or Vetala Panchvimshati
("Twenty five tales of Baital
") or Vikram and The Vampire
is a collection of tales and legends
. It was originally written in Sanskrit
. Like Arabian Nights
, it is a set of tales, within a frame story
According to Isabel Burton, the Baital Pachisi "is the germ which culminated in the Arabian Nights, and which inspired the "Golden Ass" of Apuleius, Boccacio's "Decamerone," the "Pentamerone," and all that class of facetious fictitious literature..
The story revolves around the legendary King Vikram, identified as Vikramāditya
(c. 1st century BC
). Vikram promises a tantric sorcerer (Vamachara
) to bring him the Baital
in Sanskrit), a huge vampire
. Baital hangs on a tree and inhabits and animates dead bodies. Vikram faces many difficulties in bringing the Baital to the tantric. Each time Vikram tries to get back the Baital, the Baital tells a story. The story talk about someone being unjust and unfair, and ends with a puzzling question. If the king speaks, the vampire will fly away, else it will allow itself to be a captive. The king can be quiet only if he does not know the answer, else his head would burst open. Unfortunately, the king being extremely wise discovers that he knows the answer to every question. So this game of catching the vampire and letting it escape continues for twenty four times till the last question puzzles even Vikramaditya.
After telling 25 stories the vetal is happy and allows himself to be carried to the tantric. The vetal tells the actual plan of tantric, which is to sacrifice a person with 32 virtues — that are possessed by Vikramāditya — in front of the goddess, which would allow him to gain control over the vetal. The vetal tells him that tantric plans to ask the king to pay his respects to the goddess, and at that moment sacrifice him. The vetal tells the king to instead ask the tantric how he should perform his obeisance, and take advantage of that moment to behead him. Vikramāditya does exactly as told by vetal, and is blessed by Lord Indra. The vetal grants the king a boon; the king requests that the tantric's life be restored
and that the vetal would come to his aid when in need.