Vetala, Vetāla: 16 definitions

Introduction

Vetala means something in Buddhism, Pali, Hinduism, Sanskrit, 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 and Itihasa (epic history)

Source: archive.org: Puranic Encyclopedia

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: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: The Purana Index

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.
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.

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Kavya (poetry)

Source: Wisdom Library: Kathāsaritsāgara

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.

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Kavya (काव्य, kavya) refers to Sanskrit poetry, a popular ancient Indian tradition of literature. There have been many Sanskrit poets over the ages, hailing from ancient India and beyond. This topic includes mahakavya, or ‘epic poetry’ and natya, or ‘dramatic poetry’.

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Arthashastra (politics and welfare)

Source: Shodhganga: Kakati Ganapatideva and his times (artha)

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.

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.

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Rasashastra (chemistry and alchemy)

Source: Wisdom Library: Rasa-śāstra

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)

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.

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Nirukta (Sanskrit etymology)

[«previous (V)] — Vetala in Nirukta glossary
Source: SOAS Research Online: The Jain Prakrit Origin of the Vetāla

Vetāla (वेताल).—The etymology of the demonic epithet vetāla is still deemed to be in doubt. The Sanskrit tradition offered ‘abiding in the dead’: aveta (casuistically identified with preta ‘dead’) + ālaya ‘domain’.

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Nirukta (निरुक्त) or “etymology” refers to the linguistic analysis of the Sanskrit language. This branch studies the interpretation of common and ancient words and explains them in their proper context. Nirukta is one of the six additional sciences (vedanga) to be studied along with the Vedas.

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In Buddhism

Tibetan Buddhism (Vajrayana or tantric Buddhism)

Source: academia.edu: A Critical Study of the Vajraḍākamahātantrarāja (II)

Vetālā (वेताला) is the name of a Goddess (Devī) presiding over Nagara: one of the twenty-four sacred districts mentioned in the 9th century Vajraḍākatantra (chapter 18). Her weapon is the hala. Furthermore, Vetālā is accompanied by the Kṣetrapāla (field-protector) named Romajaṅgha and their abode is a vetra-tree.

Tibetan Buddhism book cover
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Tibetan Buddhism includes schools such as Nyingma, Kadampa, Kagyu and Gelug. Their primary canon of literature is divided in two broad categories: The Kangyur, which consists of Buddha’s words, and the Tengyur, which includes commentaries from various sources. Esotericism and tantra techniques (vajrayāna) are collected indepently.

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Languages of India and abroad

Pali-English dictionary

Source: Sutta: The Pali Text Society's 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)

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.

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Marathi-English dictionary

Source: DDSA: The Molesworth Marathi and 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 Aryabhusan school dictionary, Marathi-English

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

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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.

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Sanskrit-English dictionary

Source: DDSA: The practical 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: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: Shabda-Sagara Sanskrit-English Dictionary

Vetāla (वेताल).—m.

(-laḥ) 1. A spirit, a goblin, especially one haunting cemeteries and animating dead bodies. 2. A door-keeper. E. va in the seventh case ve in air, and tāla habitation, fixation, from tal to fix, aff. ghañ .

Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: Aufrecht Catalogus Catalogorum

Vetāla (वेताल) as mentioned in Aufrecht’s Catalogus Catalogorum:—poet. [Sūktikarṇāmṛta by Śrīdharadāsa]

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.

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