard a strange giggle from the corpse.
Shaken, the king dropped the corpse. The ‘corpse’ got up. The king thought the man was alive and ran towards him. ‘Are you alright?’ No sooner had the king spoken these words, than the corpse flew back to the branch of the tree and hung there upside down. For a few seconds the king was stunned….The corpse looked exactly the way it was…lifeless..Taken aback, Vikramaditya started wondering……
However he realized that he had made a promise to the sage that he would bring the corpse down….The king climbed up the tree again and pulled the corpse down. As the king pulled the body to his shoulders, he felt the body move. He put the corpse down and shook it. ‘Who are you?’ The minute he said the words, corpse again flew back to the tree…
The king realized that the corpse was haunted….probably by a vetal. Subsequently the king also realized that every time he talked the corpse flew back…
This time the king pulled the corpse down and walked away quietly. He heard a shrill giggle from the corpse. The king realized that this was the work of the ghost haunting the dead body and kept his mouth shut and concentrated on walking forward.
After some time the giggles subsided and the ‘corpse’ spoke. ‘I am Vetal, my king!’ King Vikramditya was silent making sure he did not talk by mistake….I sense greatness in you and courage!’ King Vikramditya could almost hear respect in the Vetal’s words. ‘I also know that you would not speak….But I can…And it is a long journey….back to the sage!’ King Vikramditya wondered about how the Vetal knew about that but did not say anything. ‘Why don’t I pass the journey with a story?’ The king did not say anything. The Vetal took the silence as consent and started with its stories.