Vikramāditya

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A picture of Vetal hanging by a tree and Vikram in the background.

Vikramaditya (Sanskrit: विक्रमादित्य) was a legendary 1st century BCE Emperor of Ujjain, India, famed for his wisdom, valour and magnanimity. According to the Pratisarga Parvan of Bhavisya Purana, he was the second son of Ujjain's King Gandharvasena of the rajput Paramara dynasty.

Sources[edit]

In Bhavishya Purana[edit]

In the Bhavishya Purana Vikramaditya is portrayed as the first great Hindu King among the ten great kings. He is said to be a son of Gandharvasena. Gods showered flowers at his birth. At the age of five, he went to do austere penance (Tapasya) for 12 years. Bethala or Vethala who was sent by Goddess Parvati became his assistant as he sacrificed a treacherous mantrika to Kalika Devi. He received a throne from Indra as he settled a dispute between Rambha and Urvasi. In his Judgement Urvasi's dance was superior to Rambha's because Rambha lost confidence and her garland flowers became pale as she worried about victory while dancing. He received a boon that he and his descendants would rule the kingdom for 1000 years. Vikramaditya performed a Yagna attended by all the gods except the Moon god. Hence he went to the Moon world (Chandra Loka) and asked for the reason. The Moon God replied that he did not come as it was kaliyuga.

Greatness[edit]

The Vikramarka Shaka epoch (or Vikrama epoch) is attributed to him. Many Indian kings took him as ideal and kept his name as their title. The Baital Pachisi and Dwatrimshati (Sanskrit for "32", a story about Vikramaditya's throne, supported by 32 dolls, each of which told Raja Bhoja a story about Vikramaditya's greatness) are popular stories about him. Vikramaditya, Shalivahana and Boja Kings are detailed in Bhavishya Purana. The first two kings had independent sakas or epochs, while Shalivahana era continues to be followed in the Indian Calendar. Among these kings, Vikramaditya stands first.

Nine Gems[edit]

Nine Gems and Vikramaditya's court in Ujjain, Indian tradition claims that Dhanwanthari, Kshapanaka, Amarasimha, Shankhu, Khatakarpara, Kalidasa, Vetalbhatt (or Vetalabhatta), Vararuchi, and Varahamihira were a part of Vikramaditya's court in Ujjain. The king commissioned nine men of letters, called the "nava-ratna" (literally, Nine Gems), to work in his court. Kalidasa had been the legendary Sanskrit laureate. Varahamihira had been a soothsayer of renown in his era, predicting the death of Vikramaditya’s son. Vetalbhatt had been a Maga Brahmin known for writing work of the sixteen stanza "Nīti-pradīpa" (literally, the lamp of conduct) in tribute to Vikramaditya.

Nine Gems of his Cabinet

1. Kalidas: Author of the great epic, ‘Shakuntala’, great poet, dramatist and the most prominent scholar of Sanskrit language. 2. Amarnath: Author of ‘Sanskrit Amarkosh’ 3. Shapanak: Prominent Astrologist who had achieved mastery in Astrology. 4. Dhanvantri: A Doctor who had achieved mastery in the science of medicine; one who was an expert in diagnosis and one who could prescribe different treatments for a single disease. 5. Varruchi: Expert Linguist and an expert in Grammar 6. Varahmihir: Author of World famous epic, ‘Bruhatsahita’ and mastery in Astrology. 7. Ghatakpar: Expert in sculpture and architecture. 8. Shanku: Expert in Geography (This name is even well known today in the field of geography) 9. Vetalbhadra : Expert in black magic & tantric sciences

This is an example of how the Bharatiya rule was complete in all respects with peace and prosperity existing everywhere in the kingdom when there were no external attacks.

Birth of Vikramaditya[edit]

According to the Bhavisya Purana, Gandharvasena who was the 14th decendant of king parmar , after ruling for 50 years, had his son Sankharaja made king. Gandharvasena went into the forest for meditation. His son died childless after ruling for 30 years, so Gandharvasena returned and ruled for another 20 years. In the year 101 BC his second son, Vikramaditya, was born.

The legend of Vikramaditya[edit]

The legendary Vikramaditya is a popular figure in both Sanskrit and regional languages in India. The two most famous tales, featuring him, in Sanskrit are Vetala Panchvimshati and Simhasana-Dwatrimshika ("The 32 (tales) of the throne"). These two are found in varying versions in Sanskrit and also in the regional languages.

Vetala Panchvimshati tell twenty-five stories in which the king tries to capture and hold on to a Vetala that tells a puzzling tale and ends it with a question for the king.

Simhasana-Dwatrimshika, the tale of the throne link to the lost throne of Vikramaditya which king Bhoja, the Paramara king of Dhar, found after many centuries. Dhar become famous as well with a number of tales relating stories of how he attempted to sit on the throne.King Bhoja tries to ascend the throne of Vikramaditya. Thirty two female statues which adorn that throne challenge him to ascend the throne only if he has magnanimity equal to Vikramaditya as revealed by a tale she would narrate. This leads to 32 attempts (and 32 tales) of Bhoja to ascend the throne and in each case Bhoja acknowledges his inferiority. Finally, the statues let him ascend the throne when they are pleased with his humility.

Vikrama and Shani[edit]

Vikramaditya’s story in relation to Shani is often presented in Yakshagana in Karnataka state. The story is also narrated in the Shri Shani Mahatmiya. According to the story, Vikrama was grandly celebrating Navaratri and having debates on the Grahas (planetary gods), one for every day. The final day it was about Shani.

The Brahmin explained Shani’s greatness including his powers, his role in maintaining Dharma on earth. The Brahmin at the ceremony also added that according to Vikrama’s horoscope, he has Shani’s entrance at the 12th stage, which is the worst one to have (also known as Sade Sati - seven and a half years). However, Vikrama was not bothered; he saw Shani as mere trouble maker who troubled his own father, the (Sun) god and guru (Brihaspati). Hence Vikrama said he is not ready to accept Shani’s worthiness or offer his prayers. Vikrama was very proud of his powers, especially of the complete blessings of Sri Devi. When he rejected Shani in front of the gathering at the Navarathri celebration, Shani got angry. He challenged Vikrama that he will make Vikrama to worship him. As Shani disappeared in sky, Vikrama said it is a fluke and he has all the blessings to withstand any challenge. Vikrama concluded that what the Brahmin has told about his horoscope was probably true; nevertheless, he denies to accept Shani’s greatness. “Whatever is to happen will happen and whatever not to happen will not happen” Vikrama declares and accepts Shani’s challenge.
One day a horse trader came to his palace and said there is no one in Vikrama’s kingdom who would be able to buy his horse. The horse was said to possess mystical powers – it flies at one stroke and descends to earth on the second one. Like this, one can both fly and ride on earth. Vikrama would not believe it and hence said he wants to try before paying for the horse. The seller agrees and Vikrama sits on the horse and beats the horse. As promised by the seller, the horse took off with him to the sky. When Vikrama hit the horse a second time, it should have landed back to earth, but it did not. Instead, it carried Vikrama to a far distant land and threw him into a jungle.
Vikrama was injured and he tried to find his way back. He thought, all this is his fate and could not be anything else; he fails to recognize Shani in the form of horse trader. While he was trying to find a way in the jungle, he was attacked by a group of dacoits (bandits). They robbed him of all his jewels and beat him up badly. Vikrama still not worried too much about the situation sees that the robbers managed to take only his crown and jewels but not his head. As he walks down and reaches for water in the nearby river he slipped on the mud and the water current dragged him along for a long distance.
Vikrama manages to reach the shore and approaches a town where he took shelter under a tree, starving. A shopkeeper of the town, highly conscious of his money, had his shop opposite to the tree where Vikrama was sitting. Since the day Vikrama sat under the tree, the sales in the shop went up significantly. The shopkeeper’s greed made him to think, having this person sitting outside makes him so much money, and he decides to invite Vikrama to his home and offer him food. In the hope of a long-term sales increase, he tells his daughter to marry Vikrama. After the meal, Vikrama was given a room where he went and fell asleep.Shortly after, the shopkeepers daughter enters. She waits beside the bed for Vikrama to wake up. But slowly, she felt sleepy too. She took off her jewels and hung them on a wooden wall coat rack carved and painted like a duck head. She went to sleep next to Vikrama. When Vikrama wakes up, he notices the duck shaped coat rack was swallowing up the girl's jewels. As he was recollecting what he saw as if in a dream, the shopkeeper’s daughter also wakes up and notices missing jewels. She alarms her father and says that Vikrama is a thief.
Vikrama is taken to the local king of the realm. The kings verdict was to cut off Vikrama’s legs and arms, and leave him in the desert to die. While struggling to move and bleeding in the desert, a lady traveling to her new husbands home after returning from Ujjain, where her paternal home was, noticed the dying Vikrama and she recognized him. She told him that people were much worried in Ujjain about his disappearance after riding on that flying horse. She requested her in-laws to allow her to take Vikrama to her new home and tend to his injuries. As her family were from the labourers class, Vikrama asked for some work to repay their kindness. He said he could sit in the field and shout, that way, making the bulls go round, separating the grains from the husks. He was not prepared to live as a freeloader forever.
One evening while Vikrama was at his new work, the candle went out due to a sudden breeze. He sang Raag Deepaka to light up the candle again. But in fact, this action lit up all the candles in the town! The town’s princess had taken a vow to marry anyone who lights candles with Deepaka Raaga singing. She was astonished to see this disabled man as the source of the music but despite his appearance she decides to marry him. The king, when he saw it was Vikrama, got very angry remembering him from the theft charges previously and now being about to marry his own daughter. He drew his sword to cut off Vikrama’s head. At that time, Vikrama realizes that all this is happening to him because of Shani’s power. When he was about to die, he offered prayers to Shani. He accepts his mistakes and agrees that he was too proud of his status. Shani appears and gives him his jewels, legs, arms, and everything back. Vikrama requests Shani not to give to ordinary people like what he has gone through. He said, a strong person like him was able to endure it but no ordinary person will be able to. Shani agrees and promises that he will not. Recognizing both Shani and Vikrama, the local King (nebhuchadnejjar) surrenders to his Lord and agrees to marry off his daughter to him. At the same time, the shopkeeper visits the palace, saying the wooden duck rack had released the jewels from its mouth. He too offers his daughter to Vikrama. Vikrama returns to Ujjain and lived with Shani’s blessings as a great emperor.[1]

Vikram Samvat calendar[edit]

The Vikram Samvat or Bikram Samwat is the calendar said to have been founded by the emperor Vikramaditya[2] following his victory over the Sakas in 56 BCE, although it is popularly (and incorrectly) associated with the subsequent king Chandragupta Vikramaditya. It is a lunar calendar based on ancient Hindu tradition and is currently the official calendar of Nepal.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Shri Shani Mahatmyam; श्रीशनिमहात्म्यं; The greatness of Saturn
  2. ^ The Encyclopædia of India and of Eastern and Southern Asia by Edward Balfour, B. Quaritch 1885, p.502.

References[edit]

  • Gold Coin of Vikramaditya 1