Remember Vikram and Betaal? People who grew up in the late 70s to 90s must be familiar with the tales. Immortalised in a series on DD as well as in the iconic comic books, Chandamama, every story had a strong moral message.
These stories were 1st written in a now lost language, Pishachi,(language of Ghosts) also referred to in some texts as Bhutabhasha. The most famous text of this language was Brihatkatha, a text now lost, in which the tale of Vikram and Betaal was 1st mentioned.
Later it was mentioned in the Kathasaritsagar, an 11th century CE collection of fairy tales and folk tales, retold in Sanskrit by Somdeva. He was an 11th century Kashmiri poet. Vikram and Betaal is based on 'Betaal Pachisi', written by him.
As the name 'Betaal Pachisi' suggests, the witty Ghost(Betaal) told 25 spellbinding stories to the great King Vikramaditya, who ruled over a prosperous kingdom from Ujjain.

Everyday the king used to hold public court and a beggar used to come and gave a fruit to the king.
The king used to pass on the fruit to his treasurer who threw them all in the storage. This went on for a couple of years when curiosity got the better of the king. The treasurer checked and was surprised to see the storage full of emeralds, pearls. The fruit had disintegrated.
He reported this to the king. Next day, Vikramaditya questioned the beggar about it. The mendicant requested help from the king for a magic spell and asked the king to meet him near a cremation ground at night, on the 14th day of the dark half of the month.
The king did as he was told and found the beggar there. He was drawing a magic circle and all around there were howling noises of vampires, ghosts and other nightly creatures. The beggar asked the king to go further deep into the woods.
He was required to remove a corpse from a treetop and carry it on his shoulder in silence. The king found the corpse but as he started lifting it, he realised that it was possessed by a Ghost (Betaal). Everytime the king talked, Betaal jumped back on the tree.
In the end, the king jumped up sliently and brought the corpse down. En route, the spirit of Betaal (in the corpse) used to narrate a story to the king and after completing the story, Betaal would ask a riddle to the king, related to the story.
If the king knew the answer and still not respond, his head would break into thousand pieces. But if he did answer, he would break the vow of silence and Betaal would fly back to the treetop, leaving the king inches short of his destination.
So at the end of every story, Vikramaditya answered and as soon as he finished his answer, Betaal fled back to the top of the tree. The king would go after Betaal and start all over again. This happened 24 times. At the end of the 25th story, the king didn't know the answer.
Seeing the determination of the king, Betaal finally disclosed motive of the beggar and cautioned him that the beggar would ask him to rest on a piece of wood and he would be sacrificed. He told him to let the beggar show him the way so that he could get rid of the evil beggar.
Vikramaditya went back and did what Betaal had told him. He killed the beggar. In a nutshell, Betaal proved to be a good spirit. He had warned the king about how the beggar was trying to plot his death, thus helping the King vanquish his enemy.
Betaal asked the king for a boon. The king requested that all the stories told to him, be told time and again in history, and wherever these stories are told, Ghosts would not dare. Betaal was released with the promise that he'll come to Vikramaditya's aid whenever he's in need.

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