King Vikram was given the duty of bringing Betal to a tantric. Betal traditionally means ‘evil spirit’. Each time Vikram tried to capture Betal, it told him a story that ended with a riddle. If Vikram could not answer the question correctly, Betal agreed to remain in captivity. But, if the king knew the answer and still kept quiet, his head would burst into a thousand pieces. And if King Vikram spoke, Betal would escape and return to his tree.
Betal told another interesting story, as King Vikramaditya carried him on his shoulders.
Many years ago, there lived a king named Badsa. He was a great ruler and was loved by all his subjects. He had a son named Agni, who was wicked and had many vices. Unlike his father, he would not make a good ruler. This worried Badsa very much.
One day, while the king was holding court, Agni burst into the room and announced, “I feel I am ready to take over the throne. You are old and I suggest you step down. If you do not, I will form an army to overthrow you.”
Badsa was a peace-loving man and knew his son would go to great extents to take the throne. Ashamed that he was giving up the throne to his son without a fight, he denounced his title and decided he would spend his life in the forest in meditation.
Meanwhile, in his kingdom, Angi tormented his subjects and the kingdom grew very unhappy.
One day, as Badsa sat in meditation, he heard an old woman sobbing loudly. When he asked what the matter was, she replied, “I have only one son and a demon has vowed to eat him tonight!”
Disturbed by what he had just heard, Badsa offered to sacrifice himself to the demon.
The old woman and her son tried to convince him to change his mind but the king was adamant to help her out.
As per his plan, when the demon arrived later that night, Badsa offered himself. The demon did not think twice before quickly eating the king. Thus, the old woman’s son was saved.
Here, Betal asked King Vikramaditya, “What do you think of the old king’s sacrifice?”
King Vikramaditya thought for a moment and then replied, “There is no sacrifice here. This was not a selfless act by the king. He felt guilt for leaving his subjects at the hands of his unworthy son and offered himself to the demon in the hope of achieving moksha.
Betal replied, “I think you are right in your judgement. But since you have spoken, I will fly back to my peepul tree.”
Saying this, Betal flew away, leaving King Vikramaditya to draw his sword and chase him once more.
The Patachitra and the Batik art forms have inspired the style of the artwork seen in the Vikram Betal series of videos.
Patachitra is a traditional form of cloth based painting found in the states of Odisha and West Bengal. The subjects explored are folklore and traditional stories, which are painted using naturally made colours.
Batik is a traditional form of art in India which involves the use of wax on fabric. Presently, there is no one community which creates textiles and artwork using Batik and its reach has spanned India. Traditionally painted on fabrics like cotton and silk, the form has expanded to a variety of textiles.