Once upon time lived a king Vikramaditya., we have all heard this line and the stories featuring him. The Vetala Panchvimshati and the Simhasana Dwatrimshika. These stories have found their way in various versions of regional and Sanskrit literature.
The vetala panchvimshati tell us the twenty stories are narrated by Mahakavi Somade Bhatta these stories are supposed to have been told to Raja Vikramaditya by the wily ghost Betaal.
The simhasansa Dwatrimshika is the tales of the lost throne, Vikramaditya which links him to the King Bhoja of the Paramara Kings of Dhar. The folk lore has it that each time king Bhoja tries to ascend the throne of Vikramaditya thrity two statues that adorn the throne challenge him to ascend the throne only if his manumit equalled that of vikramditya as revealed by the tale that she would narrate. It thirty two attempts of Bhoja to ascend the throne and when he finally accepts his inferiority the statues let him ascend the throne as they are pleased with his humility.
This legendary throne is believed to be interred, in this spot and is guarded by the Bannikaleshwari, an earthy nature spirit she is the personification of the Bannimara, where the pandava’s hid their weapons during the exile. Again this is not a temple but a gardi. Each year during Deepavali the stone slab that is supposed to cover the throne, is cleansed a Sri-chakra is drawn on it, and worshipped. Behind the simhanasa chouwka is the RajyaLakshmi Devi who is supposed to bless the simhanasa. Or the throne.
It is believed that the last king who ascended the throne before it was interred has a story to say too. Apparently each night he would hear voices, and the entire court room would be enacted in a dream, by the carvings coming alive. They would narrate an event and wonder what would be justice that Vikramditya would met our, the next day an identical case would present itself for justice. This intrigued the King, and he felt too humble to sit on a throne that was the seat of great Kings like Vikramaditya and Bhoja.
In front of the gardi is jarja again devoid of the ornate carvings and royal ensign’s that are normally seen in Jarja’s or dwajastambha. This is a single monolith pyramidal structure instead of the usual cylindrical one with a carved head. Right in front of the jarja facing the gardi is a pair of feet chained but the rest of the statue is either missing or the statue in that state has a story to narrate, that no one is listening to.
Beside the gardi is the Barkur church. The bell tower of which would collapse the minute it was constructed to a certain height.
Shri Shreedharswamy an evolved soul visited Barkur some 75yrs back. He heard the story, saw the Bannikaleshwari and asked the archaka,”Betaal yelli?” that is where is the Betaala… everyone looked at him blankly.
The legend has it that a mendicant visited Vikramaditya the king of Ujjain. Each time he gifts the king a fruit which turn out to be orbs of ruby. Intrigued by this the king decides to visit the mendicant who chooses a banyan tree in acrematorium as the venue for the meeting, the chosen was the 14th day of the wan of the lunar month. During the meeting the mendicant requests the King to bring him the corpse that is dangling on another tree as it would help him in occult quest.
The corpse is the Betaala, a vampire. As the King proceeds to bring the vampire, the vampire narrates a story, the story ends with a dilemma or a question which the King must answer. If the King knows the answer and does not answer then the vampire would shatter his head. But if the king opened his mouth to answer the vampire would slip back to the tree. The vampire tells him 25 tales, which the King answers right and the vampire now comes under the power of the king. He also reveals that the mendicant was planning to kill the king, the king forewarned kills the mendicant.
This was the Betaala that Shreedharswamiji was looking for, he walked around and stopped at a place, and said this is where the Betaala is unfortunately the land belonged to the church. They refused to allow the excavation.
The Marakala community, requested the church that they should allow excavation if nothing is found they would close the digging and returned the land, and if something was found a call could be taken them,. After a lot of cajoling the church agreed and the land was duly excavated, lo behold the fallen reminiscent of the Betaal was found. This was installed in the land donated by the church.
Interestingly the bell tower could be constructed with few months of donating the land.