A collection of Indian tales of wit, wisdom, humour, bravery, devotion and lots more...

Tag: akbar

Birbal Outwitted

It’s a long time since I wrote on Akbar and Birbal and so I am giving a short and sweet tale of Birbal’s sharp intelligence.

Once, there was some argument between Akbar and Birbal over some issue and Akbar shouted at Birbal and said, “Don’t ever show your face to me again!”. Poor Birbal did not retort as he walked out with a red face. Of course, Akbar did not mean it when he told Birbal not to show his face again, but Birbal, this time wanted to make the king realise that he could not shout at anyone just because he was wielding power, and so without informing anybody, he went away to live in hiding in a nearby village.

The next day Birbal did not turn up in the court. Akbar did not give much thought to it since he knew Birbal would be angry. “He will come tomorrow!” he said to himself, smiling. But Birbal did not turn up the next day as well, and the next and the next.

Akbar was worried and sent a messenger to Birbal’s home but the messenger brought a message that Birbal had gone away even without informing his family, which was indeed true. His family members were also anxious about his whereabouts but had not dared to ask the king, as Birbal had told them about the argument.

Now Akbar was more worried. He felt bad about having shouted so badly and now he found no way to get his favourite minister back. The courtiers who were jealous of Birbal were very happy. “Good riddance!!” they chuckled to themselves. “Now the king will ask us for suggestions instead of asking that cheeky Birbal” they thought. But Akbar was missing his intelligent friend badly and could not find a way to locate him. Somehow, it occurred to him that Birbal would not have gone away to a very far place.

Ten days passed and now Akbar was desperate to see Birbal’s face and hear his witty anecdotes. He thought for a long time and came up with an idea. After all he had been with Birbal for so many years and had imbibed some of Birbal’s qualities.

Few days later, there was an announcement in the city and the suburbs by the security guards. In those days, there were no newspapers or television or such media and announcements had to be made by persons in a loud voice, and to attract the attention of the people, they would usually come beating drums and stand in a public place and make the announcement.

“Dum dum dum dum”

“Hear O People of this kingdom!” said the man who was making the announcement in a loud voice. “Our Emperor, His Royal Highness Akbar Sultan has announced a competition for all. The winner of the competition will be given a hundred gold mohurs”

Now, ‘mohur’ was the name of the coins issued by various kings from the sixteenth century in India. A gold ‘mohur’ was the coin in gold and used to weigh about 10 to12 grams.

All the people gathered there were curious. “A hundred mohurs??” said one. “Then it must be very difficult task” said another. “What is the occasion for this competition?” asked yet another. At the same time, each one jostled with the other to come nearer the announcer and hear the details. When many had gathered around him, the announcer continued, beating his drum.

“Dum dumara dum dumara dum”

“The Emperor has announced that anyone who can walk one hundred metres in the sun and the shade at the same time will get one hundred mohurs. Whosoever wants to compete may come walking day after tomorrow and meet the emperor”

“Dum dumara dum dumara dum”

The people looked at each other puzzled. “Who can walk in the sun and shade at the same time? What sort of contest is this?” they murmured to themselves, looking disappointed that they could not get the prize announced by Akbar.

The crowd melted away as the announcer went to the next spot to announce the same contest.

On the appointed day Akbar was holding his court in the open courtyard under a makeshift pandal(shamiana), wondering if his idea to locate Birbal would work out. The court was almost over and it was going to be one o clock and Akbar was looking up now and then hoping that someone would take part in the contest and come to him.

Suddenly from afar, he saw a queer sight. A man was walking towards him, carrying a cot made of rope.(It is called ‘charpai’ in Hindi). As Akbar peered at him, the courtiers also turned around to see what had caught the attention of the emperor.

The man walked and came and stood in front of the pandal , in the sun but he was still holding the cot aloft with both his hands over his head. He seemed to be a very poor man as it was seen from his tattered clothing and bare feet.

To the puzzled emperor, he said in a weak voice, “Huzoor! I heard of the contest you had announced. I am very much in need of money and therefore I have participated in this”. The emperor and the onlookers were still puzzled when he continued, “Huzoor, look at me. I am in the sun and shade at the same time! Will you give me the promised prize??”

It was only then that all noticed that the sun was shining on him through the rope cot and therefore the shade of the rope was also falling on him.

Akbar was truly amused at this idea. But he knew that none other than Birbal could have thought of this and so he asked him, “Is it your idea or did any one else give you this idea? Tell the truth”.

The man replied “Huzoor, an elderly traveller has come two weeks back and is staying in my neighbour’s house in my village and when I was telling my friend about this contest, it was he who gave the idea, but anyway told me to take the prize money if I won, as he is well placed already it seems”

Akbar smiled to himself and said to the man “Well, you are the only contestant and I will give you the money for the smart idea, but I want to see the fellow who gave you this idea. So, go with my guard on horseback and bring that person here”

The man could not disobey and went with the guard and Akbar was waiting without even taking his food as he was eager to know if his idea was going to bring back Birbal to him. True to his expectation, in about half an hour the person returned with his ‘elderly traveller’ and the man was none other than Birbal!

The emperor was so happy to see Birbal again and gave him a warm hug much to the ire of the jealous courtiers. Birbal was also very happy to be back. Even though he had been upset when Akbar shouted at him, in his heart of hearts he was longing to come back.

“Now you have outwitted me Huzoor!” said Birbal beaming with happiness and the two were united once again.

Birbal Helps Again !!

akbarbirbal-1-ConvertImageBirbal was one of  the gems of Emperor Akbar’s court. He was one of those persons who could give a solution to any sort of problem which is why Emperor Akbar liked him so much.

We have heard of many instances where Birbal came to the rescue when justice had to be delivered. People preferred to go to Birbal rather than going to the court when they had a problem or case against somebody. This is yet another story of Birbal’s intelligence.

Once there was a person by name Shaam in a village near Agra. He had purchased a piece of land from his neighbour Mangat Ram. The piece of land had a well on it and Shaam had paid the purchase price in full and also registered the land in his name mentioning the presence of the well in the document. He had fenced the land and put a small gate with a lock.

The day after the purchase was over, Shaam heard a knock on his door. On opening the door, he found Mangat Ram standing outside with many drums of varied sizes. To the puzzled Shaam, Mangat Ram said, “I have come to take my water from the well and from tomorrow, give me a duplicate key to the lock you have put for the land, so that I do not have to disturb you to take my water”.

Shocked, Shaam asked, “But Sir, I have purchased the well from you by paying cash. So where is the question of your water? If you want, take water today, but I cannot allow you to take water from the well everyday as a matter of right!”

Mangat Ram, furious at Shaam’s reply said, “How dare you say that I cannot take water huh? I have sold only the well to you not the water okay? Show me where in the document is it written that I have sold you the water in the well? Don’t try to act smart!”

“Act smart?” thought Shaam. Who was acting smart? He did not feel like arguing with Mangat Ram as he knew that it would lead to nowhere. Gathering his wits Shaam said, “Mangat Ramji, it is okay if you take water today, but I want to take this matter to Birbalji for a solution. Of course, you have not mentioned the water in the well in the sale agreement, but then maybe it has to be included and I wish to meet Birbalji in this regard”.

Mangat Ram thought for a moment and said, “Theek hai, we will meet Birbalji tomorrow and I am sure he will agree that I am right! I will come to his house at 5 in the evening.” Birbal used to meet people in the evenings if his help was required by them to solve such issues. Mangat Ram was very sure that Birbal could not ‘dispute’ his version of the ‘ownership’ of the water in the well.

Shaam was worried the whole night, though he knew that he would get a just decision from Birbal. Anyhow, he thought he should apprise Birbal of the case beforehand and went to meet him in the morning.

Birbal gave Shaam a patient hearing and said, “Do not worry. I will see you in the evening. Go and take rest”

The anxious Shaam, left the place a wee bit relieved.

It was evening and both Shaam and Mangat Ram were present in the courtyard of Birbal’s mansion. Shaam was tensed up, while Mangat Ram had a cunning smile on his face.

Birbal came and signalled to them to sit on the benches there. Looking at Mangat Ram he said, “Yes, Sir, tell me what brings you here”.

Happy that he was given the chance to speak first, Mangat Ram told Birbal of how he had sold the patch of land with the well to Shaam, but had not sold the water in the well and therefore, he was entitled to take any amount of water at any time of the day from the well.

“Am I not correct Huzoor?” he asked with arrogance. “I never promised to sell the water to Shaam. Ask him if you want!”

Birbal looked at Shaam and asked him, “Is it true that Mangat Ram did not sell you the water?”

Almost in tears Shaam said, “Huzoor, I never imagined that a person would sell only the well without the water in it. I bought the land with the well only because there was copious water in the well and I could irrigate the land with that. I have paid lot of money for the purchase by mortgaging my wife’s jewels. Now what is the use of the well without the water? I feel Mangat Ram is being unjust. I plead that you may deliver justice”

Birbal said, “Mangat Ramji, I agree that you have not sold the water from your well to Shaam and that you have sold only the well. But do you agree that the well belongs to Shaam now?”

Happy, thinking that the case was moving in his favour, Mangat Ram, with a wide grin said, “Ha ji Huzoor, the well belongs to Shaam only. The water alone belongs to me!”

After a moment’s silence, Birbal, clearing his throat said, “Well, I understand that the well belongs to Shaam but the water belongs to Mangat Ram and the water can be kept only in the well. So…, Mangat Ramji, it is only fair that you should pay rent to Shaam on a daily basis for him to let you keep your water in his well. The rent can also be fixed right away. Is it not Shaamji? How much rent do you expect?”

Mangat Ram was in for a shock. He did not in the least expect that the issue would boomerang in this manner on him.

Hurriedly he said, “Huzoor, Shaam and I are very good friends and we will fix the rent mutually. I have to leave now as I have to meet a friend. Namaste!” He walked out of the place without turning back!!

Shaam had no words for Birbal. Overwhelmed by the simple, yet the best solution that had sent his foe running, all Shaam could do was to hold the hands of Birbal with tears of gratitude streaming down his cheeks.

“Thank you so much Huzoor, thank you …thank you… “was all that he could say as Birbal looked at him with the satisfaction of having saved yet another naive citizen from the clutches of a greedy fellow.

Birbal Again!

Birbal, as we all know was a master in the art of using the right words/ sentences at the right time. This combined with his sharp intelligence and brilliant wit earned him the adulation of the Emperor and all others and of course he also got what he wanted. We shall see two such instances.

Emperor Akbar, on an occasion when Birbal had pleased him announced that he would give him a piece of land in a posh area of the city. However it was never granted. The Emperor had not forgotten about it, but every time when Birbal broached the subject, he pretended not to hear and turned his neck as if to observe what was going on, on the other side. After a few months Birbal stopped talking about the plot of land, but was waiting for the right moment when he could get it from the Emperor.

Now, one day, the Emperor was going for a stroll in disguise, along with Birbal. Both were walking through the country side. They spotted a group of camels there as camels were very much used in carrying goods and passengers in those days. One of the camels in the group had a crooked neck and appeared to be turning its neck and looking away.

Akbar was curious. “Birbal”, said he, “look at that camel. Why is it turning its neck and looking on the other side?”
Pat came the reply from Birbal. “Huzoor”, he said in a very polite voice, “May be the camel has also promised land to somebody and does not want to give it now”

Akbar was amused and also surprised at the clever way in which Birbal had got his point through. The very next day, Birbal got his piece of land!

On another instance, the Emperor got a talking parrot as a gift from another king. The parrot was an intelligent bird, for not only it could repeat what anyone said, but it could give replies to questions too. It was very charming and beautiful too and the Emperor instantly took a liking to it.

“Arrange a golden cage for the parrot!” he ordered his men. “He should be fed with the best fruits and food and taken care of extremely well”

“Yes, your highness!” said the courtiers to whom the order was given. “We will do everything as you wish”

“And” said Akbar, “once again I am telling you, he should be given the best care and…If any one of you comes and tells me that the parrot is dead, I will not hesitate to execute you!”

When Akbar was angry, he would really do what he said and the courtiers knew it and so off they went and arranged a beautiful big golden cage for the bird They fed it with exotic fruits and food and gave it sweet water and were always guarding it.

Despite all the good care given to it, unfortunately, the parrot died one night. The courtiers panicked. Not because the parrot died but one of them had to go and report it to Akbar! And their head would go next!!

The courtiers discussed among themselves and instead of going to Akbar, ran to Birbal. Birbal was surprised on seeing two courtiers coming puffing and panting at such a late time in the night.

He asked them in and told them to have a seat. “Now, may I know what brought you here at this time of the night?” he asked.

“Sire…. Sire…” they hesitated.

“Tell me. Fear nobody. What is the matter?”

Both the courtiers fell at his feet pleading. “Save our lives Sire” they said. “You can only grant us the gift of life”
Birbal knew that these were the two who were in charge of the parrot. “What happened” he asked. “Is all well?”

“The parrot died Sire…..” the first man broke down.

“In spite of taking so much care, the parrot is gone” continued the other, “but Sire if we go and tell the Emperor that the parrot has died, we will be hanged”. He started sobbing and narrated what the Emperor had told them.

Birbal knew that the King loved the parrot so much and may do what he had said. “I will take care” he said. “Both of you go home and rest. Go… Go and do as I say. I will take care”

The men left hesitantly.

The next morning, Birbal, with a pensive look went to the Emperor. Akbar looked at him and asked, “What happened Birbal? Why is the worried look on your face?”

“Nothing, your majesty. A strange thing happened. Your parrot is neither eating anything, nor drinking anything. It is neither moving its wings nor moving its beak. It is neither sitting up nor seeing anything…”

“The parrot died?” asked a shocked Akbar.

“You said it your majesty. I did not say it with my mouth” said Birbal.

The Emperor was so amused at the clever way in which Birbal broke the news and forgave the courtiers and rewarded Birbal!

Birbal Cooks Khichdi!

Once Emperor Akbar had gone on a hunting expedition. It was the peak winter season and late in the evening, Akbar wanted to have a wash, after a tiring day. He went to the nearby river and when he tried to take the water, it was ice cold. Akbar was very surprised that the water should be so chill that he could not bear it even for the few seconds when he put his hand in. He made a casual remark, saying, “I bet nobody would have a dip in this cold water even if I give them one thousand gold coins!!” Birbal, who was present there immediately retorted, “No Jahanpanah, I can bring you a person who will even stay chest deep in this cold water through the night for getting thousand gold coins. Money is very powerful!” Akbar looked at him amused, and asked him to bring the person, the next day to court.

Birbal, obeyed the order and the very next day, brought a young , but poor man, to the court and the Emperor asked him whether he would stand in the river bare bodied in chest deep water through the night, if he was given a thousand gold coins. The man nodded his head vigorously and said that he will do it the same night. Akbar ordered the man to be taken to the river along with two bodyguards and told the guards to keep a watch over him while he stood through the night bare bodied in chest deep water. The man was taken accordingly and he stood in the river shivering through the night but did not give up. As the sun came up in the morning, the man went home.

Later, in the day, eager to claim his award, the man came to the court to meet the Emperor. “Hmmm…. So.. you stayed in the cold water throughout the night huh?” thundered Akbar. “Yes, Jahanpanah” replied the man meekly, “I stood throughout the night in the water.”

“Did you not feel cold at all?”

“I did… Jahanpanah.”

“How did you spend the night without sleeping?”

“Jahanpanah, there was a street light two hundred metres away and I kept staring at it to keep myself awake…”

“Well, you have earned your reward” said Akbar and called his minister to get the bag of gold coins as promised.

Just then, a voice was heard, “Salaam Jahanpanah! ” The voice belonged to one of the courtiers who was always jealous of people who got rewards from the king. “Excuse me” he continued. “Your Highness is an epitome of justice and your judgement is always impeccable, but now….”

Akbar looked at him questioningly. The man continued “ This man has already admitted that he was staring at the street light throughout the night and is it not possible that he grasped the warmth of the light ? Then how could he claim that he spent the entire night freezing in the cold water?”

Akbar considered this view point and shrugged his shoulders. “ It seems what my courtier says may be true. I don’t think I can give this reward to you.” The poor man face fell as he heard the words of the Emperor . He stood sadly for a moment and left the palace, without a word, his face really downcast. Birbal, was watching the entire proceedings and was shocked by this behaviour of Akbar and he also knew about the attitude of the courtier. He mentally made up his mind to see that justice was done to the poor man, but left the court silently.

A few days later, Birbal was absent in the court. He had assiduously sent word to the King that he would come to the court after he finished cooking Khichdi which he had started that morning. The next two days also, he was absent and word came that the “Khichdi was not cooked yet.” Akbar was curious and knew that this was not an ordinary matter.

So, the next day, accompanied by the courtiers, he paid a surprise visit to Birbal’s house. He was told that Birbal was cooking Khichdi in the garden behind the house. “Strange” thought Akbar as he walked to the garden. The sight he saw there was even more strange. Birbal has planted two long poles which were connected with a rope and in the middle of the rope hung a pot and Birbal was stirring its contents standing on a high stool, with a look of impatience on his face. There was a small oil lamp on the ground beneath the pot and the distance between the lamp and the pot was approximately two metres.

Akbar and his courtiers were genuinely amused, and Akbar asked “ Birbal, What is this I hear? I was told you were cooking Khichdi and…” Before the King could complete, pat came the reply, “Yes Jahanpanah, I am cooking Khichdi for the past four days and this stupid thing is not getting cooked yet!” Akbar asked, “But Birbal, how can the food get cooked at such a height with such a small flame?” “It is not that much of a distance Jahanpanah”, said Birbal, “When a man can get warmth from a lamp two hundred metres away, there should be no problem for the heat to reach this small pot from a small distance of two metres.”

Akbar immediately saw Birbal’s point and said “Well done Birbal, I see your logic and I shall summon the poor man today itself and give him the reward he earned.”

The poor man was very thankful to Birbal and once again, Birbal proved himself to be witty as well as just.

Birbal and the Magic Sticks

We have all heard of Raja Birbal who entertained Emperor Akbar with his wit and wisdom. He not only entertained the emperor but also solved the problems of many of his friends with his wisdom.The following is one such story.

One of Birbal’s friends by name Chamanlal had a problem. One of the Ivory showpieces in his house went suddenly missing. Chamanlal was very upset as the piece was a family heirloom and had been in the family’s possession for over two hundred years and also it was a very costly piece. In those days people were not aware of animal cruelty and used to display Ivory as a mark of their social status.

Chamanlal had seven servants and all of them looked innocent and denied a role in the missing ivory case. Chamanlal thought for a while and went out to take a stroll. At the end of the road he met Birbal who immediately sensed that there was something wrong. He coaxed Chamanlal to tell him and Chaman went on to tell him about the missing ivory piece and that there was no proof or evidence as to who had a hand in it. Birbal told Chaman not to worry. He told Chaman that he would visit him in the evening.

As promised, Raja Birbal came to Chamanlal’s house in the evening. He was carrying seven sticks of approximately one foot length each. He asked Chamanlal to call out the servants and there were all of them: Raju, Suresh, Mahesh, Ramesh, Lalloo, Changoo and Bittoo. Birbal handed them one stick each and told them, “These are magical sticks. Keep them with you and tomorrow when I come back, the stick of the person who has stolen the ivory would have become one inch longer. See you tomorrow”.And Birbal left.

The next day, as promised, Birbal came back to Chamanlal’s house and asked for the sticks. As each one handed over the stick, Birbal measured them. Just as Lalloo gave his stick, Birbal said, “Chaman, here is your thief!” Lalloo immediately cried confessing his guilt and fell at the feet of Chamanlal. He brought out the ivory show piece from where he had hidden it. Chamanlal dismissed Lalloo from his service and then asked Birbal “Raja Birbal, I never knew you know magic also. How did you get the magic sticks?” Birbal replied, “I do not know magic my dear friend, the sticks are normal sticks” Chaman said “But…but… how did the length….?” Birbal replied, “The length did not increase as I told them. Lalloo was afraid that the stick would grow one inch longer and had cut the stick in the night by one inch so that if it grew, it would still be of the same length. Ha ha ha…..”

Chamanlal and his family marvelled at Birbal’s intelligence and thanked Birbal wholeheartedly. Emperor Akbar too heard of the incident and praised him.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén