We live in a world where several mysterious lie before us
resolved in bare state. Scientific revolution and advancements in communication
technology have brought about a new way of our looking at the world. It is not
always pleasant and when we look over the shoulder it is with an awe and
pleasure as to how we knew it all anyway but our world was more composite. The
past has always been enchanting and it still gladdens the heart and uplifts
consciousness to have a look at the firmament we were so familiar and free with
The editor of the present series welcome the reader into the pleasure
of a participative stroll into some major works of Sanskrit literature that are a
heritage of Indian lore. Books Panchtantra or Gems of Indian Thought,
Hitopadesh or The Benevolent Sayings, Vikramaditya-Veital Tales or the Tales of
Riddles, Jatakmala or The Pearls of Indian Wisdom, The Life & Times of King
Bhoj or Bhoj Prabandh and Fairy Dolls & Vikramaditya's legendary Throne are
entertaining, informing and illustrative of universal and eternal values. I am sure
the reader would find these an enriching experience. Simple language and clear
narration, I am sure, will be welcomed by readers of all ages.
Sanskrit literature is a storehouse of legends and stories. Perhaps it is a result of our penisular geography. People in those early days were deprived of intercourse with other nations, cultures, and were supplied with interesting, entertaining, informative, interactive or narrative tales as a diversion from their relentless boredom. Thus, we have anthologies of folk tales, fables, narrations and epics that are an important contribution to world literature. Prominent works of literature Kathasaritsagar, Brihat Kathamanjari, Bhoj Prabandh, Panchtantra, Hitopadesh, Kathamuktawali, Kathamanjari, Jatakmala are tomes that are unparalleled in the world. There are constructions in these anthologies that would be beyond the conceptual domain of writers today. The larger body of available literature today consists of narrations that are generally incomplete, not giving the final resolution of events, characters, and episodic developments. With ends losing track, the storyline often gets restricted to disparate descriptions that focus on an aspect or two of life leaving the strands of logical development loose. The result of this trend is a reading public that remains groping for answers, and this situation often having a reflection in real life—the reason why anxiety and tension are a common feature of modern world. Who is responsible for this predicament? The conditions are such that modern writers even consider it a hallmark success to bring the reader to a pitch of suspense and then letting
him resolve the situation! Often, it leads t0 a sense of delusion and of destructive frustration in the minds of the reader—an explosive mind—set that sees bleakness as the true and only feature of life!
COMPLETE PICTURE: Sanskrit literature is free of this blame. Here episodes, narrations, characterisations move in an even pace and are rounded off by explanations that transcend the normal to give a complete picture. Often, this has relaxing effect on the reader which reflects on his day—to—day activities and the general improved milieu of our society. If we compare the modern paced life available in cities to the more placid but satisfied life of the rural folk, we would find that there is not much difference in their understanding of things in either case, but that the latter have come to wisdom through knowledge of sorrow and they desist from blindly moving ahead even when given a chance. This is because their mettle is ingrained with centuries’ old narrative legends and folk tales that inform without exciting and entertain without despoiling their moral, social and intellectual frame.
The present text Veital Panchvishantih or Vikramaditya- Veital Tales consisting of 24-25 stories is a collection gleaned from the above mentioned anthologies and set in a frame that develops a stream all its own. Each narration is a tour force into the complexity that social living infuses into men and women, otherwise born natural and naked and how ‘extra-body’ entities are affected by their activities and how it influences people in turn. Normally, our inclinations turn towards meaningless and fruitless objectives which only serves to remind us that, at the base, society is still ruled by darker animal instincts and is totally under the control of the paranormal, and that, at the end of it all, it is the forces of nature that take us into their resting arms. But that comes later. Before this understanding dawns, if ever, in the conscious realm, we are swayed by each minor happening, by our small urges and by mirage- like dream fulfilments, instigated by forces we have little understanding of. Everywhere we find we are only trying to evade the reality of our marooned existence on this planet earth. For diversion we have the manifest world that gives a semblance of order where there is no order and as recompense there is the dream world- a complex mix of past legends, stories, mythical beings— a real while they are not real in the sense we perceive them. The manifest world that gives us a kaleidoscopic view of things that are cosmic in nature and supernatural in texture.
WORLD BEYOND: It begs to be noted that Vikramaditya—Veital Tales ventures, for the first time in narrative literature, into the realm that is beyond the ken of our five senses. Gods and Goddess, spells and curses, ghosts and demons abound in the entire narrative along with actual mention of unearthly forms, the nether world, the abode of spirits under sea and oceans, the airy beings, angels devs, devis, gandharvas, yakshas, ghosts, ghouls, pretas, rakshasas, pishachas, dakkinis, dayans, churails et. al. and the celestial voices. It gives us a glimpse of the world we encounter only after death-the dimensionless, directionless existence where rules of physics and chemistry rather than biology apply. If it is a world of horrifying images unearthly scenes as also enchanting forms—it is alien to us restricted to five senses. The Veital himself represents a ghost—the modern scientists would call it electromagnetic energy form that has its electronic configuration distorted and incomplete; the philosopher will invest it with concepts of overlapping existences living across aeons in disembodied state not being able to transcend the Earth forcefield and not being able to take birth in any embodied state here or in any other planet for a number of socio—ritualistic reasons, of superimposed recordings of feelings, thoughts, sense impressions and such.
The pundits of society will merely name them ghouls, spirits, ghosts, demons, entities that have left the earthly abode but not departed from it the residents still in passionate association with the attributes human body seem to take pleasrue in, but not of it. Before these entities can regain their embodied state all their past memory patterns and habit’s traumatic grip of previous lives must be smoothed out, wiped out. They then return to their simplistic thinking when per se they will be “destroyed’ and ‘wiped away’ and when they can depart for upper rarer atmosphere with the former ‘person’ finally ‘dying’ so that the next human birth is like a fresh person, not influenced by socio-political patterning the society imposes and can give a new impetus for society’s forward march. We all have our equal in almost computer equivalent existence to which we move after death and which help those still in embodied form understand many things while still alive so that we can adjust to different planes and domain. This is for the aspirant, the seeker, the inquisitive and the spiritual amateur. Often he must be guided with the teacher controlling the results of events which always threaten the going out of control when disastrous tragedies occur. These supernatural entities appear to be smart, quick, having human attributes and are themselves fast enough to span across spaces, provided enough energy of particular nature is made available to them. It is for this reason that India has had a tradition of conducting homa, yajna etc. where purified, rare herbs and grain etc. are supplied to extra- terrestrials to help them gain their freedom from earthly attachments and control the elemental risks.
CORE STORY: It is in this connection that we might see the main theme of this book. In brief, a yogi, having acquired specialised knowledge of controlling elements, decides he can aspire for the position of chakravarti king (emperor) of vidyadhars- those holding occult powers. With this motive in mind the yogi sends King Trivikramsen, who was later also famous as Vikramaditya, a fruit everyday. Each fruit contained within it a precious gem, of which the king learns only later when they are revealed where the fruits as gifts were kept in the treasury. He was attracted to the yogi named Shantisheel, whose intentions, as we learn later, were ill—motivated and condemnable. However, at the point, King Trivikramsen had no way of knowing that the yogi was a schemester seeking extraordinary powers. The result was that the yogi was able to enlist the King’s support in his mission. The yogi took a promise from him to meet him at midnight on the occasion of krishnpaksh chaturdasi (dark fortnight). The King, being unknown, reached the funeral ground at the appointed time. The yogi asks him to fetch a corpse hanging from a sesame (Dalbergia sisson) tree some distance away.
The King upon reaching there saw the corpse hanging from the tree. There was a preta (a ghost) residing in that male corpse. The preta used magic to create many difficulties for the King but the King would not give up.
Finally, when the King did manage to bring it down from the tree, the corpse started wailing as though it were alive. When the King asked him the reason for crying, he went back on the branch. The King understood that as long as he kept silent the corpse stayed under his control and as soon as he broke his silence he returned to the tree. So he decided to keep silent during the mission in this connection. The next time the King brought the corpse down and started walking he did so silently and moved towards the yogi.
VEITAL SPEAKS TO KING: While walking with the king, the preta established in that corpse said to the King: “Maharaj! You are very brave. Therefore, I am pleased with you. Hence, to reduce your tedium along the way I will narrate a story. The story will be in the form of a puzzle you have to solve. If divining the answer you do not reply to me and keep silent, your head shall shatter into hundreds of pieces and if you do speak up to tell the answer I shall return to the sesame tree.” In this manner, the Veital narrated 23 stories to him and the King could think up the reply to all the 23 stories and he had to speak up as he was afraid of the curse. And all the 23 times, the corpse returned to the tree with the king in hot pursuit. The 24-‘h story was so intricate that the King could not devise an answer and as a result continued silently. The Veital was very pleased with the King’s simplicity and he told him about the fraudulent yogi he was serving since he would kill him. The Veital then informed him about how to save himself. Using that trick King Vikramsen killed that yogi and went on to become a very successful King of Vidyadhars. The Veital gave him a boon; Lord Shanker also appeared with other gods and praised him predicting his raising to the position of chakravarti king at the end of his earthly life. The boon turned him into Vikramaditya and he enjoyed the heavenly fruits of life here and hereafter and assumed the kingship of Vidyadhars.
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