From charlesreid1

Vikram and the Vampire or, Tales of Hindu Devilry

Adapted by Captain Sir Richard F. Burton 1870 - first edition 1893 - second edition


This book utilized a particular pattern or literary device that I find very confusing. It's something I didn't realize explicitly, but that once I discovered (after reading this book) I realized why many books I've read in the past have taken so long to get into and start following. (The fact that this book contains nine stories, and that virtually each one does it, made it a little easier to spot because I was being bludgeoned over the head with it).

The device is, introducing a storyline containing several characters and entering the story by focusing on one particular character, so that you think he or she will be the main character, but then switching to another character later - using one character to capture the reader's interest, then changing it all up. In particular, when there are many names and many details covered in the books, it is difficult to know what information can be filtered out; when you think the story will focus on person A, you tend to filter out details about person B. But when the story then switches over to actually being a story about person B, you've ignored or missed some important detail that makes the entire story a confusing mess, and you end up having to go back and re-read the story from the beginning, whence you inevitably find the one sentence or the one detail that explains everything that was confusing you.


p. 1:

The sage Bhavabhuti - Eastern teller of these tales - after making his initiatory and propitiatory congé to Ganesha, Lord of Incepts, informs the reader that this book is a string of fine pearls to be hung round the neck of human intelligence; a fragrant flower to be borne on the turband of mental wisdom; a jewel of pure gold, which becomes the brow of all supreme minds; and a handful of powdered rubies, whose tonic effects will appear palpably upon the mental digestion of every patient. Finally, that by aid of the lessons inculcated in the following pages, man will pass happily through this world into the state of absorption, where fables will no longer be required.

p. 13:

Scarcely had the god disappeared, when the Brahman, opening his toothless mouth, prepared to eat the fruit of immortality. Then his wife addressed him in these words, shedding copious tears the while: "To die, O man, is a passing pain; to be poor is an interminable anguish. Surely our present lot is the penalty of some great crime committed by us in a past state of being*. Callest thou this state life? Better we die at once, ad so escape the woes of the world!"

  • = A muslim would say, "This is our fate." A Hindu refers at once to metempsychosis, as naturally as a modern Swedenborgian to spiritism.

p. 14:

Die loved in youth, not hated in age.

p. 25:

Every day as Vikram sat upon the judgement-seat, trying causes anad punishing offences, he narrowly observed the speech, the gestures, and the countenances of the various criminals and litigants and their witnesses. Ever suspecting women, as I have said, and holding them to be the root of all evil, he never failed when some sin or crime more horrible than usual came before him, to ask the accused, "Who is she?" and the suddenness of the question often elicited the truth by accident. For there can be nothing thoroughly and entirely bad unless a woman is at the bottom of it.

p. 31:

A heavy storm was impending, big drops fell in showers from the forest trees as they groaned under the blast, and beneath the gloomy avenue the clayey ground gleamed ghastly white. As the Raja and his son advanced, a faint ray of light, like the line of pure gold streaking the dark surface of the touchstone, caught their eyes, and directed their footsteps towards the cemetery.

By the lurid flames that flared and flickered round the half-extinguished funeral pyres, with remnants of their dreadful loads, Raja Vikram and Dharma Dhwaj could note the several features of the ill-omened spot. There was an outer circle of hideous bestial forms; tigers were roaring, and elephants were trumpeting; wolves, whose foul hairy coats blazed with sparks of bluish phosphoric light, were devouring the remnants of human bodies; foxes, jackals, and hyenas were disputing over their prey; whilst bears were chewing the livers of children. The space within was peopled by a multitude of fiends.

In the midst of all, close to the fire which lit up his evil countenance, sat Shanta-Shil, the jogi, with the banner that denoted his calling and his magic staff planted in the ground behind him. He was clad in the ochre-colored loin-wrap of his class; from his head streamed long tangled locks of hair like horsehair; his black body was striped with lines of chalk, and a girdle of thigh bones encircled his waist. His face was smeared with ashes from a funeral pyre, and his eyes, fixed as those of a statue, gleamed from this mask with an infernal light of hate. His cheeks were shaven, and he had not forgotten to draw the horizontal sectarian mark. But this was of blood; and Vikram, as he drew near saw that he was playing upon a human skull with two shank bones, making music for the horrid revelry.

A stroke with his good sword might at once and effectually put an end to the danger. But then he remembered that he had passed his royal world to do the devotee's bidding that night. Besides, he felt assured that the hour for action had not yet sounded. These reflections having passed through his mind with the rapid course of a star that has lost its honors*, Vikram courteously saluted Shanta-Shil.

  • = The stars being men's souls raised to the sky for a time proportioned to their virtuous deeds on earth

his uppermost thought was a firm resolve "to breakfast upon his enemy, ere his enemy could dine upon him."

p. 39:

"Remember the old saying, mighty Vikram!" said the Baital, with a sneer, "that many a tongue has cut many a throat."

p. 45:

The young minister put no more questions, "for," quoth he to himself, "when the prince wants my counsel, he will apply for it." In this point he had borrowed wisdom from his father, who held in peculiar horror the giving on unasked-for advice. So, when he saw that conversation was irksome to his master, he held his peace and meditated upon what he called his "day-thought." It was his practice to choose every morning some tough food for reflection, and to chew the cud of it in his mind at times when, without such employment, his wits would have gone wool-gathering, You may imagine, Raja Vikram, that within a few years of this head work, the minister's son became a very crafty young person.

p. 46:

...his friend... quoting the hemistrich attributed to the learned physician Charndatta -

A fever starve, but feed a cold.

The unhappy Vajramukut's fortitude abandoned him; he burst into tears, and exclaimed, "Whosoever enters upon the path of love cannot survive it; and if (by chance) he should live, what is life to him but a prolongation of his misery?"

"Yea," replied the minister's son, "the sage hath said - "

The road of love is that which hath no beginning nor end;

Take thou heed of thyself, man! ere thou place foot upon it.

And the wise, knowing that there are three things whose effect upon himself no man can foretell - namely, desire of woman, the dice-box, and the drinking of ardent spirits - find total abstinence from them the best of rules. Yet, after all, if there is no cow, we must milk the bull."p. 57 Unexpected pleasure, according to the Hindus, gives a bristly elevation to the down of the body.

p. 66:

For what said the poet? - Divorce, friend! Re-wed thee! The spring draweth near, And a wife's but an almanac - good for the year.

p. 75:

What is new is not true,

What is true is not new.

p. 82:

Expect thirty-two villainies from the limping, and eighty from the one-eyed man, But when the hunchback comes, say "Lord defend us!"

p. 88:

"Wisdom is exemption from attachment, and affection for children, wife, and home."

p. 93:

For the weak-minded things do naturally say, "I will be wicked at once. What do I now but suffer all the pains and penalties of badness, without enjoying its pleasures?"

p. 102:

"My king," resumed the misogyne parrot, "of such excellencies as these are woman composed. It is said that 'wet cloth will exttinguish fire and bad food will destroy strength; a degenerate son ruins a family, and when a friend is in wrath he takes away life. But a woman is an inflicter of grief in love and in hate; whatever she does turns out to be for our ill. Truly the Deity has created woman a strange being in this world.'

'The beauty of the nightingale is its song, science is the beauty of an ugly man, forgiveness is the beauty of a devotee, and the beauty of a woman is virtue - but where shall we find it?'

p. 152:

Meanwhile Madhusadan, the third, having taken a wallet and neckband, became a Jogi, and began to wander far and wide, living on nothing but chaff, and practising his devotions. In order to see Brahma he attended to the following duties: 1. Hearing; 2. Meditation; 3. Fixing the Mind; 4. Absorbing the Mind. He combated the three evils, restlessness, injuriousness, voluptuousness, by settling the Deity in his spirit, by subjecting his senses, and by destroying desire. Thus he would do away with the illusion (Maya) which conceals all true knowledge.

p. 155:

Madhusadan, the Jogi, seeing this, rose up without eating. The master of the house said to him, "Why eatest thou not?" He replied, "I am 'Atithi' that is to say, to be entertained at your house, but how can one eat under the roof of a person who has committed such a Rakshasa-like (devilish) deed? Is it not said, 'He who does not govern his passions, lives in vain'? "A foolish king, a person puffed up with riches, and a weak child, desire that which cannot be procured'? Also, 'A king destroys his enemies, even when flying; and the touch of an elephant, as well as the breath of a serpent, are fatal; but the wicked destroy even while laughing'?

Hearing this, the householder smiled; presently he arose and went to another part of the tenement, and brought back with him a book, treating on Sanjivnividya, or the science of restoring the dead to life. This he had taken from its hidden place, two beams almost touching one another with the ends in the opposite wall. The precious volume was in single leaves, some six inches broad by tremble that length, and the paper was stained with yellow orpiment and the juice of tamarind seeds to keep away insects.

p. 162:

Here King Vikram frowned at his son, a hint that he had better not behave himself as the children of highly moral and religious parents usually do. The young prince understood him, and briefly remarking that such things were common in distinguished Brahman families, asked the Baital what he meant by the word "atheist."

Of a truth (answered the Vampire) it is most difficult to explain. The sages assign to it three or four several meanings: first, one who denies that the gods exist; secondly, one ho owns that the gods exist but denies that they busy themselves with human affairs; and thirdly, one who believes in the gods and in their providence, but also believes that they are easily to be set aside. Similarly some atheists derive all things from dead and unintelligent matter; others from matter living and energetic but without sense or will: others from matter with forms and qualities generable and conceptible; and others from a plastic and methodical nature. Thus the Vishnu Swamis of the world have invested the subject with some confusion. The simple, that is to say, the mass of mortality, have confounded that confusion by reproachfully applying the word atheist to those whose opinions differ materially from their own.

p. 164:

To those who, arguing against it, asked him their favorite question, How often might a man after he had jumbled a set of letters in a bag fling them out upon the ground before they would fall into an exact poem? he replied that the calculation was beyond his arithmetic, but that the man had only to jumble and fling long enough inevitably to arrive at that end.

p. 168:

"For," it is said, "a man who has lost all shame, who can talk without sense, and who tries to cheat his opponent, will never get tired, and will never be put down."

p. 172:

In the strange city to which he had removed no one knew the son of Vishnu Swami, and no one cared to invite him to the house. Once he attempted his usual trick upon a knot of sages who, sitting round a tank, were recreating themselves with quoting mystical Sanskrit shlokas of abominable long-windedness. The result was his being obliged to ply his heels vigorously in flight from the justly licensed literati, to whom he had said "tush" and "pish" at least a dozen times in as many minutes.

p. 173:

A grand discovery had been lately made by a certain physiologico-philosophico-psychologico-materialist, a Jayasthalian. In investigating the vestiges of creation, the cause of causes, the effect of effects, and the original origin of that Matra (matter)which some regards as an entity, others as a non-entity, others self-existent, others merely specious and therefore unexistent, he became convinced that the fundamental form of organic being is a globule having another globule within itself. After inhabiting a garret and diving into the depths of his self-consciousness for a few score years, he was able to produce such complex globule in triturated and roasted flint by means of - I will not say what. Happily for creation in general, the discovery died a natural death some centuries ago. An edifying spectacle, indeed, for the world to see; a cross old man sitting amongst his gallipots and crucibles, creating animalculae, providing the corpses of birds, beasts, and fishes with what is vulgarly called life, and supplyingto epigenesis all the latest improvements!

p. 174:

"Unfortunate human nature," wrote the wise of Gaur against the wise of Jayasthal, "wanted no crowning indignity but this! You had already rpoed that the body is made of the basest element - earth. You had argued away the immovability, the ubiquity, the permanency, the eternity, and the divinity of the soul, for which not your favorite axiom, 'It is the nature of limbs which thinketh in math'? The immortal mind is, according to you, an ignoble viscus; the god-like gift of reason is the instinct of a dog somewhat highly developed. Still you left us something to hope. Still you allowed us one boast. STill life was a thread connecting us with the Giver of Life. But now, with an impious hand, in blasphemous rage ye have rent asunder that last frail tie." And so forth.

p. 208:

The carriage was at once made ready, and the suitors set out, bidding the father be of good cheer, and that before sunset he should embrace his daughter. They then entered the vehicle; Gunakar with cabalistic words caused it to rise high in the air, and Devasharma put to flight the demon by reciting the sacred verse(1), "Let us meditate on the supreme splendour (or adorable light) of that Divine Ruler (the sn) who may illuminate our understandings. Venerable men, guided by the intelligence, salute the divine sun (Sarvitri) with oblations and praise. Om!"

(1) The celebrated Gayatri, the Moslem Kalmah

p. 210:

When the bride awoke, she related all the particulars of her ill-omened vision to her husband; and the latter, after a short pause, informed her and his friend that a terrible calamity was about to befall them. He then drew from his travelling wallet a skein of thread. This he divided into three parts, one for each, and told his companions that in case of grievous bodily injury, the bit of thread wound round the wounded part would instantly make it whole. After which he taught them the Mantra (1), or mystical word by which the lives of men are restored to their bodies, even when they have taken their allotted places amongst the stars, and which for evident reasons I do not want to repeat. It concluded, however, with the three Vyahritis, or sacred syllables - Bhuh, Bhuvah, Svar! (1) From "Man," to think; primarily meaning, what makes man think

p. 255:

"The more they have the more their weak minds covet."

p. 237:

As before, strange beings were holding their carnival in the Jogi's presence. Monstrous Asuras, giant goblins, stood grimly gazing upon the scene with fixed eyes nad motionless features. Rakshasas and messengers of Yama, fierce nad hideous, assumed at pleasure the shapes of foul and ferocious beasts. Nagas and Bhutas, partly human and partly bestial, disported themselves in throngs about the upper air, and were dimly seen in the faint light of the dawn. Mighty Daityas, Bramha-daityas, and Pretas, the size of a man's thumb, or dried up like leaves, and Pisachas of terrible power guarded the place. There were enormous goats, vivified by the spirits of those who had slain Brahmans; things with the bodies of men and the faces of horses, camels and monkeys; hideous worms containing the souls of those priests who had drunk spirituous liquors; men with one leg and one ear, and mischievous blood-sucking demons, who in life had stolen church property. There were vultures, wretches that had violated the beds of their spiritaul fathers, restless ghosts that had loved low-caste women, shades for whom funeral rites had not been performed, and who could not cross the dread Vaitarani stream, and vital souls fresh from the horrors of Tamisra, or utter darkness, and the Usipatra Vana, or the sword-leaved foreest. Pale spirits, Alayas, Gumas, Baitals, and Yakshas, beings of a base and vulgar order, glided over the ground, amongst corpses and skletons animated by female fiends, Dakinis, Yoginis, Hakinis, and Shankinis, which were dancing in frightful revelry. The air was filled with supernatural sights and sounds, cries of owls and jackals, cats and crows, dogs, asses, and vultures, high above which rose the clashing of the bones with which the Jogi sat sdrumming upon the skull before him, and tending to ah uge cauldron of oil whose smoke was of blue fire. But as he raised his long lank arm, silver-white with ashes, the demons fled, and a momentary silence succeded to their uproar. The tigers ceased to roar and the elephants to scream; the bears raised their snouts from their foul banquets, and the wolves dropped from their jaws the remnants of human flesh. And when they disappeared, the hooting of the owl, and ghastly "ha! ha!" of the curlew, and the howling of the jackal died away in the far distance, leaving a silence still more oppressive.

As Raja Vikram entered the burning-ground, the hollow sound of solitude alone met his hear. Sadly wailed the wet autumnal blast. The tall gaunt trees groaned aloud, and bowed and trembled like slaves bending before their masters. Huge purple clouds and patches and lines of glaring white mist coursed furiously across the black expanse of firmament, discharging threads and chains and lozenges and ball sof white and blue, purple and pink lightning, followed by the deafening crash and roll of thunder, the dreadful roaring of the mighty wind, and the torrents of plashing rain. At times was heard in the distance the dull gurgling of the swollen river, interrupted by explosions, as slips of earth-bank fell headlong into the streamBut once more the Jogi raised his arm and all was still: nature lay brathless as if awaiting the effect of his tremendous spells.