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

Tag: water

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.

The Devoted Disciple

This is a story about Uddalaka Aruni, the sage who lived in ancient India.

Aruni belonged to the kingdom of Panchala. Panchala was the name of an ancient kingdom of northern India, located in the Ganges-Yamuna Doab of the upper Gangetic plain, encompassing today’s states of Uttarakhand and western Uttar Pradesh.

When Aruni was a young boy, he was sent to study under the Sage Ayodha Dhaumya. Aruni was an average student in studies. All the other children always made fun of Aruni on this account. Dhaumya made a mental note of this but said nothing.

However Aruni was a very sincere student who would never question his Guru’s instructions however difficult they be. He always thought that if a task was assigned to him by his Guru, it was because that the Guru thought that he was the only one capable of doing the task and that it was an honour for him to do the task. Such was the deep respect he had for his teacher.

In ancient days, India followed the Gurukula system, wherein the students actually went and stayed in the ashram or house of the Guru and helped the Guru in all the household work and also learnt the knowledge which they went to seek. The students did all the washing of utensils, clothes, bringing vegetables, fruits and firewood, collecting them from the nearby woods and all the other work which could be done by them. They lived like a family member of the teacher’s family and the teacher in turn took care of them as a father would and also imparted all the knowledge they deserved to learn.

One particular day dawned with dark clouds and rumbling skies and Aruni remembered that it was his job that day to go and collect firewood for the kitchen. In his Gurukula, each student was assigned a particular job to do.

After offering his morning prayers, Aruni started off quickly to the forest nearby to collect wood. It seemed it would rain very heavily soon and he had to bring back a lot of wood without getting it wet as the ashram had to feed lot of children and they would not get dry wood in the rainy days that were to come.

As Aruni was leaving , his teacher called out to him, “Aruni” said he , “after you come back collecting wood, please see that the embankment of the canal near the field is strong, since if it rains heavily and the banks of the canal are breached, the whole of our rice crops will be washed away! As it is the canal is near about full.”

Many of the ancient rishis (sages) cultivated lots of crops like rice, barley and others around their ashram for supply of food grains to meet their demand for food. Here, Dhaumya had some rice crops, which would be lost if the waters of the canal entered the fields and with heavy rain threatening to pour, the Rishi had to take precautions.

“Yes Guruji” said Aruni, making a note mentally of this new task given by the Master. Off he was to the forest and started gathering the sturdy twigs and branches strewn around due to the heavy wind that blew the previous day. He had also to chop some branches of the dead trees. He had collected big bundles of wood and by noon, he was rushing back to the Ashram with the big bundles of wood. It had been very cloudy with heavy winds and as Aruni was nearing the Ashram, it started to rain lightly. Aruni remembered that he had to see the canal and he just turned around to see the canal flowing in full flow to the brim and trickles of water were flowing into the fields.

Aruni was alarmed. It had started to rain heavily. Quickly Aruni went into the Ashram and kept the wood in the covered shed meant for it. He was very hungry after the hard job of collecting but he could not afford to even think about food. The water from the canal had started trickling in and if the canal breached, the whole of the field would be washed away. “I cannot afford to let that happen” said Aruni to himself as he ran out to the fields picking up a spade. “Guruji has entrusted the work to me and I shall do my duty to the best of my effort”

When he reached the fields, he was alarmed. The water had started entering the fields through small breaches here and there and it had started to rain very heavily. With the spade, Aruni quickly tried to take mud from the sides and fill the breach but tap…tap.. tap… tap…taptap.. taptap.. , the rain fell in torrents with giant sized droplets that seemed to be challenging Aruni’s speed. He would fill mud in one spot and another started to leak , he would fill that and yet another spot would leak. Slowly the breach was about three feet and water was gushing in through the gap.

Aruni was distressed. He thought fast and in a flash decided that the best bank would be his body!! Yes, the breach was about three feet long and he was more than five feet tall. In a jiffy, he lay on his side along the breach. His body was firmly embedded in the soft mud and the water could not leak through. The rain slowed down but the water in the canal was gushing in full speed with water flowing into it from somewhere else.

Aruni was shivering and felt extremely cold. The hunger and fatigue combined with the cold water and chill had made his body numb. He had to wait till the flow in the canal subsided. He lay there like a log slowly losing his consciousness.

However the rain did not stop completely. It was late in the evening and the students had assembled in the prayer hall for the evening prayer. Dhaumya walked in and his eyes scanned the attendance. He knew someone was missing. Just as the prayer was over he realised it was Aruni who was missing.
“Where is Aruni?” he asked the students. “Has anyone seen him?”

The students looked at each other and one of them said, “Guruji, I saw him in the morning as he was going to the forest” Dhaumya was shocked. “Has he not come back yet?” he asked. With no reply forthcoming, the Rishi ordered a few students to accompany him. “Come on, get a lantern and come with me “ he said.

The night was dark and wet and the rain had stopped. It was water everywhere and the students , accompanied by Dhaumya took a lantern and went out. “Aruni…… O Aruni my boy!”  called out Dhaumya. There was no reply whatsoever. Suddenly Dhaumya remembered that Aruni was supposed to check the rice fields and so went near the fields. It was pitch dark, but no water had entered the fields. “Aruni…. Aruni…..” called out Dhaumya again. A very small moan came from one side of the field and as Dhaumya took the lantern up, he could see the boy Aruni, lying in the water, numb and cold with hunger and fatigue , but his mouth was murmuring “ Guruji…. fields … saved… no breach….”

Dhaumya realised what Aruni had done to save the crops and was moved by his deed. “Get up my son…”  he said to Aruni. Looking at Aruni’s reluctance to get up as he feared the water would enter the fields, he looked at the other students and said, “Boys , as Aruni gets up mend this bund with the spade”

On hearing these words, Aruni got up reluctantly but his body was too weak and he had to be helped by Dhaumya.The other students were shell shocked with Aruni’s action. Dhaumya was overwhelmed by Aruni’s sincerity. He embraced him and led him back to the Ashram. “Aruni! you have proven your Guru Bhakthi in a way no one can. May all the scriptures come to you at your beck and call”.
That was it!  Now Aruni could just call upon the scriptures and Vedas to come to him when he wished. After all the long years of hard studies, what other students could not achieve, Aruni achieved it through his single minded “Guru Bhakti”, which is devotion to the Guru.

Uddalaka Aruni went on to become one of the finest teachers and philosophers in his later years and is said to have been instrumental in systematizing the Vedantic philosophies. His teachings are referred to in many Upanishads chiefly under the Brihaddharanyaka Upanishad.

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.

The Curse On King Dasaratha

This is a story from the Valmiki Ramayana.

Dasaratha, who was the emperor of Kosala, died a painful death separated from his four sons- Rama, Lakshmana, Bharata and Shatrugna. It is indeed ironic that a powerful emperor who had not one, but four valiant, handsome and righteous sons, did not have even one of them near him, while he passed away.

On the sixth night after Rama left Ayodhya, the devastated King Dasaratha could not have a wink of sleep. It was past midnight and the King lay wide awake, his heart full of grief at the injustice he had done to his beloved Rama. His mind was looking back at all the events in his life and he suddenly remembered this incident. He asked Kausalya to come nearer and started narrating the incident to her.Dasaratha said, “When a person does good things, he reaps good things and the same way, when he does bad things, he reaps its effect. By the time one realises this principle, it is too late to make amends. I am also a victim of this cycle and I want to relate to you an incident which happened when I was a young prince.” Dasaratha then shared his story with Kausalya.

When Dasaratha was a young prince, he was a master archer and had learnt a difficult technique in archery by name “Shabdavedi”. By mastering Shabdavedi, he could, by listening to the sound made by any animal, kill it with his arrow aimed from a distance. Dasaratha was very proud of his achievement and it helped him in his hunting.

One day during the rainy season, Dasaratha went to the banks of the Sarayu, to hunt. It was raining and it was exciting for him to hunt in the rain. As he stood near the Sarayu, he could hear the noise made by an elephant drinking water with its trunk. Since Dasaratha was well versed in Shabdavedi, he shot an arrow in the direction from which the sound came. After a moment, much to the dismay of Dasaratha, a human voice cried in pain and someone said, “Who has done me to death? Why should I be hunted like an animal? Who is this shameless man who has done this heinous crime?” A horrified Dasaratha rushed to the spot to see a young man lying along the banks of the river, with mud and blood smeared on his body. Beside him was a pot half filled with water.

Dasaratha at once realised the grave mistake he had committed. He had mistaken the sound of the pot being filled up with the river water to be that of an elephant drinking water. The young man looked at Dasaratha and said, “You are a prince! And yet, you have hunted me like an animal? I was going to carry water to my old parents who are both blind. They are totally dependent on me and now you have hunted me, who was their only support….” Shravan Kumar, the young man, was now speaking with great difficulty due to the pain he was suffering on account of the arrow which was embedded on his chest. He continued, “My parents will be helpless without me and they do not even know that I am dying.” Shravan stopped talking, writhing in pain. Dasaratha, overcome with emotion, fell at the feet of the young man pleading with him to be forgiven.

The man could not be pacified and after a while, told Dasaratha to take the pot full of water to his parents who were waiting with thirst at the ashrama which was some distance away from the river. He also said, “O Prince! Please tell my father what you have done and please ask for forgiveness as he may curse you in his anger. Please also remove this arrow from my chest so that I may die in peace.” A reluctant Dasaratha obeyed Shravan and removed the arrow from his chest after which Shravan died almost immediately. Then, with a heavy heart, he proceeded to the ashrama with the pot of water in his hands.

The old couple were eagerly awaiting the arrival of their son at the doorway of the ashrama. Hearing Dasaratha’s footsteps, they were impatient as their son had gone a long time back to fetch them water. So, mistaking Dasaratha for Shravan, they called out to him in endearing words to give them water without delay.

Dasaratha, mustering enough courage, broke the tragic news to them. The couple were shocked beyond words. After a long moment of silence, Shravan’s father spoke, “If you hadn’t admitted your guilt, my anger would have caused your head to explode. Lead us to our son.”

Dasaratha witnessed heart-rending scenes as the couple mourned their son and performed his last rites. Still unable to reconcile with what had happened, Shravan’s father turned to Dasaratha and cursed him, “I’m suffering the pain of separation from my son on account of your thoughtless action! I CURSE YOU THEREFORE TO SUFFER A DEATH SIMILAR TO MINE! YOU WILL DIE WHEN YOUR SON IS SEPERATED FROM YOU!!” Saying thus, the couple entered the fire which had been created for the last rites of their son.

As he ended the story, Dasaratha’s eyes were flowing with tears. Kausalya too wept as she was too stunned to react. Dasaratha lay,lamenting his fate, and his life ebbed out that tragic night. The Sun of the Ikshwaku clan had set.

This is the story of The Curse On Dasaratha.

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