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Raja Vikramaditya, Ujjain- Madhya Pradesh

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Raja Vikramaditya, Ujjain- Madhya Pradesh


Vikramaditya (IAST: Vikramāditya) was a legendary king mentioned in ancient Indian literature, featuring in traditional stories including those in Vetala Panchavimshati and Singhasan Battisi. Many describe him as ruler with his capital at Ujjain (Pataliputra or Pratishthana in a few stories). “Vikramaditya” was also a common title adopted by several monarchs in ancient and medieval India, and the Vikramaditya legends may be embellished accounts of different kings (particularly Chandragupta II). According to popular tradition, Vikramaditya began the Vikrama Samvat era in 57 BCE after defeating the Shakas, and those who believe that he is based on a historical figure place him around the first century BCE. However, this era is identified as “Vikrama Samvat” after the ninth century CE.

Names and etymology
Vikramaditya means “the sun of valour” (vikrama means “valour” and aditya means “sun”). He is also known as Vikrama, Bikramjit and Vikramarka (arka also means “sun”). Some legends describe him as a liberator of India from mlechchha invaders; the invaders are identified as Shakas in most, and the king is known by the epithet Shakari (IAST: Śakāri; “enemy of the Shakas”).

Early legends

Depiction of Vikramaditya in his royal court in the calligraphic Constitution of India, illustration by Beohar Rammanohar Sinha
Although Vikramaditya is mentioned in a few works dated to before the Gupta period (240–550 CE), portions (including Vikramaditya) may be later Gupta-era interpolations. The earliest work to mention Vikramaditya was probably Brihatkatha, an Indian epic written between the first century BCE and the third century CE in the unattested Paisaci language. Its existence (and its mention of Vikramaditya) is confirmed only by adaptations in surviving works dating to the sixth century and later and testimonials by contemporary poets. Since there is no surviving copy of Brihatkatha, it is not known if it contained the Vikramaditya legends; its post-Gupta adaptations, such as the Katha-Sarit-Sagara, may contain interpolations.

Gaha Sattasai (or Gatha-Saptasati), a collection of poems attributed to the Satavahana king Hāla (r. 20 – 24 CE), mentions a king named Vikramaditya who gave away his wealth out of charity. However, many stanzas in this work are not common to its revisions and are apparent Gupta-period expansions. The verse about Vikramaditya is similar to a phrase—Anekago-shatasahasra-hiranya-kotipradasya—found in Gupta inscriptions about Samudragupta and Chandragupta II (for example, the Pune and Riddhapur copper-plate inscriptions of Chandragupta’s daughter, Prabhavatigupta); this phrase may have been a later, Gupta-era insertion in the work attributed to Hāla.

The earliest uncontested mentions of Vikramaditya appear in sixth-century works: the biography of Vasubandhu by Paramartha (499–569) and Vasavadatta by Subandhu. Paramaratha quotes a legend which mentions Ayodhya (“A-yu-ja”) as the capital of king Vikramaditya (“Pi-ka-la-ma-a-chi-ta”). According to this legend, the king gave 300,000 gold coins to the Samkhya scholar Vindhyavasa for defeating Vasubandhu’s Buddhist teacher (Buddhamitra) in a philosophical debate. Vasubandhu then wrote Paramartha Saptati, illustrating deficiencies in Samkhya philosophy. Vikramaditya, pleased with Vasubandhu’s arguments, gave him 300,000 gold coins as well. Vasubandhu later taught Buddhism to Prince Baladitya and converted the queen to Buddhism after the king’s death.[10] According to Subandhu, Vikramaditya was a glorious memory by his time.

In his Si-yu-ki, Xuanzang (c. 602 – c. 664) identifies Vikramaditya as the king of Shravasti. According to his account, the king (despite his treasurer’s objections) ordered that 500,000 gold coins be distributed to the poor and gave a man 100,000 gold coins for putting him back on track during a wild boar hunt. Around the same time, a Buddhist monk known as Manoratha paid a barber 100,000 gold coins for shaving his head. Vikramaditya, who prided himself on his generosity, was embarrassed and arranged a debate between Manoratha and 100 non-Buddhist scholars. After Manoratha defeated 99 of the scholars, the king and other non-Buddhists shouted him down and humiliated him at the beginning of the last debate. Before his death, Manoratha wrote to his disciple Vasubandhu about the futility of debating biased, ignorant people. Shortly after Vikramaditya’s death, Vasubandhu asked his successor, Baladitya, to organise another debate to avenge his mentor’s humiliation. In this debate, Vasubandhu defeated 100 non-Buddhist scholars.

10th- to 12th-century legends
Brihatkatha adaptations
Kshemendra’s Brihatkathamanjari and Somadeva’s 11th-century Kathasaritsagara, both adaptations of Brihatkatha, contain a number of legends about Vikramaditya. Each legend has several fantasy stories within a story, illustrating his power.

The first legend mentions Vikramaditya’s rivalry with the king of Pratishthana. In this version, that king is named Narasimha (not Shalivahana) and Vikramaditya’s capital is Pataliputra (not Ujjain). According to the legend, Vikramaditya was an adversary of Narasimha who invaded Dakshinapatha and besieged Pratishthana; he was defeated and forced to retreat. He then entered Pratishthana in disguise and won over a courtesan. Vikramaditya was her lover for some time before secretly returning to Pataliputra. Before his return, he left five golden statues which he had received from Kubera at the courtesan’s house. If a limb of one of these miraculous statues was broken off and gifted to someone, the golden limb would grow back. Mourning the loss of her lover, the courtesan turned to charity; known for her gifts of gold, she soon surpassed Narasimha in fame. Vikramaditya later returned to the courtesan’s house, where Narasimha met and befriended him. Vikramaditya married the courtesan and brought her to Pataliputra.

A ghostly being hangs upside-down from a tree limb, with a man with a sword in the background

Contemporary artist’s impression of a vetala hanging from a tree, with Vikramaditya in the background
Book 12 (Shashankavati) contains the vetala panchavimshati legends, popularly known as the Vetala Panchavimshati. It is a collection of 25 stories in which the king tries to capture and hold a vetala who tells a puzzling tale which ends with a question. In addition to Kathasaritsagara, the collection appears in three other Sanskrit recensions, a number of Indian vernacular versions and several English translations from Sanskrit and Hindi; it is the most popular of the Vikramaditya legends. There are minor variations among the recensions; see List of Vetala Tales. In Kshemendra, Somadeva and Śivadāsa’s recensions, the king is named Trivikramasena; in Kathasaritsagara, his capital is located at Pratishthana. At the end of the story, the reader learns that he was formerly Vikramaditya. Later texts, such as the Sanskrit Vetala-Vikramaditya-Katha and the modern vernacular versions, identify the king as Vikramaditya of Ujjain.

Book 18 (Vishamashila) contains another legend told by Naravahanadatta to an assembly of hermits in the ashram of a sage, Kashyapa. According to the legend, Indra and other devas told Shiva that the slain asuras were reborn as mlechchhas. Shiva then ordered his attendant, Malyavat, to be born in Ujjain as the prince of the Avanti kingdom and kill the mlechchhas. The deity appeared to the Avanti king Mahendraditya in a dream, telling him that a son would be born to his queen Saumyadarshana. He asked the king to name the child Vikramaditya, and told him that the prince would be known as “Vishamashila” because of his hostility to enemies. Malyavat was born as Vikramaditya; when the prince grew up, Mahendraditya retired to Varanasi. Vikramaditya began a campaign to conquer a number of kingdoms and subdued vetalas, rakshasas and other demons. His general, Vikramashakti, conquered the Dakshinapatha in the south; Madhyadesa in the central region; Surashtra in the west, and the country east of the Ganges; Vikramashakti also made the northern kingdom of Kashmira a tributary state of Vikramaditya. Virasena, the king of Sinhala, gave his daughter Madanalekha to Vikramaditya in marriage. The emperor also married three other women (Gunavati, Chandravati and Madanasundari) and Kalingasena, the princess of Kalinga.

The Brihatkathamanjari contains similar legends, with some variations; Vikramaditya’s general Vikramashakti defeated a number of mlechchhas, including Kambojas, Yavanas, Hunas, Barbaras, Tusharas and Persians. In Brihatkathamanjari and Kathasaritsagara, Malyavat is later born as Gunadhya (the author of Brihatkatha, on which these books are based).

Kalhana’s 12th-century Rajatarangini mentions that Harsha Vikramaditya of Ujjayini defeated the Shakas. According to the chronicle Vikramaditya appointed his friend, the poet Matrigupta, ruler of Kashmir. After Vikramaditya’s death, Matrigupta abdicated the throne in favour of Pravarasena. According to D. C. Sircar, Kalhana confused the legendary Vikramaditya with the Vardhana Emperor Harshavardhana (c. 606 – c. 47 CE); Madhusudana’s 17th-century Bhavabodhini similarly confuses the two kings, and mentions that Harsha, the author of Ratnavali, had his capital at Ujjain.

Other legends
According to Ananta’s 12th-century heroic poem, Vira-Charitra (or Viracharita), Shalivahana (or Satavahana) defeated and killed Vikramaditya and ruled from Pratishthana. Shalivahana’s associate, Shudraka, later allied with Vikramaditya’s successors and defeated Shalivahana’s descendants. This legend contains a number of mythological stories.

Śivadāsa’s 12th– to 14th-century Śālivāhana Kātha (or Shalivahana-Charitra) similarly describes the rivalry between Vikramaditya and Shalivahana. Ānanda’s Mādhavānala Kāmakandalā Kathā is a story of separated lovers who are reunited by Vikramaditya. Vikramodaya is a series of verse tales in which the emperor appears as a wise parrot; a similar series is found in the Jain text, Pārśvanāthacaritra.  The 15th-century—or later—Pañcadaṇḍachattra Prabandha (The Story of Umbrellas With Five Sticks) contains “stories of magic and witchcraft, full of wonderful adventures, in which Vikramāditya plays the rôle of a powerful magician”. Ganapati’s 16th-century Gujarati work, Madhavanala-Kamakandala-Katha, also contains Vikramaditya stories.

Vikramadhitya was often associated with the Poet Barthrhari, as the latter being the elder brother of the former; relinquishing the throne to his younger brother after finding his wife had an affair with a military officer of his court.

Raja Shree Veer Vikramaditya Mandir

5QPG+RPF, MP SH 17, Dabari Pitha, Kharakua Colony, Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh 456006


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