Richard Francis Burton.

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Produced by Sara Vazirian


By Sir Richard F. Burton

Classic Hindu Tales of Adventure, Magic, and Romance

Edited by his Wife Isabel Burton

"Les fables, loin de grandir les hommes, la Nature et Dieu,
rapetssent tout."
Lamartine (Milton)

"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
will be
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. Showing the exceeding Folly of many wise

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 Head

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 Burton.

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 form.


August 18th, 1893.


"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 folle

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,[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 the

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 comparative 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 called

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

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 braying).

The women all cried out:

"O my mother![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 doubt.

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.[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[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,[6] are generally known, by name at least, to
European litterateurs.. Voltaire remarks,[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[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 Asia.

The great kshatriya,(soldier) king Vikramaditya,[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

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.[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,[11] and Vikram and Urvasi,[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.[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

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[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,


These Tales,
That Will Remind Him Of A Land Which
He Knows So Well,
Are Affectionately Inscribed.


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 Ujjayani.

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.[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,[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 valuable

"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,[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[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 his accounts.

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

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