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.
As King Vikramaditya carried Betal on his shoulders, Betal asked him, “What in a man, makes him higher than others? Listen to my story and then tell me.” And with that, he began another tale.
Once upon a time, the just and good King Shoorsen ruled the Kingdom of Magadha. One afternoon, lost in a hunt, he went deeper and deeper into the forest, till he didn’t know where he was. Hearing a rustling sound nearby, he stumbled upon a young man.
“I am Gunadhip, an orphan who has been travelling from town to town searching for work,” said the young man. “From your dress and jewels, I can tell you are royalty, how did you end up in this forest?”
After hearing the king’s story, Gunadhip guided the king out of the forest safely. Impressed by Gunadhip’s nature, he offered him the job of minister in his court.
Gunadhip was deeply in love with a young maiden and wanted the king to meet her. The maiden was the most beautiful girl the king had ever seen. Upon being introduced, the girl bowed low and uttered , “It is my pleasure to meet you, King Shoorsen. I would like to marry you. I am sorry Gunadhip, but it has always been my dream to live in a palace and I can do so if I marry the king.”
Gunadhip took a deep breath and regained his composure. He turned to the king and said, “You are my king and master. If you would like to marry her, I will not stop you.”
The king was surprised but turned to the maiden and said, “Do you not know who Gunadhip is? He is my minister and has his own palace with hundreds of maids and servants. You will live a life of luxury.”
Hearing this, the maiden agreed to marry Gunadhip.
Betal asked King Vikramaditya, “Which man was higher and nobler for his actions? King Shoorsen or Gunadhip?”
“Betal, King Shoorsen’s duties are to protect the welfare of his people, including Gunadhip. By convincing the maiden to marry Gunadhip, he put the happiness of his subjects before his own, making him more noble than Gunadhip.”
Betal laughed, “Right you are, but since you have spoken, mighty king, I will fly off and return to my peepul tree!”