There are lots of stories in India about wise men who won the hearts of kings with their wit and humour. Birbal, of Akbar’s court and Tenali Rama of Krishnadevaraya’s court are of course the two people we can never forget. But there was a person by name Gopal Bhand, who was in the court of Raja Krishnachandra of Bengal. He was a barber by profession and was a very witty and intelligent person. There are stories about a Nawab of Murshidabad who keeps troubling Raja Krishnachandra and every time it is Gopal who comes to the rescue. This is one such story.
Once when Gopal Bhand went to the court, he found that the king was in deep thought. He looked very very worried and Gopal was not happy at this sight. He asked the king , “Oh, My Lord, I can see that you are deeply worried. May I know the reason for your worry? I will help you in whatever way I can.” The king just looked at Gopal and kept quiet, still in thought. “Tell me Your Highness!” Gopal persisted, knowing fully well that it would be something the Nawab of Murshidabad had demanded, as usual. The king replied in an irritated tone, “You cannot help me Gopal, please leave me alone…” Gopal kept quiet for a few minutes and said, “OK My Lord, but I still feel I may be able to help you. Just let me know what is your problem and if I cannot solve it, I will at least find out who can help you.” The King gave in and said, “Gopal, you know about the Nawab of Murshidabad. He has ordered me to do two tasks which I feel I will never accomplish in this life of mine. He wants to know the exact measurements of the earth and the number of stars in the sky… Hmmm.. I do know who can do these two arduous tasks and the Nawab wants the answer in ten days time”. The King’s voice showed how worried he was.
“Do not worry O King! “said Gopal, “I am here to do the tasks”. The King was taken aback. “Do not joke Gopal”, he said in a stern voice. “Do you know the insult I will face if you cannot do the job? I will have to part with thousands of cattle if I cannot give the answer!”
Those days, the cattle of a kingdom meant a lot. The wealth of a kingdom was measured by the number of cattle and , whenever the enemies attacked a country they first seized the cattle of a country. It also shows how agriculture was given importance and the prosperity of the country depended on agriculture which in turn depended on cattle.
Gopal coolly said, “I know my Lord. That is why I am telling you. Please give me a sheep which is ready to be sheared and a hundred bullock carts and all the silk and cotton thread of the country”. The king was puzzled but his inner instinct said that Gopal would succeed and so the king ordered Gopal to be given what he wanted.
After a few days Gopal set out to Murshidabad heading a row of bullock carts filled with all the silk and cotton thread of the kingdom. He also took the sheep with him. He reached Murshidabad in a few days time and went to see the Nawab. He introduced himself and told the Nawab that he had come to give the answers for the questions put by him to Raja Krishnachandra.
“OK, go ahead! “said the Nawab, “tell me, what the measurements of the earth are huh? “. Gopal bowed to him and said, “Your Excellency, please come out and I shall give you!” The puzzled Nawab came out and Gopal took him to the carts and said humbly, “Your Highness, the thread in the first 63 carts put together is the length of the earth and the thread in the remaining 37 carts is the breadth.” He went on and showing the sheep he said, “Your Highness, the number of stars in the sky is exactly equal to the number of hairs on this sheep!” The Nawab was dumbfounded but not showing it he asked “What if the measurements and number is not accurate huh???” Gopal bowed again and said, “Your Highness, you can always have it cross checked by someone. Or better, May be you can check it yourself”.
The Nawab was at his wits end and his expression showed that he wanted to get rid of Gopal at the earliest. “Convey my thanks to your King!” Said the Nawab, “and take a bag of gold coins as my gift and please leave at once. Your king will miss you at court!!!”
Gopal chuckled to himself and came back to his home with a big bag of gold coins, only to receive one more bag from Raja Krishnachandra as he had saved him from insult.