Vetala, aka: Vetāla; 9 Definition(s)

Introduction

Vetala means something in Hinduism, Sanskrit, Buddhism, Pali, Marathi. If you want to know the exact meaning, history, etymology or English translation of this term then check out the descriptions on this page. Add your comment or reference to a book if you want to contribute to this summary article.

In Hinduism

Purana

Vetāla (वेताल).—An evil spirit. In the branch of fiction Fairy stories have a prominent place. Fairy stories had a good place in India from very early times. In several stories Vetālas (ghosts) have been introduced as characters. Though Vetālas have got a place in most of the stories, the Vetāla, who had turned to the path of salvation in 'Jñānavāsiṣṭha' and the narrator of twentyfive (Pañcaviṃśati) Vetāla stories of Kathāsaritsāgara are the most prominent among them.

(Source): archive.org: Puranic Encyclopaedia

Vetāla (वेताल).—(also Betālas) a class of spirits, a gaṇa, largely followers of Śiva;1 Vampires: dance and feast on flesh and blood on the field of battle;2 images of, attending on Śiva.3

  • 1) Bhāgavata-purāṇa II. 10. 39; VII. 8. 38; X. 63. 10; Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa III. 41. 29; IV. 14. 10; 24. 55; Matsya-purāṇa 8. 5; 23. 39.
  • 2) Ib. 149. 16.
  • 3) Ib. 259. 24.
(Source): Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: The Purana Index
Purana book cover
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The Purana (पुराण, purāṇas) refers to Sanskrit literature preserving ancient India’s vast cultural history, including historical legends, religious ceremonies, various arts and sciences. The eighteen mahapuranas total over 400,000 shlokas (metrical couplets) and date to at least several centuries BCE.

Katha (narrative stories)

Vetāla (वेताल) refers to a group of deities commonly translated as “vampires” roaming at cremation grounds and possessing dead bodies. According to the Kathāsaritsāgara, chapter 12, “...at last arrived at the burning-ground of Mahākāla in Ujjayinī, which was densely tenanted by vampires (vetāla) that smelt of carrion, and hovered hither and thither, black as night, rivalling the smoke-wreaths of the funeral pyres”.

The Kathāsaritsāgara (‘ocean of streams of story’), mentioning Vetāla, is a famous Sanskrit epic story revolving around prince Naravāhanadatta and his quest to become the emperor of the vidyādharas (celestial beings). The work is said to have been an adaptation of Guṇāḍhya’s Bṛhatkathā consisting of 100,000 verses, which in turn is part of a larger work containing 700,000 verses.

(Source): Wisdom Library: Kathāsaritsāgara
Katha book cover
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Katha (कथा, kathā) refers to narrative Sanskrit literature often inspired from epic legendry (itihasa) and poetry (mahākāvya). Some Kathas reflect socio-political instructions for the King while others remind the reader of important historical event and exploits of the Gods, Heroes and Sages.

Arthashastra (politics and welfare)

Vetāla (वेताल, “magician”) or Bhetāla is an official title designating one of the seventy-two officers (niyoga) of the Bāhattaraniyogādhipati circle, according to the Inscriptional glossary of Andhra Pradesh (Śāsana-śabdakośāmu). The bāhattaraniyoga-adhipati is the highest executive officer of this circle (including a Vetāla). For example: During the reign of Gaṇapatideva, the area extending between Pānagal to Mārjavāḍi was entrusted to Gaṇḍapeṇḍāru Gangayasāhiṇi as Bāhattaraniyogādhipati. Later on, this office was entrusted to Kāyastha Jannigadeva.

(Source): Shodhganga: Kakati Ganapatideva and his times (artha)
Arthashastra book cover
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Arthashastra (अर्थशास्त्र, arthaśāstra) literature concerns itself with the teachings (shastra) of economic prosperity (artha) statecraft, politics and military tactics. The term arthashastra refers to both the name of these scientific teachings, as well as the name of a Sanskrit work included in such literature. This book was written (3rd century BCE) by by Kautilya, who flourished in the 4th century BCE.

Rasashastra (chemistry and alchemy)

Vetāla (वेताल) is the name of an Ayurvedic recipe defined in the fourth volume of the Rasajalanidhi (chapter 2, dealing with jvara: fever). These remedies are classified as Iatrochemistry and form part of the ancient Indian science known as Rasaśāstra (medical alchemy). Pārvatīśaṅkara is an ayurveda treatment and should be taken with caution and in accordance with rules laid down in the texts.

Accordingly, when using such recipes (eg., vetāla-rasa): “the minerals (uparasa), poisons (viṣa), and other drugs (except herbs), referred to as ingredients of medicines, are to be duly purified and incinerated, as the case may be, in accordance with the processes laid out in the texts.” (see introduction to Iatro chemical medicines)

(Source): Wisdom Library: Rasa-śāstra
Rasashastra book cover
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Rasashastra (रसशास्त्र, rasaśāstra) is an important branch of Ayurveda, specialising in chemical interactions with herbs, metals and minerals. Some texts combine yogic and tantric practices with various alchemical operations. The ultimate goal of Rasashastra is not only to preserve and prolong life, but also to bestow wealth upon humankind.

Languages of India and abroad

Pali-English dictionary

Vetāla, at D. I, 6 (in the lists of forbidden crafts) refers to some magic art. The proper meaning of the word was already unknown when Bdhgh at DA. I, 84 explained it as “ghana-tāḷaṃ” (cymbal beating) with remark “mantena mata-sarīr’uṭṭhāpanan ti eke” (some take it to be raising the dead by magic charms). Rh. D. at Dial. I. 8 translates “chanting of bards” (cp. vetālika). It is of dialectical origin. (Page 647)

(Source): Sutta: The Pali Text Society's Pali-English Dictionary
Pali book cover
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Pali is the language of the Tipiṭaka, which is the sacred canon of Theravāda Buddhism and contains much of the Buddha’s speech. Closeley related to Sanskrit, both languages are used interchangeably between religions.

Marathi-English dictionary

vētāḷa (वेताळ).—m (vētāla S) The king of the piśāca. Pr. vē0 āhē tēthēṃ bhutāvaḷa āhē. 2 A high order of piśāca or an individual of it. vē0 pūrvasthaḷīṃ yēṇēṃ (The return of vētāḷa to his place. See vētāḷapañcaviśī) Expresses the reverting, into the current or course of his native disposition or established habits, of one constrained or induced to walk for a season otherwise.

(Source): DDSA: The Molesworth Marathi and English Dictionary

vētāḷa (वेताळ).—m The king of piśācca.

(Source): DDSA: The Aryabhusan school dictionary, Marathi-English
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Marathi is an Indo-European language having over 70 million native speakers people in (predominantly) Maharashtra India. Marathi, like many other Indo-Aryan languages, evolved from early forms of Prakrit, which itself is a subset of Sanskrit, one of the most ancient languages of the world.

Sanskrit-English dictionary

Vetāla (वेताल).—

1) A kind of ghost, a goblin, vampire; particularly a ghost occupying a dead body; नाहमात्म- नाशाय वेतालोत्थापनं करिष्यामि (nāhamātma- nāśāya vetālotthāpanaṃ kariṣyāmi) 'I shall not raise a devil for my own destruction'; Māl.5.23; Śi.2.6.

2) A doorkeeper.

Derivable forms: vetālaḥ (वेतालः).

(Source): DDSA: The practical Sanskrit-English dictionary
context information

Sanskrit, also spelled संस्कृतम् (saṃskṛtam), is an ancient language of India commonly seen as the grandmother of the Indo-European language family. Closely allied with Prakrit and Pali, Sanskrit is more exhaustive in both grammar and terms and has the most extensive collection of literature in the world, greatly surpassing its sister-languages Greek and Latin.

Relevant definitions

Search found 40 related definition(s) that might help you understand this better. Below you will find the 15 most relevant articles:

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Vetālapañcaviṃśatī (वेतालपञ्चविंशती).—The twentyfive stories told by Vetāla. (See under Vetāla)...
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Bhutavetala
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Candrashekhara
1) Candraśekhara (चन्द्रशेखर) or Candraśekharamūrti refers to one of the eighteen forms (mūrti)...
Vana
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Brihatkatha
Bṛhatkathā (बृहत्कथा).—See Guṇāḍhya.
Yogeshvara
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Rudrasharman
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Vaitalika
Vaitālika (वैतालिक).—[vividhastālastena vyavaharati ṭhak]1) A bard, minstrel.2) A magician, con...

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