King Vikramaditya was one of the greatest Kings in the world. He was so great that Lord Indra, the King of the Devas himself very often sought for Vikramditya's advice on many matters.
One such story deals with how Vikramditya judged Urvashi and Rambha's dance performance to determine the winner. This story starts with Vishwamitra. Vishwamitra was originally a king – Kaushika. Kaushika due to a dispute with Sage Vasishta gave up his kingdom to become the most powerful sage ever. The meditation which was being performed by Kaushika was so powerful that Indra, the Lord of the Devas was himself worried. If Kaushika's meditation was successful he would become more powerful than Indra.
The beautiful apsaras were dancing in Indra's court. Usually their dances filled him with joy, but today he was too worried to even look at it. What if Kaushika is actually after my throne? He was a king after all, he may take over the world after he completes his meditation...Indra sighed as he saw the dancing women...Then Kaushika would be the one who will be sitting here and watching the apsaras dance and become the ruler of the three...Indra blinked...watching the apsaras dance....
He suddenly smiled and announced loudly at court, 'Apsaras! Please listen to me...' The apsaras Urvashi, Menaka, Rambha and Tillotama stopped dancing to look at their king. Indra had never interrupted them during dancing...What did Indra have in mind?
Indra looked at the beautiful women and said, 'I am going to organise a competition...I want to find out who among you is the most beautiful dancer...'
The apsaras looked weirdly at Indra. Why would Indra ask for such a weird competition...Could he not just enjoy the dance of each apsara? Indra continued, 'The best dancer would have to do a secret work for me....A work which requires the beauty and grace of the best of you...' The apsaras looked at each other and nodded. They bowed and went back to their homes...the competition was to be held the next day...
As they left Indra thought gleefully to himself. I will send the winner of the competition to entice Kaushika. Each one of the dancer is so beautiful...The Devas themselves cannot resist them...How can a mere human continue with his meditation when one of the best apsara is dancing before them?...Kaushika would watch the dance and stop his meditation...Then I have nothing to be afraid of...
The next day the dance competition started. Each one excelled herself during the dance, but Urvashi and Rambha were a class apart. The other two were thrown out of the competition, when competing with the two of them.
So in the final, Indra watched Urvashi and Rambha dance against each other....But try as he might Indra could just not figure out who among the two of them was a better dancer...Whatever one could do, the other could do...each was graceful and the dance was enchanting...
Indra was in a fix. He could not send both of them...he had to choose one of them....He called the two of them...'You are both too good...' Both Urvashi and Rambha flushed with pride as Indra continued, 'However there can be only one winner. I will decide the winner tomorrow....And there wont be just me...I will have a judge with me...He will help me choose...'
Urvashi and Rambha bowed and returned to their home. That very night Indra visited King Vikramaditya.
'Vikramaditya!' He said upon reaching the king's palace. Vikramaditya was thrilled on seeing the King of the Devas come to him. He called his servant. 'Prepare for a feast, my friend...'
Indra held up his hands, 'No friend! I have come here for a special reason and I want your help....'
Vikramaditya frowned, 'What problem would the King of the Devas have ….that you would come to see me so late at night?'
Indra smiled, 'I just want you to decide the winner of a dance competition...'
Vikramditya looked more suspicious. 'A dance competition? What for?'
Indra avoided the question, 'That is not important my friend...I need to know who among my apsaras are the best dancers....I cannot decide, so I want your help...'
Vikramaditya felt that there was a deeper reason for the actions of the King. But he could not just turn aside a man who had come to him for help. He nodded his head, 'I will be there my Lord!'
Indra happily returned to the heavens.
The next day morning as Vikramaditya was getting ready to visit Indra, he prayed to the Mother Goddess, 'Mother! I thank you for bestowing upon me riches and everything that anyone could want for...It is because of your blessings that Indra himself has invited me to help him...Please mother help me!'
Vikramditya opened his eyes, when he heard a distinct buzzing. He looked around and saw two honey bees. The temple where Vikramaditya was praying was near a garden. The two honey bees flew and sat on two flowers. Vikramaditya did not understand what it meant, but he anyway took the two flowers...The honey bees were just inside the flowers miraculously. With the two flowers he set off to Indra's kingdom.
Vikramaditya was seated with Indra, when the competition started. If the apsaras danced well yesterday...today they were off the charts. Today they were dancing like they had never danced in their life...
Vikramaditya was so thrilled that for a few minutes he had even forgotten that he was meant to find the better dancer. But as the dance progressed Vikramditya realized Indra's problem...Both Urvashi and Rambha were equally good....
Vikramaditya looked at the two dancers and then looked at the two flowers which he had brought. Suddenly everything made sense to him. He stood up and clapped his hands. The dancers stopped dancing as Vikramaditya spoke with awe in his hands, 'My God! You are marvellous, ladies!' He told the two apsaras. 'As a token of my appreciation, I would like to give you something...' He took the two flowers and handed one each to the dancers, 'Please accept them!' Both Urvashi and Rambha held the flower in their hands, 'Can you please continue your dances with the flowers in your hands?' Vikramaditya said looking innocently. The two apsaras shrugged and started dancing again.
But this time Indra and all the other Devas were stunned. Urvashi was still dancing her best...Rambha on the other hand, looked unhappy and could not dance well. She struggled and finally threw away the flower. Her hand swollen, she looked at the flower as a honey bee flew out of it!
Vikramaditya clapped his hands again as he watched Urvashi's dance, 'Devendra! There is your winner! A natural! Urvashi is the best among them all!' Urvashi stopped dancing looking curiously at Rambha and then at Vikramaditya. She then uncovered her flower and saw the honey bee still there!
Rambha angrily looked at Vikramaditya, 'What does this mean? Why did you do this?'
Vikramaditya looked at Rambha and said, 'I am sorry! I did not know how else I could find the better dancer among you...'
Indra looked at Vikramaditya, 'How were you able to find it out friend?' Rambha also looked more curious that angry. Urvashi thrilled on being the best dancer looked proudly at the entire court.
Vikramaditya smiled. 'Urvashi is a natural dancer. While dancing she did not hold the flower very tightly....She just held it firmly...Such was her grasp that the honey bee did not even know that some one had caught it. Rambha on the other hand, clutched the flower tightly. She unknowingly squeezed the flower. The honey bee thinking that it was in trouble stung her!'
Rambha knowingly nodded her head. She looked at Urvashi and bowed her head and then at Vikramditya. 'You are indeed a wise man, King Vikramaditya!'
Indra was pleased. He had found someone who could be sent to Kaushika. He turned to Vikramditya, 'King! You may not know it, but you have done a great service for me! In appreciation of this I will give you a throne...The throne was given to me by Lord Shiva himself! It is no ordinary throne. Only the greatest of the kings can sit on it. Any king who sits on the throne would rule for a thousand years. You have proved to me that you are more than deserving to sit on the throne! I will give the throne to you.'
Happy and thrilled Vikramaditya carried the throne back to his kingdom. The throne was grand and beautiful. It had thirty-two statues engraved on it. The statues looked beautiful and life like. However the story of the 32 statues is quite another one!
-From the Bhavishya Purana