Richard Francis Burton.

Vikram and the vampire; or, Tales of Hindu devilry online

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they will begin to believe you. And when thus you
have attained success, it will be harder to uncon-

vince them than it was to convince them. Thus

6 Listen not to him, sirrah,' cried Eaja Vikram to
Dharma Dhwaj, the young prince, who had fallen a
little way behind, and was giving ear attentively to
the Vampire's ethics. ' Listen to him not. And tell
me, villain, with these ignoble principles of thine,
what will become of modesty, humility, self-sacrifice,
and a host of other Guna or good qualities which
which are good qualities ? '

' I know not,' rejoined the Baital, f neither do I
care. But my habitually inspiriting a succession of
human bodies has taught me one fact. The wise


man knows himself, and is, therefore, neither unduly
humble or elated, because he had no more to do with
making himself than with the cut of his cloak, or
with the fitness of his loin-cloth. But the fool either
loses his head by comparing himself with still greater
fools, or is prostrated when he finds himself inferior
to other and lesser fools. This shyness he calls mo-
desty, humility, and so forth. Now, whenever enter-
ing a corpse, whether it be of man, woman, or child,
I feel peculiarly modest ; I know that my tenement

lately belonged to some conceited ass. And '

6 Wouldst thou have me bump thy back against
the ground ? ' asked Eajah Yikram angrily.

(The Baital muttered some reply scarcely intelli-
gible about his having this time stumbled upon a
metaphysical thread of ideas, and then continued his

Now Rupsen, the king, began by inquiring of
himself why the Rajput had rated his services so
highly. Then he reflected that if this recruit had
asked so much money, it must have been for some
reason which would afterwards become apparent.
Next, he hoped that if he gave him so much, his
generosity might some day turn out to his own ad-
vantage. Finally, with this idea in his mind, he
summoned Birbal and the steward of his household,
and said to the latter, ' Give this Rajput a thousand
ounces of gold daily from our treasury.'

It is related that Birbal made the best possible use


of his wealth. He used 'every morning to divide it
into two portions, one of which was distributed to
Brahmans and Parohitas. 1 Of the remaining moiety,
having made two parts, he gave one as alms to pil-
grims, to Bairagis or Vishnu's mendicants, and to
Sanyasis or worshippers of Shiva, whose bodies,
smeared with ashes, were hardly covered with a
narrow cotton cloth and a rope about their loins, and
whose heads of artificial hair, clotted like a rope, be-
sieged his gate. With the remaining fourth, having
caused food to be prepared, he regaled the poor,
while he himself and his family ate what was left.
Every evening, arming himself with sword and
buckler, he took up his position as guard at the
royal bedside, and walked round it all night sword
in hand. If the king chanced to wake and asked
who was present, Birbal immediately gave reply that
( Birbal is here ; whatever command you give, that
he will obey.' And oftentimes Rupsen gave him
unusual commands, for it is said, * To try thy servant,
bid him do things in season and out of season: if
he obey thee willingly, know him to be useful; if
he reply, dismiss him at once. Thus is a servant
tried, even as a wife by the poverty of her husband,
and brethren and friends by asking their aid.'

1 The ancient name of a priest by profession, meaning ' praepositus '
or praeses. He was the friend and counsellor of a chief, the minister of
a king, and his companion in peace and war. (M. Mailer's Ancient
Sanskrit Literature, p. 485.)

L 2


In such manner, through desire of money, Birbal
remained on guard all night ; and whether eating,
drinking, sleeping, sitting, going or wandering about,
during the twenty-four hours, he held his master in
watchful remembrance. This, indeed, is the custom ;
if a man sell another the latter is sold, but a servant
by doing service sells himself, and when a man has
become dependent, how can he be happy? Certain
it is that, however intelligent, clever, or learned a
man may be, yet, while he is in his master's presence,
he remains silent as a dumb man, and struck with
dread. Only while he is away from his lord can he
be at ease. Hence, learned men say that to do ser-
vice aright is harder than any religious study.

On one occasion it is related that there happened
to be heard at night time the wailing of a woman in
a neighbouring cemetery. The king on hearing it
called out, ' Who is in waiting ? '

' I am here,' replied Birbal ; ' what command is
there ? '

6 Go,' spoke the king, ' to the place whence pro-
ceeds this sound of woman's wail, and having inquired
the cause of her grief, return quickly.

On receiving this order the Rajput went to obey
it ; and the king, unseen by him, and attired in a
black dress, followed for the purpose of observing his

Presently Birbal arrived at the cemetery. And
what sees he there ? A beautiful woman of a light


yellow colour, loaded with jewels from head to foot,
holding a horn in her right and a necklace in her left
hand. Sometimes she danced, sometimes she jumped,
and sometimes she ran about. There was not a tear
in her eye, but, beating her head and making lament-
able cries, she kept dashing herself on the ground.

Seeing her condition, and not recognising the god-
dess born of sea foam, and whom all the host of
heaven loved, 1 Birbal inquired, ( Why art thou thus
beating thyself and crying out? Who art thou?
And what grief is upon thee ? '

* I am the Royal- Luck,' she replied.

* For what reason,' asked Birbal, 4 art thou weep-

The goddess then began to relate her position to
the Rajput. She said, with tears, 'In the king's
palace Shudra (or low caste acts) are done, and hence
misfortune will certainly fall upon it, and I shall
forsake it. After a month has passed the king,
having endured excessive affliction, will die. In
grief for this I weep. I have brought much happi-
ness to the king's house, and hence I am full of
regret that this my prediction cannot in any way
prove untrue.'

1 Lakshmi, the Goddess of Prosperity. Raj-Lakshmi would mean
the King's Fortune, which we should call tutelary genius. Lakshi-
chara is our ' luckless,' forming, as Mr. Ward says, an extraordinary
coincidence of sound and meaning in languages so different. But the
derivations are very distinct.


6 Is there,' asked Birbal, ' any remedy for this
trouble, so that the king may be preserved and live a
hundred years ? '

c Yes,' said the goddess, 'there is. About eight
miles to the east thou wilt find a temple dedicated to
my terrible sister Devi. Offer to her thy son's head,
cut off with thine own hand, and the reign of thy
king shall endure for an age.' So saying Raj-
Lakshmi disappeared.

Birbal answered not a word, but with hurried steps
he turned towards his home. The king, still in black
so as not to be seen, followed him closely, and observed
and listened to everything he did.

The Rajput went straight to his wife, awakened
her, and related to her everything that had happened.
The wise have said, 'she alone deserves the name
of wife who always receives her husband with affec-
tionate and submissive words.' When she heard the
circumstances, she at once aroused her son, and her
daughter also awoke. Then Birbal told them all
that they must follow him to the temple of Devi in
the wood.

On the way the Rajput said to his wife, ' If thou
wilt give up thy son willingly, I will sacrifice him
for our master's sake to Devi the Destroyer.'

She replied, * Father and mother, son and daugh-
ter, brother and relative, have I now none. You are
everything to me. It is written in the scripture that
a wife is not made pure by gifts to priests, nor by


performing religious rites ; her virtue consists in
waiting upon her husband, in obeying him and in
loving him yea ! though he be lame, maimed in
the hands, dumb, deaf, blind, one-eyed, leprous, or
humpbacked. It is a true saying that " a son under
one's authority, a body free from sickness, a desire
to acquire knowledge, an intelligent friend, and an
obedient wife ; whoever holds these five will find
them bestowers of happiness and dispellers of afflic-
tion. An unwilling servant, a parsimonious king, an
insincere friend, and a wife not under control ; such
things are disturbers of ease and givers of trouble." '

Then the good wife turned to her son and said,
( Child, by the gift of thy head, the king's life may
be spared, and the kingdom remain unshaken.'

1 Mother,' replied that excellent youth, ' in my
opinion we should hasten this matter. Firstly, I
must obey your command ; secondly, I must promote
the interests of my master ; thirdly, if this body be
of any use to a goddess, nothing better can be done
with it in this world.'

( ' Excuse me, Eaja Yikram,' said the Baital, inter-
rupting himself, f if I repeat these fair discourses at
full length ; it is interesting to hear a young person,
whose throat is about to be cut, talk so like a doctor
of laws.')

Then the youth thus addressed his sire : ' Father,
whoever can be of use to his master, the life of that
man in this world has been lived to good purpose,


and by reason of his usefulness he will be rewarded
in other worlds.'

His sister, however, exclaimed, ' If a mother should
give poison to her daughter, and a father sell his son,
and a king seize the entire property of his subjects,
where then could one look for protection ? ' But
they heeded her not, and continued talking as they
journeyed towards the temple of Devi the king all
the while secretly following them.

Presently they reached the temple, a single room,
surrounded by a spacious paved area ; in front was
an immense building capable of seating hundreds of
people. Before the image there were pools of blood,
where victims had lately been slaughtered. In the
sanctum was Devi, a large black figure with ten arms.
With a spear in one of her right hands she pierced
the giant Mahisha ; and with one of her left hands
she held the tail of a serpent, and the hair of the
giant, whose breast the serpent was biting. Her
other arms were all raised above her head, and were
filled with different instruments of war ; against her
right leg leaned a lion.

Then Birbal joined his hands in prayer, and with
Hindu mildness thus addressed the awful goddess :
4 mother, let the king's life be prolonged for a
thousand years by the sacrifice of my son. Devi,
mother ! destroy, destroy his enemies ! Kill ! kill !
Reduce them to ashes ! Drive them away ! Devour
them ! devour them ! Cut them in two ! Drink !


drink their blood ! Destroy them root and branch !
With thy thunderbolt, spear, scymitar, discus, or
rope, annihilate them ! Spheng ! Spheng ! '

The Eajput, having caused his son to kneel before
the goddess, struck him so violent a blow that his
head rolled upon the ground. He then threw the
sword down, when his daughter, frantic with grief,
snatched it up and struck her neck with such force
that her head, separated from her body, fell. In her
turn the mother, unable to survive the loss of her
children, seized the weapon and succeeded in deca-
pitating herself. Birbal, beholding all this slaugh-
ter, thus reflected : ' My children are dead ; why,
now, should I remain in servitude, and upon whom
shall I bestow the gold I receive from the king ? '
He then gave himself so deep a wound in the neck,
that his head also separated from his body.

Eupsen, the king, seeing these four heads on the
ground, said in his heart, ' For my sake has the
family of Birbal been destroyed. Kingly power, for
the purpose of upholding which the destruction of a
whole household is necessary, is a mere curse, and to
carry on government in this manner is not just.' He
then took up the sword and was about to slay him-
self, when the Destroying Goddess, probably satisfied
with bloodshed, stayed his hand, bidding him at the
same time ask any boon he pleased.

The generous monarch begged, thereupon, that his
faithful servant might be restored to life, together


with all his high-minded family ; and the goddess
Devi in the twinkling of an eye fetched from Patala,
the regions below the earth, a vase full of Amrita,
the water of immortality, sprinkled it upon the dead,
and raised them all as before. After which the
whole party walked leisurely home, and in due time
the king divided his throne with his friend Birbal.

Having stopped for a moment, the Baital proceeded
to remark, in a sententious tone, c Happy the servant
who grudges not his own life to save that of his
master ! And happy, thrice happy the master who can
annihilate all greedy longing for existence and worldly
prosperity. Eaja, I have to ask thee one searching
question Of these five, who was the greatest fool ? '

' Demon ! ' exclaimed the great Vikram, all whose
cherished feelings about fidelity and family affection,
obedience and high-mindedness, were outraged by
this Yampire view of the question ; ' if thou meanest
by the greatest fool the noblest mind, I reply without
hesitating Rupsen, the king.'

< Why, prithee ? ' asked the Baital.

' Because, dull demon,' said the king, ' Birbal was
bound to offer up his life for a master who treated
him so generously; the son could not disobey his
father, and the women naturally and instinctively
killed themselves, because the example was set to
them. But Rupsen the king gave up his throne for
the sake of his retainer, and valued not a straw his


life and his high inducements to live. For this
reason I think him the most meritorious.'

' Surely, mighty Vikram,' laughed the Vampire,
( you will be tired of ever clambering up yon tall
tree, even had you the legs and arms of Hanuman l

And so saying he disappeared from the cloth, al-
though it had been placed upon the ground.

But the poor Baital had little reason to congratu-
late himself on the success of his escape. In a short
time he was again bundled into the cloth with the
usual want of ceremony, and he revenged himself by
telling another true story.

1 The Monkey God.




6 LISTEN, great king ! ' again began the Baital.

An unimportant Baniya l (trader), Hiranyadatt, had
a daughter, whose name was Madansena Sundari,
the beautiful army of Cupid. Her face was like the
moon ; her hair like the clouds ; her eyes like those
of a musk-rat ; her eyebrows like a bent bow ; her
nose like a parrot's bill ; her neck like that of a dove ;
her teeth like pomegranate grains ; the red colour of
her lips like that of a gourd; her waist lithe and
bending like the pard's ; her hands and feet like
softest blossoms ; her complexion like the jasmine
in fact, day by day the splendour of her youth in-

When she had arrived at maturity, her father and
mother began often to revolve in their minds the
subject of her marriage. And the people of all that
country side ruled by Birbar king of Madanpur
bruited it abroad that in the house of Hiranyadatt
had been born a daughter by whose beauty gods,
men, and munis (sages) were fascinated.

1 Generally written Banyan.'


Thereupon many, causing their portraits to be
painted, sent them by messengers to Hiranyadatt
the Baniya, who showed them all to his daughter.
But she was capricious, as beauties sometimes are,
and when her father said, ' Make choice of a husband
thyself,' she told him that none pleased her, and
moreover she begged of him to find her a husband
who possessed good looks, good qualities, and good

At length, when some days had passed, four suitors
came from four different countries. The father told
them that he must have from each some indication
that he possessed the required qualities ; that he was
pleased with their looks, but that they must satisfy
him about their knowledge.

6 1 have,' the first said, 6 a perfect acquaintance with
the Shastras (or Scriptures) ; in science there is none
to rival me. As for my handsome mien, it may
plainly be seen by you.'

The second exclaimed, ' My attainments are unique
in the knowledge of archery. I am acquainted with
the art of discharging arrows and killing anything
which though not seen is heard, and my fine pro-
portions are plainly visible to you.'

The third continued, * I understand the language
of land and water animals, of birds and of beasts, and
I have no equal in strength. Of my comeliness you
yourself may judge.'

' I have the knowledge,' quoth the fourth, ' how to


make a certain cloth which can be sold for five
rubies: having sold it I give the proceeds of one
ruby to a Brahman, of the second I make an offering
to a deity, a third I wear on my own person, a
fourth I keep for my wife ; and, having sold the fifth,
I spend it in giving feasts. This is my knowledge,
and none other is acquainted with it. My good
looks are apparent.'

The father hearing these speeches began to reflect,
6 It is said that excess in anything is not good.
Sita 1 was very lovely, but the demon Eavana carried
her away ; and Bali king of Mahabahpur gave much
alms, but at length he became poor. 2 My daughter
is too fair to remain a maiden ; to which of these
shall I give her ? '

So saying, Hiranyadatt went to his daughter, ex-
plained the qualities of the four suitors, and asked,
c To which shall I give thee ? ' On hearing these
words she was abashed ; and, hanging down her head,
knew not what to reply.

Then the Baniya, having reflected, said to himself,
' He who is acquainted with the Shastras is a Brah-
man, he who could shoot an arrow at the sound was

1 The daughter of Raja Janaka, married to Ramachandra. The latter
placed his wife under the charge of his brother Lakshmana, and went
into the forest to worship, when the demon Ravana disguised himself
as a beggar, and carried off the prize.

2 This great king was tricked by the god Vishnu out of the sway of
heaven and earth, but from his exceeding piety he was appointed to
reign in Patala, or Hades.


a Kshatriya or warrior, and he who made the cloth
was a Shudra or servile. But the youth who under-
stands the language of birds is of our own caste. To
him, therefore, will I many her.' And accordingly
he proceeded with the betrothal of his daughter.

Meanwhile Madansena went one day, during the
spring season, into the garden for a stroll. It hap-
pened, just before she came out, that Somdatt, the
son of the merchant Dharmdatt, had gone for pleasure
into the forest, and was returning through the same
garden to his home.

He was fascinated at the sight of the maiden, and
said to his friend, ( Brother, if I can obtain her my
life will be prosperous, and if I do not obtain her my
living in the world will be in vain.'

Having thus spoken, and becoming restless from
the fear of separation, he involuntarily drew near to
her, and seizing her hand, said

6 If thou wilt not form an affection for me, I will
throw away my life on thy account.'

' Be pleased not to do this,' she replied ; ' it will
be sinful, and it will involve me in the guilt and
punishment of shedding blood ; hence I shall be
miserable in this world and in that to be.'

( Thy blandishments,' he replied, ' have pierced
my heart, and the consuming thought of parting
from thee has burnt up my body, and memory and
understanding have been destroyed by this pain;
and from excess of love I have no sense of right or


wrong. But if thou wilt make me a promise, I will
live again.'

She replied, ' Truly the Kali Yug (iron age)
has commenced, since which time falsehood has in-
creased in the world and truth has diminished ;
people talk smoothly with their tongues, but nourish
deceit in their hearts; religion is destroyed, crime
has increased, and the earth has begun to give
little fruit. Kings levy fines, JBrahmans have waxed
covetous, the son obeys not his sire's commands,
brother distrusts brother; friendship has departed
from amongst friends ; sincerity has left masters ;
servants have given up service ; man has abandoned
manliness; and woman has abandoned modesty.
Five days hence, my marriage is to be ; but if thou
slay not thyself, I will visit thee first, and after that
I will remain with my husband.'

Having given this promise, and having sworn by
the Ganges, she returned home. The merchant's
son also went his way.

Presently the marriage ceremonies came on, and
Hiranyadatt the Baniya expended a lakh of rupees
in feasts and presents to the bridegroom. The
bodies of the twain were anointed with turmeric,
the bride was made to hold in her hand the iron box
for eye paint, and the youth a pair of betel scissors.
During the night before the wedding there was loud
and shrill music, the heads and limbs of the young
couple were rubbed with an ointment of oil, and


the bridegroom's head was duly shaved. The wed-
ding procession was very grand. The streets were a
blaze of flambeaux and torches carried in the hand,
fireworks by the ton were discharged as the people
passed; elephants, camels, and horses richly capari-
soned, were placed in convenient situations; and
before the procession had reached the house of the
bride half a dozen wicked boys and bad young men
were killed or wounded. 1 After the marriage for-
mulas were repeated the Baniya gave a feast or
supper, and the food was so excellent that all sat
down quietly, no one 1 uttered a complaint, or brought
dishonour on the bride's family, or cut with scissors
the garments of his neighbour.

The ceremony thus happily concluded, the hus-
band brought Madansena home to his own house.
After some days the wife of her husband's youngest
brother and also the wife of his eldest brother led
her at night by force to her bridegroom, and seated
her on a bed ornamented with flowers.

As her husband proceeded to take her hand, she
jerked it away, and at once openly told him all that
she had promised to Somdatt on condition of his not
killing himself.

6 All things,' rejoined the bridegroom, hearing her
words, e have their sense ascertained by speech ; in

1 The procession is fair game, and is often attacked in the dark wi; h
sticks and stones, causing serious disputes. At the supper the guests
confer the obligation by their presence, and are exceedingly exacting.



speech they have their basis, and from speech they
proceed ; consequently a falsifier of speech falsifies
everything. If truly you are desirous of going to
him, go ! '

Receiving her husband's permission, she arose and
went off to the young merchant's house in full dress.
Upon the road a thief saw her, and in high good
humour came up and asked

* Whither goest thou at midnight in such darkness,
having put on all these fine clothes and ornaments ? '

She replied that she was going to the house of her

f And who here,' said the thief, ' is thy protector ? '

' Kama Deva,' she replied, t the beautiful youth
who by his fiery arrows wounds with love the
hearts of the inhabitants of the three worlds, Eati-
pati, the husband of Rati, 1 accompanied by the
kokila bird, 2 the humming bee and gentle breezes.'
She then told to the thief the whole story, adding

6 Destroy not my jewels : I give thee a promise
before I go that on my return thou shalt have all
these ornaments.'

Hearing this the thief thought to himself that it
would be useless now to destroy her jewels, when
she had promised to give them to him presently of

1 Kati is the wife of Kama, the Grod of Desire ; and we explain the
word by ' Spring personified.'

2 The Indian Cuckoo ( Cuculus Indicus). It is supposed to lay its
eggs in the nest of the crow.


her own good will. He therefore let her go, and sat
down and thus soliloquised :

' To me it is astonishing that he who sustained
me in my mother's womb should take no care of me
now that I have been born and am able to enjoy
the good things of this world. I know not whether
he is asleep or dead. And I would rather swallow
poison than ask man for money or favour. For

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Online LibraryRichard Francis BurtonVikram and the vampire; or, Tales of Hindu devilry → online text (page 10 of 19)