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:For the Gupta king, see Chandragupta II Vikramāditya
Vikramaditya ( ) (102 BCE to 15 CE) was a legendary king of Ujjainmarker, Indiamarker, famed for his wisdom, valour and magnanimity. The title "Vikramaditya" has also been assumed by many kings in Indian history, notably the Gupta King Chandragupta II and Samrat Hem Chandra Vikramaditya (popularly known as 'Hemu' or Hemu Vikramaditya).The name King Vikramaditya is a Sanskrit tatpurusha, from विक्रम ( ) meaning "valour" and आदित्य , son of Aditi. One of the most famous sons of Aditi, or Adityas, was Surya the sun god; hence, Vikramaditya means Surya, translating to "Sun of valour". He is also called Vikrama or Vikramarka (Sanskrit arka meaning the Sun).

Vikramaditya lived in the first century BCE. According to the Katha-sarita-sagara account, he was the son of Ujjainmarker's King Mahendraditya of the Paramara dynasty. However this was written almost 12 centuries later. Furthermore, according to other sources Vikramaditya is also recorded to be an ancestor of the Tuar dynasty of Delhi.

The increasingly common naming of Hindu children by the name Vikram can be attributed in part to the popularity of Vikramaditya and the two sets of popular folk stories about his life.

The Jain monk account

In a recorded form, the possibility of such a king is seen in "Kalakacharya Kathanaka", a work by a Jain sage called Mahesara Suri (probably circa the twelfth century - the story is vastly postdated and chronologically incorrect). The Kathanaka (meaning, "an account") tells the story of a famed Jain monk Kalakacharya. It mentions that Gardabhilla, the then powerful king of Ujjain, abducted a nun called Sarasvati who was the sister of the monk. The enraged monk sought help of the Saka ruler, a Shahi, in Sakasthana. Despite heavy odds (but aided by miracles) the Saka king defeated Gardabhilla and made him a captive. Sarasvati was repatriated. Gardabhilla himself was forgiven though. The defeated king retired to the forest where he was killed by a tiger. His son, Vikramaditya, being brought up in the forest, had to rule from Pratishthana (in modern Maharashtramarker). Later on Vikramaditya invaded Ujjain and drove away the Sakas. To commemorate this event he started a new era called the Vikrama Samvat.This story seems to be a jumbled one, as the original Vikramaditya began his rule from Ujjain and not from Pratishthana. The Ujjain calendar started around 56 BCE to 58 BCE, and the subsequent Shalivahan Saka calendar was started in 78 A.D. at Pratishthan.

The legend of Vikramaditya

The legendary Vikramaditya is a popular figure in both Sanskrit and regional languages in India. His name is conveniently associated with any event or monument whose historical details are unknown, though a whole cycles of tales have grown around him. The two most famous ones in Sanskrit are Vetala Panchvimshati or Baital Pachisi ("The 25 (tales) of the Vampire") and Simhasana-Dwatrimshika ("The 32 (tales) of the throne", also known as Sinhasan Batteesee). These two are found in varying versions in Sanskrit and also in the regional languages.

The tales of the vampire (Vetala) tell twenty-five stories in which the king tries to capture and hold on to a vampire that tells a puzzling tale and ends it with a question for the king. In fact, earlier the king was approached by a Sadhu to bring the vampire to him but without uttering a word, otherwise the vampire would fly back to its place. The king can be quiet only if he does not know the answer, else his head would burst open. Unfortunately, the king discovers that he knows the answer to every question; therefore the cycle of catching the vampire and letting it escape continues for twenty-four times till the last question puzzles Vikramaditya. A version of these tales can be found embedded in the Katha-Saritsagara.

The tales of the throne are linked to the throne of Vikramaditya that is lost and recovered by king Bhoja, the Paramara king of Dharmarker, after many centuries. The latter king is himself famous and this set of tales are about his attempts to sit on the throne. This throne is adorned by 32 female statues who, being able to speak, challenge him to ascend the throne only if he is as magnanimous as Vikramaditya is depicted in the tale she is about to narrate. This leads to 32 attempts (and 32 tales) of Vikramaditya 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

Vikramaditya’s story in relation to Shani is often presented in Yakshagana in Karnatakamarker state. According to the story, Vikrama was grandly celebrating Navarathri and having debate on one Graha one 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 as Shani’s entrance at 12th stage, which is the worst one to have. However Vikrama wasnot satisfied; he saw Shani as mere trouble maker who troubled his own father (Sun), guru (Brahaspathi) and Lord Shiva. Hence Vikrama said he is not ready to accept Shani’s worthiness of his prayers. Vikrama was very proud of his powers, especially complete blessings of Sri Devi. When he rejected Shani in front of gatherings of 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 concludes it probably true what Brahmin has told about his horoscope; but he denies to accept Shani’s greatness. “Whatever is to happen will happen and whatever not to happen will not happen” Vikrama declares and say he accepts Shani’s challenge.

One day a horse sales person came to his palace and said there is no one in Vikrama’s kingdom to buy his horse. The horse is said be of special features – it flies one beat and comes to earth on second. Like this one can fly or ride on earth. Vikrama could not believe and hence says he wants to try before paying for the horse. The seller agrees and Vikrama sits on the horse and beats the horse. As said by the seller, the horse took him to sky. On the second beating, it should have come down to earth, but it did not. Instead it carried Vikrama to far distance and threw into a jungle.Vikrama was injured and he tries to find his way back. He says all this is his fate and could not be anything else; he fails to recognize Shani in the form of horse sales person. While he was trying to find way in the forest, he was attacked by a group of dacoits. They robbed all his jewels and beat him. Vikrama still not worried about situation says the robbers managed to take only his crown but not his head. As he walks down and reaches for water in the nearby river. The slippery land took him to water and the force dragged him to long distance.

Slowly Vikrama manages to reach a town and sits under a tree starving. A shopkeeper in the town, highly conscious of his money, had his shop opposite to 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 outside makes so much money, and he decides to invite Vikrama to his home and give food. In the hope of long-term sales increase, he tells his daughter to marry Vikrama. After the meal, Vikrama was sleeping in the room and the daughter enters. She waits beside the bed for Vikrama to wake up. Slowly she feels sleepy. She takes off her jewels and keeps hanging on the nail with a duck’s painting. She falls asleep. When Vikrama wakes up, he notices the duck in the painting swallowing the jewel. As he was recollecting what he saw, the shopkeeper’s daughter wakes up and notices missing jewel. She calls her father and says he is thief.

Vikrama is taken to the king of region. The king decides to cut Vikrama’s legs and arms, and leave him in desert. While struggling to move and bleeding in desert, a lady walking to her husbands home, returning from Ujjain where her father’s home is, notices Vikrama and recognizes him. She enquires about his situation and tells that people are worried in Ujjain about his disappearance after riding the horse. She requests her in-laws to allow him to stay in her home and they keep him. Her family were from working class; Vikrama asks for some work. He says he will sit in the field and shout, by so making the bulls go round, separating the grains. He was not ready to live as other’s guest forever.

One evening while Vikrama was at work, the candle goes off due to wind. He sings Deepaka Raaga and lights the candle. This lighted all the candles in the town – the town’s princess had vowed 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 she decides to marry him. The king when sees Vikrama gets very angry remembering him from the theft charges previously and now trying to marry his own daughter. He takes his sword out to cut Vikrama’s head. That time, Vikrama realizes that all this happening to him is because of Shani’s power. When he was about to die, he prays for 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 pain to ordinary people like what he has gone through. He says a strong person like him is able to suffer but ordinary people will not be able to. Shani agrees and tells that he will not. Recognizing, the king surrenders to his emperor and agrees to marry his daughter to him. At the same time, the shopkeeper runs to palace and says the duck had released the jewel from its mouth. He too offers his daughter to the emperor. Vikrama returns to Ujjainmarker and lives with Shani’s blessings as great emperor.

Nine Gems and Vikramaditya's court in Ujjain

The 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 is said to have had nine such men of letters, called the "nava-ratna" (literally, Nine Gems).

Kalidasa was the legendary Sanskrit laureate. Varahmihira was a soothsayer of prominence of the era who predicted the death of Vikramaditya’s son. Vetalbhatt was a Maga Brahmin. He is known to have attributed the work of the sixteen stanza "Niti-pradeepa" ( , literally, "the lamp of conduct") to Vikramaditya.

The Vikrama Samvat (Vikrama Era)

In the Hindu tradition in Indiamarker and Nepalmarker, the widely used ancient calendar is Vikrama Samvat or Vikrama's era. This is said to have been started by the legendary king following his victory over the Sakas in 56 BCE.

Vikramaditya and Shalivahana

Legend has it that the Satavahana King Shalivahana defeated Vikramaditya and captured Ujjainmarker in the first century. As a result, the Shalivahana era was initiated in 78 by Shalivahana to celebrate his victory. The capital of the empire remained as Pratisthanamarker. The tale of this battle is recorded in "Katha-Saritsagara".

Shalivahana is a legendary figure in Indian history, and the king is usually identified with the Satavahana king Gautamiputra Satkarni. The Satavahanas ruled much before the Guptas from Pratisthana.


  • The Katha Sarit Sagara, or Ocean of the Streams of Story, translated by C.H.Tawney, 1880
  • Vikram and The Vampire, translated by Richard R. Burton, 1870
  • The Inroads of the Scythians into India, and the Story of Kalakacharya, Journal of the Bombay Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, Vol. IX, 1872
  • Vikrama's adventures or The thirty-two tales of the throne, edited in four different recensions of the Sanskrit original (Vikrama-charita or Sinhasana-dvatrimshika), translated by Franklin Edgerton, Harvard University Press, 1926.

See also


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