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 began another story, as he was being carried upon King Vikramaditya’s shoulders.
A long time ago, there was a beautiful and intelligent princess named Chandralekha. Many suitors came to offer proposals of marriage to her. She always declined, saying, “My husband should be strong, courageous and talented.”
One day, a prince named Virendra came to propose to Chandralekha. He said, “I can tell the fortune of people and have never been proven wrong.”
Chandralekha offered him a chamber in the palace to stay in while she made her decision.
The next day, Prince Udaivir arrived, wanting to have her hand in marriage. “I have a chariot which can run on land as well as in the sky,” said the prince, hoping to impress her.
He too was offered a chamber in the palace to wait.
The third day, Prince Dhananjay came to ask for Chandralekha’s hand in marriage. He boasted, “I am an unparalleled warrior. No one can destroy me!”
Chandralekha asked him to wait while she chose between the three.
The next morning, Chandralekha’s mother was horrified to find her daughter was missing. Scared for her wellbeing, she called upon the three princes to help find the princess.
Prince Virendra closed his eyes for a moment and then said, “As a fortune teller, I can see that the princess has been kidnapped by a giant who wants to marry her.”
Next, Prince Udaivir said, “My chariot is the fastest, we can rush to save the princess!” With that, the three princes, rode off in the chariot.
Upon reaching the giant’s lair, Prince Dhananjay took out his sword, fought the giant bravely and won.
Chandralekha was returned safely to her mother and the kingdom was at peace.
“So tell me King Vikramaditya,” said Betal. “Who should the princess choose as her groom?”
King Vikramaditya thought and then said, “Prince Dhananjay deserves to be the groom. Even though Prince Virendra foretold where the princess would be and Prince Udaivir used his chariot to take them there, Prince Dhananjay defeated the giant. Without his strength, the giant would have eaten them all!”
Betal looked at the king and said, “Right you are, my king. But you have opened your mouth to speak and so I must fly away, back to my tree!” With that, Betal was chased once more by King Vikramaditya.
The Patachitra and the Batik art forms have inpired the style of 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.