Krishnadevaraya being the Emperor of the one of the biggest kingdoms, the kingdom of Vijayanagara, had many visitors now and then from the neighbouring kingdoms. Some of them came to pay their respects on a courtesy call, while sometimes, some came posing intelligent challenges by way of riddles or puzzles and the Emperor’s intelligent ministers had to find the solutions. Often it was Tenali Rama who saved the honour of the Kingdom with his intelligent answers and so the King became fonder of him day by day.
One day, a learned man from the neighbouring kingdom came seeking audience with the King. He was carrying three identical dolls with him. The man gave the dolls to the King and threw a challenge. He said to the King, “Your Highness, these dolls look identical, but they are not. Can anyone in your Kingdom find out the difference in these dolls? I shall come back tomorrow and I would like to know if there is anyone intelligent enough here”. The Emperor thought that it would be a simple task and asked his courtiers assembled to examine the dolls and find out the differences. Alas! Tried as they might, they could find not a single difference among the dolls. The courtiers were all looking so sullen and downcast, when Tenali Rama walked into the court.
Looking at the gloomy scenario in the court, he looked up at the Emperor with concern, as if asking what had happened. “Yet another challenge Rama” said the Emperor in a sad tone. “I thought we had more intelligent men in my court… but…” Before the Emperor ended his sentence, the Rajguru with a scornful look on his face said, “Look Tenali! See if you can find the difference between these three dolls. Let us see if you are really intelligent!”Saying so he thrust the dolls in Tenali Rama’s hands. The Emperor then explained what the learned man had wanted to know and said, “Rama, if nobody can find the difference between these dolls, it will be a great shame for our Kingdom. I am only worried about that” Rama said, “Do not worry your Majesty. I shall take these dolls home and try my best and come to court tomorrow with some solution”.
Tenali Rama took the dolls and went home. The next day, the court gathered as usual in the morning and the Emperor with all the ministers, the Rajguru, the learned man from the neighbouring kingdom, were all present. Tenali walked in with the three dolls. The learned man, looked at him with the least hope said, “Hmmm.. I hope you have found out the difference”. To his utter surprise, Tenali Rama replied, “Yes Sir, I have found out the difference” He then took a thread from his bag and inserted it into the ear of one of the dolls. It came out of the mouth of the doll. He took another thread and inserted it into the ear of the second doll. The thread came out of its other ear. Then Rama took a third thread and put it into the ear of the third doll and the thread did not come out from anywhere.
The audience were wondering at what was going on, when Rama spoke. “Your Majesty”, he said, “The first doll represents people who cannot keep a secret. Whatever they hear, they will blabber through their mouth and tell others. They are the worst kind of company a King should have. The second doll represents people who do not care about what they hear. They just hear through one ear and leave it through the other not giving a thought to whatever the matter is. Such people are of no use to the King. They can be rated as average. The third doll represents people who take in all the matter through their ears and keep secrets to themselves. It is these type of people that a King should have as his advisors. They are the best”
The learned man was very happy and his face was full of admiration for Tenali Rama. “Beautiful,” said he. “What intelligence! I am amazed!’
Rama turned to him and asked “Respected Sir, I told you just now that the first doll represents the worst people, the second doll, average men and the third doll the best people. But can you now give me another explanation as to how the third doll can be rated worst, the second doll average and the first doll as best?” The learned man with folded hands said “Rama, please say the answer yourself. I would be very pleased to hear your intelligent answer”
The people in the court were all looking at Rama with admiration as Rama continued. “The first doll can be equated with the men who teach to others, the good knowledge gained by them (through their ears), and so they are the best. The second doll can be equated to men who hear good things (knowledge) but do not teach others nor follow it themselves and also forget it over a period of time. They hear through one ear and leave it through the other. They are average people. The third doll can be equated to men who gain good knowledge but keep it to themselves , not imparting it to others,which is very bad and so they can be rated worst. As you know knowledge grows only when it is spread to all!”
“Excellent!” said the learned man as he embraced Tenali Rama, “Your Royal Highness is indeed fortunate to have the most intelligent brain in your court”, he said, addressing the King. “I shall take leave now”.
“You have had a taste of the intelligence of my Kingdom. Now you should taste our hospitality, please take these gifts to your King and please accompany me for the lunch”. So saying Emperor Krishnadeva Raya gave the learned man, bags of gems and gold coins and all the people were very happy and went home showering praises on Tenali Rama.