Vetalapanchavingshati a volume of stories originally written in sanskrit. In 1805, fort william college published a Hindi translation of the book, titled Baital Pachchisi. It was meant to be used as a textbook in the college. In 1847, iswar chandra vidyasagar translated the book into Bangla at the request of the college's principal GT Marshall. In his translation, Vidyasagar added some new stories and dropped the vulgar expressions in the previous work.
The Vetalapanchavingshati is the compilation of twenty-five stories narrated by Vetala, the spirit of the late king Chandra Bhanu. Vetala, climbing on the shoulder of King Vikramaditya, narrated the stories one after another. Most of the tales centre around ancient kings; a few stories have Brahmins as central characters. Mixed with imagination and reality, the stories demonstrate the power of narration. But the stories also talk of royal affairs, scriptures and ethics, manifested in the questions and replies of Vikramaditya and Vetala at the end of each story. The stories also show the moral degeneration, sensual pleasure and luxury of the ancient kings of India.
In those days, books like Pavchatantra (Five orders), Dvatringshatputtalika (Thirty-two hundred dolls), Kathasaritsagara (Fables) etc. from Sanskrit, Kalila O Dimana from Persian, and Aesop's Fables from English were translated into Bangla to impart moral education. Apart from Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar, an anonymous author in 1852, and Jivananda Vidyasagar in 1873, translated the Vetalapavchavingshati into Bangla. But Iswar Chandra's work stands out for the excellence of its prose and style. The work was used as a textbook for a long time. [Wakil Ahmed]