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.
King Vikramaditya reached the peepul tree and placed Betal on his shoulder once again. As they walked, Betal began to tell another story.
“One afternoon, a man came into the court of King Roopsen, asking to be employed as the King’s bodyguard. He introduced himself as Birbal and promised to protect the King. After watching a display of his skills, the King readily agreed to give him the job.
As Birbal was walking through the forest one day, he heard a strange and frightening scream. It was a demon who had descended from the mountains and was storming towards the King’s palace. Birbal drew his sword and jumped in the demon’s way.
“I am here to banish the King and send him into the forest, away from luxuries and comfort. If he does not leave, I will curse his whole kingdom!” said the demon.
Birbal was shocked at this news and asked, “Is there anything I can do to save both the King and Kingdom?”
The demon roared, “You must find a suitable substitute for the King! One who is of a pure heart!”
Birbal asked for a day to find a substitute and went home. When he told his family the truth, his son offered himself as a substitute for the King.
The next morning, King Roopsen received word of the demon and arrived to the forest to try and stop Birbal and his son.
“What can I give you, O demon, to stop you from taking this young man! Surely there is something I can offer you!”, said the King.
“Give me half your kingdom and I will spare both you and this young boy”, bellowed the demon.
The King agreed to hand over half of his kingdom to the demon and Birbal’s son was safe.
“So tell me, wise King,” began Betal. “Who made a larger sacrifice? Birbal’s young son or the King?”
King Vikramaditya laughed and said, “It is a King’s duty to protect his subjects, but Birbal’s son was ready to give up his life for a man he did not know, and that, is the highest sacrifice.”
“You are right! But since you have opened your mouth, I must fly away.” With these words, Betal flew away, leaving King Vikramaditya to chase him with his sword.
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