Vetalas, from N.M. Penzer (ed.), `Ocean of Story´, 1923

„… and at night he went alone, sword in hand, to the cemetery. It was full of many ghosts, empty of men, inauspicious, full of roaring jackals, covered with impenetrable darkness, but showed in some places a faint gleam where the funeral pyres were. The hero Sridarsana wandered about in that place of horrors and saw the enchanter in the middle of it. His whole body was smeared with ashes, he had a Brahmanical thread of hair, he wore a turban made of the clothes of the dead and he was clad in a black garment. Sridarsana approached him, and made himself known to him, and then, girding up his loins, he said: `Tell me, what shall I do for you?´ The enchanter answered in high spirits: `Half a kos only to the west of this place there is an asoka tree, the leaves of which are burned with the hot flame of funeral pyres. At the foot of it there is a corpse; go and bring it here unharmed.´

Then Sridarsana said: `I will´, and going quickly to the place he saw someone else taking away the corpse. So he ran and tried to drag it from the shoulder of that person, who would not let it go, and said to him: `Let go this corpse: where are you taking my friend whom I have to burn?´ Then that second person said to Sridarsana: `I will not let the dead man go; I am his friend; what have you to do with him?´While they were dragging the corpse from one another´s shoulders, and making these mutual recriminations, the corpse itself, which was animated by a Vetala, uttered a terrible shriek. That terrified the second person so that his heart broke, and he fell down dead, and then Sridarsana went off with that corpse in his arms. Then the second man, though dead, rose up, being possessed by a Vetala, and tried to stop Sridarsana, and said to him: `Halt! do not go off with my friend on your shoulder.´Then Sridarsana, knowing that his rival was possessed by a Vetala, said to him: `What proof is there that you are his friend? He is my friend.´ The rival then said `The corpse itself shall decide between us.´ Then Sridarsana said: `Well! Let him declare who is his friend.´ Then the corpse that was on his back, being possessed by a Vetala, said: `I am hungry, so I decide that whoever gives me food is my friend; let him take me where he likes.´ When the second corpse, that was also possessed by a Vetala, heard this, he answered: `I have no food; if he has any, let him give you some.´ Sridarsana, hearing this, said: `I will give you food´; and proceeded to strike with his sword at the second corpse, in order to procure food for the Vetala that was on his shoulder. But that second corpse, which was also possessed by a Vetala, the moment he began to strike it, disappeared by its supernatural power.

Then the Vetala that was on Sridarsanas shoulder said to him: `Now give me the food that you promised me.´So Sridarsana, not being able to obtain any other flesh to give him to eat, cut off with his sword some of his own flesh, and gave it to him. This pleased the Vetala, and he said to him: `I am satisfied with you, brave man; let your body be restored whole as before. Now take me off; this enterprise of yours shall succeed, but that ascetic enchanter shall be destroyed, for he is a great coward.´ When Sridarsana was thus addressed by the Vetala, he immediately became whole as before, and taking the corpse he handed it to the magician. He reveived it joyfully, and honoured it with unguents and garlands of blood, and he placed the corpse, possessed by the Vetala, on its back in a great circle marked out with powdered human bones, in the corners of which were placed pitchers of blood, and which was lighted up with lamps fed by oil from the human body. And he sat on the breast of the corpse, and holding in his hand a ladle and spoon of human bone, he began to make an oblation of clarified butter in its mouth. Immediately such a flame issued from the mouth of that corpse possessed by the Vetala that the sorcerer rose up in terror and fled. When he thus lost his presence of mind, and dropped his spoon and ladle, the Vetala pursued him, and opening his mouth swallowed him whole.

When Sridarsana saw that, he lifted up his sword and attacked the Vetala, but the Vetala said to him: `Sridarsana, I am pleased with this courage of yours, so take these mustard-seeds produced in my mouth. If you place these on the head and hands of the king, the malady of consumption will immediately leave him, and you in a short time will become the king of the whole earth.´ When Sridarsana heard this, he said: `How can I leave this place without that sorcerer? The king is sure to say that I killed him out of a selfish regard to my own interests.´ When Sridarsana said this to the Vetala, he answered: `I will tell you a convincing proof, which will clear you. Cut open the body of this corpse, and show inside it this sorcerer dead, whom I have swallowed.´ When the Vetala had said this, he gave him the mustard-seeds, and went off somewhere or other, leaving that corpse, and the corpse fell on the ground.

Then Sridarsana went off, taking with him the mustard-seeds, and he spent that night in the asylum in which his friend was. And the next morning he went to the king, and told him what had happened in the night, and took and showed to the ministers that sorcerer in the stomach of the corpse. Then he placed the mustard-seeds on the head and the hands of the king, and that made the king quite well, as all his sickness at once left him. Then the king was pleased, and, as he had no son, he adopted as his son Sridarsana, who had saved his life. And he immediately anointed that hero Crown Prince; for the seed of benefits, sown in good soil, produces abundant fruit. Then the fortunate Sridarsana married there that Padmishtha, who seemed like the Goddess of Fortune that had come to him in reward for his former courting of her, and the hero remained there, in the company of her brother Mukharaka, enjoying pleasures and ruling the world.“



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