Vikram Betal Stories in English - The Right Choice Story


May 1, 2019
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Dark was the night and weird the atmosphere. It rained from time to time; gusts of wind shook the trees. Between thunderclaps and the moaning of jackals could be heard the eerie laughter of spirits. Flashes of lightning revealed fearsome faces.

But King Vikramaditya did not swerve a bit. He climbed the ancient tree once again and brought down the corpse. However, as soon as he began crossing the desolate cremation ground, with the corpse lying on his shoulder, the vampire that possessed the corpse spoke: "O King! You seem to be making untiring efforts and without respite as if you wish to achieve something. I pity you. Instead of enjoying comfortable sleep on a cozy bed, you’re still coming after me. Why are you so adamant? Have you forsaken your family to pursue your mission? Have you promised something to your parents? Listen to the story of Jayapal; you’ll then realise the futility of your mission!"

The vampire then began his narration.

Jayapuri was once ruled by Jayapal. He was getting old and his health was failing. He became bedridden and he felt his end was near. He sent for his son Veersimha. "I may not get up from my bed again, my son!" he told the prince. "I may die soon, though I wish I could live for some more years. I still love the pleasures of life. So, I want you to promise me that you won’t burn my body. You must embalm it and preserve my body in a wooden coffin. Some day some great sage may pass this way and give me life again. If that happens, then I can live on the earth for some more years. You must fulfill this my dying wish."

Prince Veersimha took his father’s hands in his and made a solemn promise. Before a month went by, King Jayapal passed away, Veersimha arranged for embalming the body, which was then laid in a sandalwood coffin. He thus obeyed his father’s command and fulfilled his last wish.

Veersimha had his formal coronation and soon afterwards he also married Tilottama, the daughter of the King of Dheerapuri. She was not only beautiful but good-natured, too. In due time, she was to become a mother. King Veersimha called an astrologer, who examined the queen’s horoscope. "The queen will give birth to a son, but there are indications that the baby may die of snake poison before its birth!"

"Shall I order for all the snakes in the land to the exterminated?" Veersimha queried. The astrologer was silent. "Shall I ask my people to rear mongoose in every house?" The astrologer was still silent. As he did not raise any objection, the king ordered that every house should rear mongoose. The king’s men went about catching snakes and killing them. Soon, no single snake could be seen in Jayapuri. Veersimha himself kept a pet-a vulture-which would always perch itself on the queen’s shoulders. The king thus made it certain that the queen did not come to any harm.

On a full moon night, Tilottama asked her husband, "There’s lovely moonlight; shall we go and spend some time in the garden?" Veersimha agreed. They both went into the garden and enjoyed the moonlight and cool breeze for a long time.

The vulture sitting on the queen’s shoulders suddenly flew into a tree in the garden on which it had seen a snake. It caught the snake and carried it by its claws away into the sky. But the snake freed itself and, as it dropped down, it fell on the queen’s shoulder’s and bit her on the neck.

Tilottama got up with a shriek. Veersimha helped her get into the palace and made her lie down. He then sent for the royal physician. Before he arrived, the poison had spread all over and Tilottama died. She was very dear to Veersimha. He could not imagine a life without her. He did not wish to cremate her. So, just as he did with his father’s body, he embalmed the queen’s body and preserved it in a sandalwood coffin.

Some days later, a sage arrived in Jayapuri on his way from the Himalayas. People talked about him as one who had acquired a lot of power and strength by deep meditation for several days. Veersimha sent word that he wished to meet him. Soon after he called on the sage.

"I know what you wish to tell me. Death is a natural event. Once born, man has to die some time. Nobody can escape death. If anyone were to beat death, it will only lead to more and more disaster. You did not cremate your father’s body but tired to preserve it in a sandalwood coffin. See how it has harmed your family! Your wife has died of snake-bite. Hers was a premature death. If you cremate your father’s body, the queen will regain her life."

Veersimha listened to the sage intently. He thought for a while and said, "You’re supposed to have acquired great powers. Can’t you invoke those powers and give back life to my father as well as my wife?"

The sage smiled at him. "Such things are not so simple as you believe. Even if I use all my powers, I can at the most achieve only one thing. I may be able to give back life to only one of them-not both. Andonly if you so insist will I attempt to do even that. Now you’ve a choice: is it to be your father or your wife?"

Veersimha did not think for long. "Please give me back my father!" he pleaded.

"You’re clever and wise, O King!" said the sage. "You seem to have considered all aspects before you made your choice. Perhaps by your decision, you can get back the lives of three persons!" The sage blessed him and sent him back to the palace.

The vampire concluded his story there and turned to King Vikramaditya. "Don't you think the sage was contradicting himself? He said he could give back life to only one person. Veersimha wanted his father to come back to life. The sage then complimented him for making a wise choice, and remarked that he was giving life back to three persons. Veersimha knew that only by cremating his father would he get back his wife. Why didn’t he ask the sage to give back life to his wife? Why did he ask for his father’s life? Was it correct? Only two persons had died-the king’s father, and his wife. Then why did the sage mention three lives? Whom did he mean as the third person? O King! If you know all the answers and still prefer to keep silent, beware, your head will be blown to pieces!" the vampire warned him.

Vikramaditya had ready answers. He said, "There’s no doubt Veersimha loved both his father and his wife equally. That was why he preserved their bodies. The sage told him that his wife had died a premature death because the father’s body had not been cremated. That meant, if Jayapal got back his life, then automatically the queen also would regain her life. The king realised this after deep thought. If the sage could give back life to only one person, he decided it should be his father, because if he got back his life, then that would lead to Tilottama getting back her life. The third life referred to by the sage was the baby in the womb. If the queen were to live, the baby too would live and be born in due time."

The vampire knew that the king was too smart for him and he flew back to the ancient tree, carrying the corpse with him. Vikramaditya drew his sword and went after the vampire.