Akbar, the mighty Moghul Emperor (1556-1605 A.D.)
and courtier Raja Birbal (Birbal "The wise").
This section contains representations of the battle of wits between
Akbar and Birbal. It is said that Birbal was a poor brahmin and that it
was only on the strength of wit and sharpness of his intellect that he
could rise that high in the Mughal empire as favourite courtier, personal
friend and chief minister - to be known as Raja Birbal. Birbal was
killed in the battle of Khandhar in 1588.
The beauty of these repartees and wisecracks of Birbal is that they are still very potent to amuse and enlighten the reader or listener today. It is so because they reveal a fundamental truth of life. You will find as you read through this joke book that I have dedicated time as the wise brahmins that go before us did to portray only those 'Jokes' which convey the humour and wit which carry the multi-faceted influences of Vedic culture.
Like their original verbal portrayal, these writings, tales, stories or jokes etc., convey time-less messages, and provide a glimpse to the Medieval Ethos of Vedic India, India under Mogul rule, under British rule, and the mind of modern devotees. I believe that such repartees are as much a part of the development of Vedic tradition as Hitopadesh, Panchatantra or Katha-Saritsar are.
To trace the very first meeting of Emperor Akbar and Birbal, and the
way that Birbal came to be in the Mughal court, and his life prior to that,
is a story that has sure to have done the rounds of numerous village chaupals.
History record that Birbal was a poor brahmin, living by growing crops as a farmer, initially that he as all brahmin's prefer to be independent in the way that they earn their subsistence, and support their families. The karmic serendipity, to some coincidence, that Birbal happened to come before the Mughal Emperor of All India display his sharp brahminical wit and intellect, that would so much impress that Emperor Akbar that the Emperor immediately offered Birbal the highest post of Chief Minister of his Empire to Birbal.
The tale begins when Birbal was not even the Minister but a simple villager doing his farming. He had a young beautiful daughter, who was the darling of his heart, as daughter usually are of their fathers. His village was on the bank of the river Yamuna, not so far away from Agra in the region of Braj Mandal. And at this time in Indian history Agra was the capital of Emperor Akbar's Empire.
The Mughal Emperor was known for his love of comely lassies. One day, he promulgated a very disturbing order in his Empire. The order said: "On the coming Purnima, full moon day, the Emperor will visit his private garden on the bank of the river Yamuna. On that happy occasion all persons living in Agra and the adjoining villages should bring their nubile, beautiful daughters to that garden. Then the Emperor will make his choice out of the girls, to become his queens. He who does not do so, or in any way avoids this order shall be severely punished."
All te subjects in the area were rather dismayed to receive such an outrageous order. But who of them could question the Emperor???
When Birbal heard of this, he was also very much disturbed. There was a rat-catcher living in the nearby village who had been favourite of Birbal. He used to call him to his farm to get rid of the menace of the rats eating away his crops. That rat-catcher was also quite enamoured by the beauty of Birbal's daughter, and Birbal was toying with the idea of marrying his daughter off to that rat-catcher. Now he was in a fix! What should he do? Defying the Emperor's order meant sure death, and the compliance meant his daughter's perpetual sorrow, for she had also taken a vow of marrying only that rat-catcher. She did not want to be one of the Emperor's so many queens - if selected. Akbar was much senior to her in age and she also felt no charm or attraction in marrying an elderly person, elder to even her father.
Birbal was a worried man. When he couldn't find any solution, he went to the temple of his chosen Ishta deva, Lord Shiva. Meditating quietly there for about an hour, his Lord revealed to him the solution. Then and there he decided that he would neither go to that Yamuna Garden in Agra on the aforesaid night, nor would he send his lovely daughter anywhere.
The appointed day arrived and people began to go to Agra in their bullock carts, by camels, horses, and even on foot. They had their nubile, comely daughters with them. Birbal quietly watched them go, pitying there lot. In reflective mood, Birbal was thinking to himself: "The King or Emperor is supposed to be the Naradeva, or God's representative on earth. This Emperor has not done the correct thing in promulgating this outrageous order!" While Birbal was thinking like that, literally scores of people were going towards Agra.
When the village sarpanch (legal head of the village) saw Birbal sitting quietly on the porch of his farm house, he asked: "Why, Birbal? Why are you not going to Agra? You have a beautiful, and fine daughter, who is of nubile-age. You know, your not going would mean defiance of the Royal order for which you could be severely punished. My advice to you should be that you come along too!"
But Birbal didn't move from his position. He replied: "I don't fear the Emperor's wrath. My Lord Shiva-Shambu is my saviour, my Protector. I don't want my daughter to be married to someone even senior to me in age. You better go. I have no intention of joining your caravan."
But the damage had been done. For that Sarpanch was a vile man inside. He reached Agra and quickly told a high ranking official of the Emperor's Mughal Army about this defiance by a brahmin of the royal order. That Commandant sent a squad of soldiers to physically lift Birbal from his farm and bring him directly before the Emperor. Defiance of the Emperor's order was serious matter for it involved the prestige and reputation of the empire.
After the 'Selection of the Brides for the Emperor' was over on the third day, Birbal was brought to the Royal Court, and stood before the Emperor.
The Emperor was furious when he saw Birbal present in the court with his daughter. "You fool! Now you'll have to lose your head for not obeying my orders. What do you think of that?"
Birbal was not in the least bit afraid and submitted before the Emperor in a quiet voice: "Your Majesty, I'm a poor man and maintain my family by farming. I had already decided to solemnise my daughter's marriage to some other fellow. In fact she had already been betrothed!"
"What? Could there be a better choice for you daughter than the Emperor himself? Have you taken a large dose of Bhang?" asked Abul Fazal, the learned man of Akbar's Mughal Court.
"In a way, I say, yes!" replied Birbal boldly.
"Why do you call your death so early man," asked Raja Man Singh and added: "No one in the whole world can compare with our Emperor. Who is your prospective son-in-law by the way?"
"He is the rat-catcher and a handsome youth. Moreover, he is a young man whom my daughter likes. He is from my own community too!"
Birbal's statement left the entire court dumbfounded with shock and disbelief. "A rat-catcher is being given preference over the Mughal Emperor. Surely, this man is a reckless dunce to say such ridiculous words before the Mighty Emperor himself!" Such were the thoughts that crossed the minds of the assembly.
The Emperor found this man quite stubborn and in a way amusing. Akbar said in a solemn voice: "How can you say that I am inferior to that rat-catcher, O learned brahmin?"
"Maharaj," the brahmin Birbal responded: "God has made not two persons equal in any respect. Some are superior in one way and some in another. Maharaj, you know who is the most puissant power in the world?"
Akbar replied, "The Sun!"
Birbal then said: "No Maharaj. If you ask the sun, it will say, 'It is not I who am the mightiest of all; the clouds are greater than I, for they hide my face when they like, an quench my thirst only when they please'."
Birbal praised for a while. He found the attention of the entire court was riveted to him. He continued: "Maharaj, ask the wind and it will say, 'I am not the mightier than a mountain. Although I can blow away the clouds, I cannot move a mountain'."
The Emperor was listening very quietly as Birbal went on, "But is the mountain to be the mightiest? No, ask the mountain and it will say, 'The little brown rat borrows holes in me and I cannot prevent it."
Then continuing, Birbal said: "Apparently it might appear that the rat is the most powerful! But ask it and it would say that he is frightened of the rat-catcher."
Then bowing in a dramatic style, Birbal said with a sense of finality: "So you see, Your Majesty, though the rat catcher is the humblest in your empire and stands no where in your comparison, he is even greater than the sun!"
Akbar was struck with wonder at Birbal's cleverly worded utterances. He immediately discerned the sharp intelligence of that brahmin and said to him: "Well! I am pleased with the arguments you have given. Now you shall not die. Instead I offer you a high post in my Empire as my Minister, and confer upon you the honorary title Raja upon you!!"
Birbal bowed his head in gratitude and inwardly thanked his Ishtadeva Lord Shiva-Shambhu who not only saved his life by His Benign-Grace, but got him a highly respected post in the Mughal Empire. Birbal returned to his village, solemnised his daughter's marriage to that rat-catcher and provided him a post too, in the Mughal Empire by his resources.
* * *
Birbal was very fond of farming. Since basically he was a farmer, he
had a special fondness for the farming community. Mulla Do Pyaja was another
senior Minister of the Mughal Empire who had he tendency, to have more
liking for the soldiers. One day, just to belittle Birbal before everyone,
he asked Birbal:
"Raja Sahib! What is your traditional profession?"
Without bating an eye-lid, Birbal replied: "Farming! My father was also a farmer!"
"How did he die?"
"He was looking after the fields during the cold winter nights. He caught a cold and died at the farm itself!" Birbal explained. "And how did your grand father die," the Mulla asked once again.
"He too, died on the farm! He slipped into the well while watering his crops!" Birbal said.
"That is why I say, farming is very bad!" Chuckled Mulla mischievously. Now it was Birbal's turn to ask some personal questions from the Mulla.
"Mulla ji! What is your traditional profession?"
"We have always been soldiers!" the Mulla replied.
"How did you father die?" Birbal asked, "...he was a soldier, he died fighting a battle."
"And how did you grandfather die?" "He too was a soldier," said the Mulla, ".....and died while fighting a war!"
"That's why I say, soldiery is bad form your family. Adopt any other profession!" advised Birbal with a chuckle..
* * *
On another occasion Akbar asked Birbal, apparently in rage: "Birbal!
Do you think that I'm a fool?"
"Your Highness! Please don't ask me this question. If I say you are, you might send me to the gallows. And if I say you are not, still you might punish me because this derogatory reference is being used to describe your nature! And certainly an Emperor can't be likened to a fool!"
Birbal's thoughtful arguments dissolved the anger of the Emperor who burst out laughing at Birbal's peculiar logic. He had said it without using any word to this effect.
* * *
One day Akbar said to Birbal: "You know, Birbal, in Persian all personal
nouns having 'ban' as a suffix invariably refer to a rogue like 'Gadiban',
Feelban', etc. (Gadiban means the cart-vendor, and Feelban means Elephant-man,
"You are right, Meharban," replied Birbal sheepishly.
* * *
Akbar said to Birbal: "I want to learn your Hindu/Brajabhasha language.
Can you teach me?"
"Yes, why not, Your Majesty!" replied Birbal happily and then said: "When should we start the lessons?"
"No hurry! I have had some lessons already, given to me by Purohit Rajashekar. I know this much that 'ku' is a prefix used when we wish to deride someone, like 'Kujati' (bad or low caste) or 'Kuputra' (an unworthy son)! The same is done by the use of 'su' but in a good sense, as 'su' means good! While the Emperor was saying so, prince Salim happened to come in. Birbal immediately said: "Welcome, Suar Sahib!"
Now Suar in Hindi means a swine (a pig or a hog) and the Emperor knew that one too. He completely lost his temper: "How dare you address my son as a swine. I will have you punished Birbal, what a cheek!"
"Please don't be angry, Your Majesty! You just now taught me that 'Su' means good. How could I have dared used the term 'Ku'-nwar (prince) for you son having only seconds before mentioned how 'ku' meant low or unworthy. So I made it mean good by replacing it with 'Su'!"
The Emperor burst out laughing at Birbal's witty explanation!
* * *
One day the Emperor was strolling on the banks of the river Yamuna with
Birbal. It was a moon lit night. Suddenly the Emperor asked of Birbal,
"What is that, Birbal, that which we can see and not the moon?"
" ' Tis darkness your Majesty, tis darkness!" Birbal replied.
* * *
Once the Emperor got angry with a brahmin and ordered him to be sent
to the gallows. By the Lord's mercy, at the same time Birbal arrived at
the court at the very same moment. Knowing Birbal's compassion and alliance
for brahmins, the Emperor warned him, "Now I won't listen to any of your
arguments Birbal, and I shall act contrary to whatever you say!"
"Then I request Your Highness," replied Birbal wryly: ".....to get this brahmin beheaded immediately!"
The Emperor smiled and reconsidered his earlier order, as the Emperor had promised to act on the contrary to Birbal's advice!
* * *
At time the Emperor used to ask Birbal to do some job below Birbal's
social status, but with the view to test the intelligence and patience
of his friend and Minister Birbal.
One such day he asked Birbal, "Arrange a groom for my adopted daughter who is just nearing 16 years of age. The boy should be around 20 years."
The next day Birbal returned with two boys. The Emperor was surprised: "I asked for one boy and not two of them."
"Since I could not get a deserving boy of 20 years of age, I thought that I'd bring you two 10 year old boys that would then fit your requirement!"
Akbar got the subtle hint in Birbal's remark and kept quiet.
* * *
It was a biting cold winter and Akbar was sitting in the Dewan-e-Khas,
with Birbal. This chamber was heated very nicely by a brightly burning
fire. The Emperor asked Birbal, "How much cold it is today? Can you measure
it for me?"
"Yes your Majesty. It is equivalent to two hands bound and kept tucked up under the armpits!" exclaimed Birbal.
"What do you mean, Birbal?" asked Akbar sternly. Then Birbal showed him a poor man sitting at a distant place, his two hands firmly tucked under his armpits. Akbar smiled and admired Birbal's quick wit to instantly find a way to measure the intensity of the cold.
* * *
On another occasion Birbal was asked "What is the difference between
the truth and a lie?"
Birbal immediately responded, "Your Majesty, the difference is only four fingers breadth, that is the difference between the eye and the ear. What we see from our perspective through our eyes is the truth, and what we hear from our ears is a lie," replied Birbal succinctly!
* * *
Once Akbar said to Birbal: "Birbal my friend! I think that perhaps your
wife is the most beautiful woman in the world!"
"Mmmmmmm!" Discerning the Emperor's amorous intentions, Birbal quietly said: "yes My Lord! I too, had this impression but when I saw the Begum Sahiba, I had to reverse my opinion. Definitely Begum Sahiba is the most beautiful woman in the world."
Birbal's laconic answer silenced the Emperor. He made it clear that all women could be subjected to an amorous gaze by one who had been subjected to the arrows of Kamadev (lust).
* * *
One day Akbar had a troubled mind, and could not solve the following
repartitious query, and so with intent on solving his quandary thought
to approach the learned Birbal for an answer. As Birbal came into the court
that morning Akbar approached him and asked his question: "Which is the
best and worst organ in the human body?"
Birbal replied: "Your Majesty, the heart and tongue are inter-related and only they can be the best and the worst. Because, when the heart is clean the tongue is sweet: when the heart in unclean the tongue becomes vile!"
Akbar was very impressed in fact delighted to know the subtle distinctions of these important organs, and so praised his Minister's sharp-wit.
* * *
Once a great singer of the name Tansen happened to get a lesser singer
of the court killed by administering poison to that singer's food. When
the Emperor came to know about what had happened, he was furious with Tansen.
He immediately summoned Tansen and extolled in thunderous term: "By killing
that singer, you have killed half of the pleasure of my life. So I find
no other alternative that to award you your just deserts, punishment to
end in death!" The Emperor then summoned his soldiers to take away Tansen
to the gallows.
Birbal was sitting nearby observing, and was not very pleased with the Emperor's decision on sending Tansen to the gallows. Tansen was a dear friend of Birbal's and it pained to see him, and especially such a talented singer taken to the gallows. Apparently Tansen was involved in this case by mistake. But alas the Emperor had already ordered, and his order was in the process of being carried out.
But then all of a sudden Birbal let out a shout of , "Your Majesty! That singer's death has ruined half of my pleasure in life, and if you take the life of my friend Tansen, his death would certainly ruin the last remaining pleasure of my life. For a singer like Tansen is not, as you know born everyday. The Emperor realised his rather haste mistake sent an order to withdraw his last order and for Raja Man Singh to make a full inquiry into the case. As expected, Tansen was found not guilty. The Emperor then thanked Birbal for his timely and obtuse remark that proved the undiscerning emotional thought's of Akbar, and saved the life of the singer, his crest jewel, and that of the Emperor's enjoyment.
* * *
Once Akbar desired to have a palace built in the air, such sort of cynical
demands were a common feature in the king's pastimes. He ordered his Minister
Birbal to have such a palace built, and Birbal taking a month's time of
leave from Akbar, Birbal left. Since money was not a problem, as this was
the Emperor's direct order, Birbal withdrew a huge sum from the Royal exchequer.
Then he asked his assistants to bring as many parrots as possible. When
the parrots were produced, Birbal instructed his men to make all of the
parrots say : "Bring some bricks; and bring the mortar!"
After a fortnight, Akbar expressed his desire to see for himself the progress of the palace construction work. Birbal reverentially escorted the Emperor to the supposed site of the palace. It was a ruin having thousands of parrots caged and kept atop the ruins. Under Birbal's instructions the parrots were all released from their cages. The face of Akbar told all - he was bewildered to see a thousand parrots flying around saying: "Bring some bricks; bring the mortar!"
Enraged, the Emperor questioned Birbal what kind of non-sense this was. "Birbal....... where is that palace in the air? Birbal respectfully bowed to the Emperor and said: "Don't you see, Your Majesty, the 'airy-masons' working laboriously! The palace in the air can only be constructed by the 'masons' capable of flying in the air!"
Then the Emperor realised the foolishness of his demand and withdrew his order.
* * *
Once Birbal presented the Emperor a copy of Mahabharat. Since it was
a big book comprised of many thousands of shlokas and very well bound,
the Emperor was impressed by it. Birbal said: "Your Majesty!" this is the
biggest religious book of the Hindus," And then, Birbal proceeded to tell
the Emperor about the story of the Kurus and Pandavas on which the contents
was based. Akbar then asked Birbal to put together an even bigger book
with he as the hero and his Begum as the heroine. Birbal bowed his head
and went away, after promising to return with the proposed book in a year's
time. Birbal then immediately drew a large amount of funds from the royal
treasury and donated most of it to the poor and in the construction of
fabulous Hindu temples, and for other religious purposes, and giving alms
to the renounced sannyasins ('monks'). With only a fraction of the money
left he bought a large quantity of waste paper and had a huge book bound.
But the whole book had in it only waste paper.
After about 10 months the Emperor wanted to know what the progress was in writing the book. Birbal replied: "More than twenty brahmins and Maulavis are writing it. But the cost is get exorbitant." Akbar said to Birbal, "You have no need to worry for the cost of this book, take as much as you need!!!" Then Birbal withdrew ad subsequently donated the money, keeping but a fraction of it for the waste paper purchases.
A month or so later, Akbar again enquired about the progression of the book. "It is almost ready, Your Majesty! Just a few minor details left for which I seek your permission to have your Begum for an interview!" Akbar happily allowed him to do so. Birbal then went to the Ladies section of the Red Fort and asked the Begum: "I am very glad to inform you, Begum Sahiba, that you are the heroine of this massive book written in the style of Mahabharat. But in the Mahabharat of the Hindus' Draupadi, the heroine, had five husbands. Would you please name your other four husbands? Moreover, she was once publicly disrobed. Did you ever face such a situation?"
The chaste Begum Sahiba infuriated with rage erupted with anger and ordered the immediate incineration of the new book. Expressing his artificial grief, Birbal then came to the Emperor and told him all that had transpired. The Emperor stood there dumbfounded at Birbal's ingenuity!
* * *
There was once a junior Minister in the Royal Court of Akbar who used
to continuously brag about his riches and position he had. One day, with
the connivance of Faizi, Birbal decided to set the bragger right. Birbal
trained a servant and had him employed in that bragger's personal service.
After a few days, Birbal went in the evening to that bragger's house. He
was very happy to see Birbal and immediately ordered his servant to: "Bring
some fresh mangoes and sherbat."
"Which type of mangoes, Master? Langara, Fazali, Dusheri Hemsagar or Totapari," the servant asked reverentially. "Supremely pleased with his servant's asking this question, which inadvertently meant that the bragger had a huge quantity of mangoes at his disposal at his house, he said haughtily: "Bring Dusheris!"
Then came a reply from the servant "Dusheris from Avadh gardens or from Ruhelkhand Orchards!" the servant asked again. "From Avadh gardens!" the bragger declared.
"And, Master which Sherbat should I bring? The Gulab, Kush, Chandan, Kewra, .........?"
Bring two glasses of the Khus-sherbat!"
After this sumptuous repast, Birbal desired to meet the bragger's father. He again called his servant and said: Go to Abba-Huzoor and tell him that Jenab Birbal wants to meet him." The over efficient servant blew it asking: "Should I go to which Abba Huzoor! The one from Agra, or from Delhi or from Kandhar!"
Now the bragger revealed, cut a sorry figure. Obviously the servant was actually following the order of Birbal.
* * *
One day the Emperor said to Birbal: "You Hindus call a cow to be the
mother-like creature for you and yet you don't mind to make shoes of the
"Your Majesty, " Birbal replied humbly: "We brahmins and we never wear shoes made of cow's skin. But we don't mind wearing shoes made of another animal's hide if it wa not slaughtered for that purpose but died naturally."
"Why is that," the Emperor asked mischievously: "Don't you, the Hindus, say that all beings have God's essence in spiritual nature. Then why is it that you don't mind using other animals and making shoes from their hide's?"
"You Majesty! We wear shoes made of other animal's skin because, we, us Hindus believe, that if a dead being is touched by a brahmin's feet, the spirit of the dead being attains Moksha (salvation). It is for the benefit of these lower animals that us brahmins wear leather shoes made from their skin's!!!!"
Birbal's argument left the Emperor speechless.
* * *
"Birbal! What is that which dries in the shade?" asked Akbar of his wise Minister.
"Sweat!," replied Birbal!
* * *
Once the Emperor of Persia sent a message to Akbar with a puzzle: "How
many turns are there on the road to Agra?" The Emperor was quite distressed
to receive this tedious puzzle and appointed Raja Man Singh to send his
men to count the number of turns on the Delhi to Agra road.
Akbar put a time limit of finding the answer within two days, because then the messenger would have to leave for Persia the day after tomorrow," the Emperor ordered.
Some would say that it was sheer coincidence that right at that moment Birbal arrived at the court with some important State matter. He heard the Emperor's order, and insisted to know the reason for such an order to be despatched.
Birbal asked Akbar, "What's the trouble Your Majesty??" You are looking quite perplexed!" Then the Emperor appraised Birbal of the problem. Birbal immediately replied, "You need not send any man to count the turns on the road to Agra. I know exactly the number of turns on that road, and not only that I even know the number of turns on the road of any City of the world!!!"
A little taken back, the Emperor looked at Birbal, who added sheepishly: "There are only two turns on any road anywhere, the left turn and the right turn!"
* * *
"Birbal! Why do you walk with your eyes always searching for something
on the ground? What have you lost?", the Emperor once asked Birbal.
"Your Lordship! I have lost my father in whose search my eyes keep wandering all over the ground." Birbal replied mischievously.
Akbar then said to Birbal, "What would you give me if I were to find your father!"
Birbal replied: "My father will be half yours!"
* * *
Once Birbal reached the court with his younger daughter. The Emperor
was quite pleased to see the little girl. He kissed he affectionately and
then she started to talk. Then the Emperor asked: "Dear girl! Do you know
how to talk?" The replied: "Neither more or less!" The Emperor then asked
the girl what was the meaning of this expression. The girl said: "It means
talk less before the elders and more before the youngers. Thus one continues
to enrich one's knowledge and enlighten others also, and the flow of knowledge
The Emperor was very impressed with this pitthy saying and admired the traditional wit of Birbal's household!
* * *
On another occasion the Emperor had gone on a hunting expedition with
Birbal. They remain so much engrossed in hunting that when the evening
fell they could not find their way back to the Red Fort at Agra. While
they were still groping for their direction, they met a rustic farmer fellow.
Akbar asked him: "Does this road go to Agra my man?" The farmer replied
as if with great annoyance: "You both look like educated and civilised
men to me but you talk like a boor. Have you ever seen a road itself going
anywhere? It remains as it is. It is the travellers who go to Agra or Delhi
and not the road itself!"
Akbar was so impressed with this rustic fellow's correct usage of the language that he rewarded him with a gold mohur.
* * *
Going towards the country side to get fresh air, Akbar saw a piece of
human stool lying on the ground. To tease Birbal, Akbar said, "Birbal!
See this excreta drying it's looking like and aging and starving brahmin."
Birbal, a brahmin himself replied: "Let the rain come and it would blossom
like a Chaggatta!" (Chagatt was the clan to which Akbar belonged and in
colloquial parlance also meant a big heap of garbage.).
By the pun of the word Birbal made Akbar eat his own words - yuk!
* * *
Once Akbar won a big war and asked Birbal to adopt the guise of a "village
bhai" just out of fun. Birbal immediately adopted the guise of a potter
and came into the court with a donkey. Seeing him, Akbar said with a mischievous
smile: "Be off, you, man with the donkey. Don't you see the Emperor approaching?"
Birbal, in the guise of the rustic potter quipped: "That is what I have been telling all of you all along .......... Clear the way the donkey is coming!"
* * *
"Birbal! Whom do you classify as a fool?" asked Akbar.
"He who expresses his ignorance before his subordinates!" replied Birbal laconically.
* * *
Akbar heard that some of his queens were having their liaison with some
male workers in the royal garden. Akbar immediately ordered all the males
to be removed fro the gardens. Birbal was entrusted with this job. In the
evening Birbal reached back to the Emperor, and saying: "You Majesty! Baring
for one intrasingent male, all the male persons have been removed from
the garden!" Out of sheer curiosity the Emperor went with Birbal to see
the fellow. Birbal took him to the well in the garden and said: "The fellow
is in here, in the well!" When the Emperor peeped inside the well, he saw
his reflection over the well's water surface. Then Birbal also peeped in
and said: "Oh! the fellow has brought his Emperor too. Your Majesty! It
is beyond me to remove this stubborn fellow, kindly send for your army."
Akbar then quipped: "Leave him there, Birbal! Otherwise he would get his own army called here too!"
And enjoying the repartee both the friends went away. But by this drama Birbal managed to assuage the frayed temper of the Emperor.
* * *
Once when Akbar was nearly sixty, he fell in love with a beautiful young girl of just sixteen. The Emperor was so infatuated with her that he insisted on marrying her, not listening to anyone. The matter was brought to the notice of Birbal who found a poetic way to prevent the Emperor acting like a young immature boy. He wrote a poem on a placard and hung it in the bedroom of the Emperor.
One may merrily marry till he is
Fifteen, twenty or twenty five!
Thirty makes one thrifty in love,
Beyond forty-five one shouldn't strive!
Toy marry, and keep his passion diverted
In devotion to God, and lusty thoughts shunned!
And if one longs for marriage at sixty
Shoe him in the head with gay abandon!
The Emperor read the poem and dropped the idea of his yet another marriage.
* * *
The Emperor wrote a Doha and asked Birbal to essay its answer immediately. The Doha was:
What can't a weak lady produce,
What can't be in a large sea accommodated!
What can't be consumed by fire
What can't be by the time obliterated?
Birbal wrote the following Doha in reply:
A weak lady can't produce a son
Mind can't in a sea be accommodated
One's Dharm is beyond the burns of fire
Glory can't be by the time obliterated!
The Emperor again was pleased with the accurate thinking with which Birbal without even hesitation gave his answer.
* * *
"Birbal! If you fail to answer my one poetic query, I will have you beheaded!" declared the Emperor sternly, and recited the following Doha:
Who wants it to rain
And who open sky quite?
Who wants one to speak
And who wants silence, quiet?
Birbal heard the Doha and gave the following answer:
The farmer wants it to rain
The washerman open sky quite!
A mother wants son to speak
And a thief wants silence quiet!
While Birbal was reading this Doha, another courtier, Mulla Do Pyaja, happened to reach the court. The Emperor then asked him to essay a poetic reply to both of the Dohas. Mulla, immediately composed a Doha and, recited:
Bad excessive rains, excessive sun radiance.
Bad excessive speaking and excessive silence!
Akbar was quite pleased with these poetic repartees and awarded both Birbal and the Mulla handsomely.
* * *
Once Akbar became very angry at Birbal and asked him to leave Agra immediately.
Birbal left quietly but after a few days the Emperor began to miss Birbal,
but even after sending many servant out to find him he could not be found.
The Emperor thought of a plan to get Birbal back; he thought I will order everyone to bring all of their wells to the Red Fort at Agra immediately for a huge and sumptuous feast. Everyone thought that the Emperor had finally lost his senses. "How could we bring our wells?
Then from a distant part of the nation came a message; "Since our wells
are all very religious and caste conscious, they insist on the host wells,
of their caste, to come and extend their invitation personally!!!"
The Emperor immediately knew that there could only be one person who could, and would respond in such a way. He thus despatched his own personal messengers to that village and respectfully brought Birbal back to Agra!
* * *
Once the Emperor and Birbal were visiting the country side when they
met a boor. Akbar asked him; "What's your name my good man?" Jumuna, my
Lord!" came back the reply. "And your brothers name?" Akbar enquired. "Ganga,
your Majesty, Ganga is the name of my brother!" he replied. "What my good
man is your Mother's name?" again asked Akbar. That boor again replied,
"Saraswati my Lord!"
All of a sudden Birbal butted in; "Enough of your family introduction. Let us stop this discussion before we all drown in the waters of these mighty rivers!"
* * *
On another occasion the Emperor of Persia came to meet the Emperor of
India. The Emperor of Persia asked Akbar whether he had a Paras (the Philosopher's
stone which converts everything into gold merely by touching it).
Akbar replied in an affirmative and held Birbal by the latter's hand to produce him before the Emperor of Persia, and said: "He is my Philosopher's stone," and added a Doha:
By efforts one comes in riches
By riches one get respect
Since Paras is not available easily,
Friendship of the wise is best!
The Emperor of Persia was delighted with the sharpness of thought and the poetic answer too, revealing that Akbar too was a wise man!
* * *
One day Akbar asked Birbal: "What is that which get fat without any visible change?"
Birbal replied instantly and succinctly, "The money lender's interest!"
* * *
"What is that thing which gets wet in the sun, and dries in the shade, Birbal?" asked Emperor Akbar!
"Your robes, Your Majesty," replied Birbal.
* * *
Akbar had a lot to do with the Emperor of Persia, and so on another
occasion the Persian Emperor sent an invitation to Akbar, the Indian Emperor,
with a request that he might send his most intelligent Minister, Birbal
to Persia. Although Akbar had no hesitation and full confidence in Birbal's
intellect, yet he called Birbal to his side and explained to him the importance
of his visit!
"Birbal! The entire prestige of the Mughal empire is now in your hands. I am hopeful that you'd do well in Persia."
With these blessings, the Emperor sent Birbal off to go to Persia. When Birbal reached Persia and was just a few miles away from the capital, the Persian Emperor sent his Ministers to escort Birbal respectfully to the capital. But Birbal found one thing very unusual when he reached the Royal court of Persia. All the persons there were clad in one type of clothing, all of the same material and each was sitting on a similar chair. Since Birbal had not seen the Emperor of Persia before that time, it was difficult for him to perform "Kornish" (a respectful bow in obeisance) to him. As he really didn't know which one was the Persian Emperor among the lot.
But after a few moments, Birbal had worked it out. He recognised the Emperor by his sharp intelligence and paid his regards. Delighted at Birbal's sense of perception in recognising him the Emperor then asked, "How could you recognise me when we had all dressed the same in identical clothing, and sat on identical chairs, then Birbal!"
"It was easy, Your Highness!" replied Birbal and added: "Despite your wearing the similar clothes and seated on the same kind of chair, I could spot you immediately by looking at the people's sight. They all were looking towards you for your reaction, and assessment. Outward similarity cannot hide the inner excellence, Your Majesty!"
And again the Persian Emperor was very pleased with Birbal and rewarded him handsomely.
* * *
A foolish 'brahmin', Rampal, was uneducated and illiterate but he was
always absorbed in making sure that everyone knew him to be a brahmin and
so a 'pandit'. So much so that once he went to Birbal with the request
that he be given the formal title 'Pandit'. Birbal tried politely to explain
to him that one should not covet to become famous as a renowned scholar
(Pandit) without actually being so. But that 'foolish and stubborn brahmin'
would not listen to Birbal's advice. Ultimately, Birbal said to him: "All
right, Brahman Devata! I'll tell you the trick. Whenever anyone call you
a Pandit, you rebuke that fellow and hurl stones in rage!"
Later that day, Birbal asked his assistant to call that 'foolish brahmin' Pandit. As expected that brahmin began to abuse and hurl stones at them. Then out of shear fun, other persons also began to call, "Hey Panditji" to the fellow to tease him. And in a couple of days the whole town began to call that illiterate fellow Pandit. In his stupidity he saw that his desire was fulfilled and he thanked Birbal profusely for that novel trick he had played on the people!!!!!
* * *
Once the Emperor asked Birbal: "Which is the most intelligent community
and which is the most foolish one?"
Birbal said: "Your Majesty! Although the intelligence and foolishness is not the exclusive right of any particular community or communities, I think the Bania (miserly shop keepers) is normally the sharpest and the Mulla, probably the most foolish person!"
Akbar: "Can you give me any practical proof of your claims, to support your views?"
Then Birbal sent for a Mulla and told him that the Emperor wanted his beard to be shaved off. The Mulla replied: ""How can I shave off my beard? It is the symbol of the Divinity of my face, and my allegiance to Allah. I cannot!"
Birbal then told him that he might get a good amount of money as compensation.
"How much would it be?" the Mulla asked Birbal.
"No..... now way would I shave my face for five rupees, ......forget it, ......I refuse to your proposal!"
But after a lot of bargaining, the Mulla accepted the deal at Rs. 10/- only. Getting the Rs. 10/- from Birbal, he merrily had his beard shaved off and went on his way.
Then Birbal sent for a Bania who was known for having beard. When that cunning Bania heard of the proposal, he said to Birbal: "My lord! My life is at the Emperor's disposal leave my beard alone! It means a lot to me, the first time I shaved it off was for my fathers funeral rites, and that time I spent Rs 10,000/- for his last rites. Next time, I spent the same amount at my mother's death. Then also I had my beard shaved off. So getting my beard shaved off this time should be at least worth Rs. 20,000/- to the Royal exchequer. Are you prepared to pay that? Birbal accepted his demand, and after paying him to him to the royal barber to shave off the Bania's beard.
But before the barber could start his operation the Bania requested: "My dear sir please sharpen your razor and use the alum properly. After all, I am getting this done to fulfil the desire of the Emperor. In fact, it is almost the Emperor's personal beard. So use all the lotions, etc., that you would normally use whilst shaving the Emperor."
But as soon as the barber began to make his first cut with the razor to remove the beard the Bania cried out, "Oh OHHHHH!!!! What are you doing. Mr Barber! Perhaps you are not deft in shaving a man's beard, I won't let you proceed any further!" The barber felt somewhat slighted and a wordy duel ensued between the two. Soon it turned into a fist fight. Many persons gathered to watch, but after a short time some soldiers of the palace intervened. With the result, the Bania went home with his beard intact.
Birbal then reported the whole matter to Akbar who admitted Birbal's contention and praised his Minister's profound knowledge of human psychology.
* * *
One day a poor brahmin saw in his dream that he had taken a hundred
rupees as a loan from his friend Bhanamal. Just out of curiosity to know
the outcome of the dream - whether it was good or bad for him - he
told his wife, who told it to her brother and soon the matter became the
talk of the village. Everyone came to know of that brahmin's dream. Bhanamal,
the cunning shop keeper also learnt about it and so decided it to be an
ideal opportunity to cash in on it, and become Rs. 100/- richer.
Bhanamal found his brahmin friend that evening and asked him: "My dear friend could you please return that Rs 100/- that you loaned from me the other day?" The brahmin looked at Bhanamal in total bewilderment. How could any transaction of money in a dream be taken as real? But that cunning fellow would not listen. Since he was a powerful man with lots of money he began to harass the brahmin. At last, the brahmin sought Birbal's advice . "My lord, the brahmin said to Birbal, ".....everyone says that the whole town knows about my taking that amount! Now no one says that I took it only in my dream. The 'dream part' of the story has been deleted by this fellow's powerful friends. Now they make me really feel that I took that money as a loan in actual life." said the brahmin. Birbal advised him to come the following evening with
Bhanamal. When Bhanamal reached the palace, Birbal asked him: "Did you give money to him in his dream or in actual life?"
Bhanamal could not tell a lie before Birbal and admitted: I took it in a dream. but after all, the transaction did not take place. And the whole town knows about it!"
Then Birbal kept a hundred rupees before a mirror and said: "Bhanamal! Don't you see those hundred rupees' reflection? Now if you can, take back your money from the refection in the mirror.
"How can I take back the money from the reflection?" said Bhanamal. Birbal replied sternly: "The same way as you gave over the money in the dream!" Naturally the brahmin was released from any obligation and was free to go.
* * *
Emperor Akbar was very fond of listening to tales. He would offer handsome
monitory sums to anyone reciting interesting stories to him. Since Birbal
was the most intelligent man in the empire, he repeatedly gained fortunes
by fulfilling the request of the Emperor and reciting stories for him.
Actually Birbal didn't really like this job because whenever he would complete
ta full sentence the Emperor would just say "Hoon!"
Birbal thought it was unfair to that while he had to speak so much Akbar spoke so little during these story sessions. So he decided to find an easy solution. Te next day, when he went to recite the story, he declared: "Your Majesty! Today I'd recite to you the longest possible story." The Emperor was delighted and the story session began!
"There was a small state whose king was very kind hearted. Once a great famine befell on that state, and al the kings subjects began to die of hunger. Then he asked his own personal food godown to be left open for the public. But to his great amazement he found it rather empty. He asked the godown incharge the cause of the depletion of stock of grain, cereals, and vegetables. The fellow said that owing to the famine all round many birds used to come through the windows and ventilators and gradually they had eaten most of the stock of food. The Birbal paused for a second. "What used to happen there was this he said: "First bird would come, take the grain of cereal and fly away "Furr!" Again that bird would come, and again went away flying "Furr!" The "Furr!" "Furr!" "Furr!" "Furr!" "Furr!" The Emperor was starting to get a little impatient as to the outcome of this story and urged Birbal: "Then what?"
Birbal said: "Well then, Furr!"
"Then what? Birbal, then what?"
And every time the Emperor asked anything about the story Birbal would say "Furr!"
"What has happened to you, Birbal?"
"Nothing Your Majesty! I was just telling you the story. this is how the birds took away the grain: "Furr!"
"Oh, enough of it, Birbal! Why you are unnecessarily prolonging the story."
"No, Your Majesty, replied Birbal hand bound and added: "Well, My lord! There were innumerable birds and innumerable grains. You may well imagine that the story is intermiable."
And then the Emperor did not insist on hearing another story!!!
* * *
"Birbal my good man. What is more important, the sun or the moon?" The
Emperor asked. "Obviously the moon," replied Birbal to the great surprise
of Akbar, who asked rather disbelievingly: "You don't say it seriously
"Yes Your Majesty! I'm very serious," replied Birbal. "Then give your reasons," ordered the Emperor.
"Because the moon comes when we need light most, that is in the night! The sun comes in the day when we have enough light," replied Birbal with a mischievous grin.
* * *
"I hear, Birbal, that in your mythological folk lore, you have certain
men who were otherwise kings but believed to be saints not caring for worldly
riches. Why is there this seeming contradiction?" Akbar asked Birbal one
"actually there is no contradiction, Your Highness." There indeed were many such kings, the most prominent among them was Maharaj Dasarath, the father of our Lord Ramachandra. Otherwise known as the personification of God on earth! He who realises the reality of life has got to be saintly in attitude and unattached to the ways of worldly gains!"
"Do you mean to say that I enjoy all the mundane pleasures because I'm not aware of the realities of life?" asked the Emperor sternly.
"Well, My lord! Allow me to prove my point in q couple of days," requested Birbal and the Emperor allowed him the time that he had requested.
On the following day, Birbal sent an invitation to the Emperor! "Your Majesty is requested to have his evening meal at my place on the occasion of my son's birthday!"
The Emperor received this message and accepted the invitation.
In the evening when the royal quest reached Birbal's place, Birbal welcomed
him warmly and then conducted him to take his seat ready for the feast.
Whilst sitting there Akbar noticed a sword hanging directly over his head,
hanging by a very thin thread. He immediately moved aside and asked Birbal
the purpose of hanging that sword there.. Birbal said: "It is a Divine
sword given to my ancestors by a great sage. It has been hanging there
ever since. For many hundreds of years it is hanging there in the same
way. It never falls. It is said that it would fall only when the next Pralaya
occurs. Hence, your Majesty, you just relax, don't worry, occupy your seat,
and enjoy the feast. It shall not fall!"
Assured by Birbal, Akbar sat on the same seat even if a little unwillingly. But he had to do it to show his bravery. Then the feast commenced but Akbar could not eat anything of significant amounts. There was always this looming fear in the back of his mind that the sword could drop at any moment.
When the repast was over and they all came to the Diwankhan of Birbal's Haveli, Birbal said: "Your Majesty has eaten almost nothing today. Are you well, Oh shadow of God!"
Akbar replied, "Oh, Oh er oh - I'm er absolutely all right," and then added: "To tell you frankly, Birbal, the fear of that hanging sword disturbed my mind so badly that I could not relish any of the food at all. All the time my fixed attention remained apprehensively on the hanging sword!"
At the Emperor's confession, Birbal said, "That was exactly the point that I wanted to make. If you see that sword as death personified, and it hanging there by the thread of life - which is a fact, how can one unconsciously enjoy? Life is so fickle that it can end at any given moment, in the same way that ant any time that thin thin thread could break under the weight of the sword, and could drop - you'd get the precise position of the human beings in this world by this practical example - the only way to survive is in purity and detachment. Hence they could also be kings just like you, and yet lead the life of a pure ascetic, because they knew the reality of life, and who they really are, and where they belong!"
Emperor Akbar was mightily impressed by Birbal's explanation, and practical demonstration by which he received some realisation of the philosophy and application of the Hindu faith and belief also.
* * *
Once a jealous Minister, came before Birbal and said in thundering voice:
"Why do you say to everyone that I'm a fool????"
Birbal calmly replied wryly: "Oh! I'm sorry, I didn't know it was a closely guarded secret!"
* * *
"Birbal! What's the basic difference between an intelligent person and
a fool?" asked Akbar.
Birbal replied, "Your Majesty. The intelligent person one knows his limitations and other's freedom. While the fool knows only his freedom, and others' limitation!"
* * *
Once while sitting in his royal court, Akbar asked Birbal, "What is
the secret of you having such a sharp mind?"
"I can read other's minds quite easily. Perhaps that is why I am never found faltering!" replied Birbal.
"Can you read my mind too?" the Emperor enquired.
"Your Majesty I cannot only read your mind but the minds of all those who are present here." Birbal said rather reverentially.
"Then read theirs first, I would then have what ever you say confirmed by them. So remember to be cautious. Your failure in this might result in you losing your position and riches." Ordered and warned Akbar.
"Yes, Your Majesty," and so saying the wise minister kept quiet for a moment. Then made this announcement: "Your Majesty! Fortunately for me, all have just one thought in their minds. They are thinking that 'May God make Emperor Akbar's reign eternal and his glory ever enhancing!"
Now, Birbal had so cleverly worded the announcement that no one could say that this was not the thought in their mind, especially before the Emperor himself. When the Emperor asked those present in the court, every last one of them said that Birbal was completely correct, and that was exactly what they were all thinking!!!!
* * *
Once a fakir (Moslem mendicant) came and presented the Emperor with
a caged parrot. It was very intelligent and could recite shlokas and aayats
from both the Moslem and Hindu scriptures respectively. The Emperor was
delighted with this bird and gave it to his personal valet with the following
instructions: "Look after this bird well, it is obviously not an ordinary
bird. If I hear that you have neglected it, or that the bird has come to
die, you will follow the same fate severing your head from your body. Do
The valet began to look after the bird with total devotion. But one day, a severe hailstorm lashed the capital, and unfortunately the valet left the bird's cage outside in the storm. When, in the morning he went out to bring in the bird in the cage from the tree, he found that the parrot was now dead.
Now you could imagine the thoughts of the valet, he had only thoughts for his own neck not to be severed. In great despair he thought to himself what can he do. Then a thought came to mind. Who is the wisest person? He then rushed to Raja Birbal's palace and told him what tragedy had happened. "Birbal, Sir, my life is in your hands. Please save my neck otherwise the Emperor will have me beheaded in the morning. He had warned me of his intentions if I were to let this happen. .......And now I have to take him this news!!! Surely he will send me to the gallows!" insisted the valet.
"So the challenge is how to break the news to the Emperor. Looking at the structure of what he said to you it means that he who tells this news to the Emperor will be beheaded. Am I right?" asked Raja Birbal after getting the full information and context of what was said to the valet. "Eeerrrrrr......! Yes Sir! And the real problem is that all others can refuse to tell, but the onus was put on me to look after the bird. Since it is dead, I have to go to inform the Emperor as to what has happened! And the very moment that I do, then my death is certain." said the valet resignedly.
"Now don't worry, I will break the news to the Emperor, have no fear!" Birbal said.
So, in the afternoon, Raja Birbal went to see the Emperor just after he had awoken from his royal snooze. "your Majesty! The parrot given to you by the Fakir has itself became an ascetic. Lying with his face towards the sky and eyes closed, it appears to be meditating in silence!!!"
"What? It has done what? It is lying with its face towards the sky and its eyes closed! Don't you mean to say that it is dead!" The shocked Emperor asked somewhat excitedly.
"Well, there is not much difference in lying still and lying dead. But I think the great bird is meditating. Let us go and see it!"
So, the Emperor and Birbal came to the cage and within seconds the Emperor turned toward Birbal and loudly exclaimed, "It's dead! Stone cold dead, it is no more, .....finished, had it, flown the coupe, .....gone to meet its maker, snuffed it. Do you understand Birbal? You are otherwise reputed to be an altogether very cleaver fellow Birbal, but how is it that you cannot distinguish between a simple dead parrot and a parrot that is in deep samadhi of meditation! The parrot it totally dead without doubt, and had you told me so, I would not have had taken the trouble of coming here to its cage just to check and see its dead body. You could have easily told me about it in the Dewam-e-Khas itself. Leaving the important state matter I was dealing with to examine a pile of feathers, why did you feed me this misleading information Birbal? Shame on you." the Emperor announced angrily.
"Your Majesty! If I would have told you about the tragedy you'd have had me beheaded because this is what you had told your valet."
The Emperor looked at Birbal and said with n indulgent smile, "Birbal.....! Surely you are the wisest, and most cleaver!"
* * *
Actually Raja Birbal was a most discerning person and never indulged
in talking to any strangers. Once when he was coming back to his palace
after his long morning walk he came upon a stranger who asked Birbal. "Excuse
me! Can you guide me to the Haveli of Dewan Raja Birbal?" Without uttering
a word Birbal quietly pointed in the direction and swiftly was on his way.
After an hour when that visitor met Raja Birbal in the Dewankhana of Birbal's Haveli, he was surprised to find that it was the same person whom he had been guided by earlier. "Sir, why did you not say that you were indeed Raja Birbal for whom I sought, when we met earlier?"
"Well", replied Raja Birbal, "You distinctly asked me for my Haveli, and not myself. So I guided you to that. You didn't express that your desire was for meeting with me in person! So I didn't disclose who I was. Rather I complied with your request and guided you, and as you know my directions were true. You are here!"
After Birbal declared, "Remember, whenever dealing with strangers be cautious, and never give them any voluntary information. Stick to the point. Because you don't know with what intentions the stranger asking you all this information has come!!!!!!"
* * *
There lived a very poor man in the suburb of Agra. He had earned a discredit
that whoever happened to see his face as the first thing in the morning
would surely have that day ruined because of the poor man's jinxed face.
When the Emperor learnt about the man, he was sorely unhappy with the hurtful superstition prevailing in his capital. He tried to refute this rumour by himself putting this to the test personally.
So he sent his soldiers and had that man with the jinxed face brought to him, with the instructions: "Ask that fellow to come before me early in the morning tomorrow!"
The following morning bright and early, that fellow reached the palace of the Emperor, just as the Emperor was about to have his breakfast. Seeing that man's face, the Emperor dismissed him and began to partake of his breakfast. But before he could do so, an urgent message came from the Zenana Mahal that the Queen had suddenly been taken ill. Leaving his breakfast the Emperor rushed to hi darling Queen. She was in really bad shape. Writing in pain and her face became shallow and weak. Immediately the royal physician was summoned and after about two hours the Queen felt better and the Emperor returned to his breakfast. But now the Emperor had an excruciating pain in the stomach. Again the royal physician was summoned this time to see the Emperor. After checking the Emperor's pulse and seeing his condition, he asked the Emperor to forgo his breakfast and to relax. "The pain is due to constipation. It would be better if you keep a fast for the day, and then tomorrow we can work it out!!"
Now the Emperor was convinced that the poor fellow was indeed jinxed! He grew so angry thinking about that poor unfortunate faced person that he immediately ordered to have that person beheaded at sunset. "I can't allow such an inauspicious faced person to survive in my Empire. He certainly is jinxed. Take him to the gallows at sunset and relive us all of his jinx by beheading him."
The Emperor's order created a panic in the heart of that unfortunate soul. He desperately sought Raja Birbal's advice. Raja Birbal whispered some advice in that fellow's ear and went back. The person felt very much relieved.
When the person was taken to the gallows the executioner asked what was his last wish before dying. That poor fellow said that his last wish was to have a word with the Emperor. It was granted and he was produced before the Emperor.
"Why am I being punished, Your Majesty? What crime have I committed and where is my fault?, he asked humbly of Akbar.
"Your face is very inauspicious, I saw your face early in the morning and I had to not only miss my breakfast, and fast for the entire day, but my Queen was ill also. I had heard many evil things about your appearance, and I had to test their truth. It has been confirmed. You are a jinxed personality and you ought to die to save us all. The earlier you die in fact the better it is." thundered the hungry Emperor rather sternly.
"You are right, Your Majesty! I ought to be put to death immediately. I am not enamoured of my life at all. In fact, I am quite happy to go to gallows. But can I ask one question," said the poor condemned man meekly.
"What is it now? You may ask as you like," roared the Emperor.
"You saw my face and you had to miss your meals for the entire day. And I saw your Majesty's radiant and most auspicious face and I am being put to death. Whose face is more inauspicious???"
That simple fellow's question unnerved the Emperor greatly. He simply had no answer. He kept quiet for a very long few moments, and then withdrew his order. That man was then released. He happily went to Raja Birbal and thanked him profusely for his timely advice, which indeed saved his life.
* * *
Normally Raja Birbal was a punctual man. He was never later to the royal
court. But one day, when the court assembled, Raja Birbal was not there.
The other courtiers were really surprised and Emperor Akbar also expressed
his disapproval. That day the Emperor had brought his youngest son to the
court and was happily enjoying his darling son's lisping accent with which
he conversed with his sire. Suddenly the Emperor asked: "What is the dearest
thing in the world to a man?"
All the courtiers essayed different answers. But the majority of the said: "One's son is the dearest thing in the world to everyone!" The Emperor was happy at his courtiers almost unanimous answer to hi question.
That very moment Raja Birbal happened to arrive. The question was put before him also. But to everybody's surprise Birbal said: "One's own life is the dearest thing in the world!"
Akbar was surprised to find his most able and wise Minister giving an incorrect answer to the question. He looked at Birbal with questioning eyes. But Birbal the Raja was firm on his answer.
All the courtiers were happy to find Birbal in the dock. Most of them were jealous of Birbal and expected with their bated breath, the Emperor's wrath.
Akbar asked again: "Do you still maintain the same opinion?"
"Your Majesty! Fact is fact. No one can alter it by any amount of brooding one may do over it. The dearest thing in the world is one's own life." Birbal submitted respectfully.
"I'm sorry to say Birbal that you are wrong. Perhaps for the first time since you have been with me your answer is so blatantly absurdly incorrect. One loves one's issues or sons most, because they are the one's who keep one's name alive in the world, even after our individual demise."
"No doubt Your Highness, that one loves one's sons and issues dearly. But if there is a choice between his survival and his own son's survival, one is likely and most certainly to opt for his own survival. I can prove it to you, Your Majesty!" said Birbal.
"Then do so quickly," ordered the Emperor and added: If your point of view is not found to be correct or you claim is not vindicated by your demonstration, you may lose your position, prestige and wealth!" exclaimed Akbar.
The next day, Raja Birbal asked the gardener to put a monkey's family in the artificial pond in the garden. "You should start filling the pond with water when I signal you to do so!"
When the arrangements had been made, Raja Birbal reached the garden with the Emperor and his entourage. Birbal gave the signal and the gardener began to fill the pond with water.
Since it was becoming deep like anything, and approaching the monkey with its two issues who were sitting on the bed of the pond. Seeing the water coming up, the monkey brought his issues, near himself. but the water continued to rise. Then the monkey held his issues higher and away from the rising water level. Seeing this, the Emperor cast a meaningful glance at Birbal and Birbal said: "Wait a bit now Your Highness!"
Now the water rose up to it's maximum 'high point'. The monkey was about neck deep in the water, still keeping his issues at a higher level that the water. But then the water level began to touch his nose, he threw away his issues and ran towards the edge of the pond. Turning towards the Emperor, the beaming Birbal said, "Your Majesty. You have seen it. We are all trying to protect our issues' life in distress only up to the point when we have confident of saving our own. Up to that stage we try our level best to save our issues' life. But the moment that we are trapped and our life becomes in danger, the upper most thought in our minds is to save ourselves first! That is why I said that the dearest thing in one's life in the world is one's own life!"
The Emperor had to admit that Birbal was right. He showered praises on Birbal for his quick insight and deep understanding of the psyche of the living beings in general. Then, both of them returned to Dewan-e-Khas to have a game of chess.
* * *
Once two pandits happened to reach the Royal Mughal Court during the
reign of Akbar. They had come from Kashi (Banares), the renowned centre
of learning in India. The said to the Emperor; "Mahabali, we've come to
your court hearing of great fame." The pandits had called on the Emperor
to flaunt their knowledge.
"We have hard," one of them said, "... that your court is full of the wisest and intelligent persons. And so we request you," interjected the second one, ".....to ask these intellectuals of your court to answer just two questions that we will put before them. Each of s will ask only one question!"
When the Emperor had allowed them to do so, the first one set the following quizzical, problematic question:
"Everywhere I am, yet no fixed abode to live;
Where nobody can go I merely reach;
And no one can obstruct my way wherever I go
I roam all over the world, unchecked!
Even the whole of the earth and sky are not enough for my wander lust,
And but for me, the whole world would have been breathless!
Who am I, then???"
For moment there was a such a silence tat one could here a pindrop
throughout the court. Then the courtiers seemed to be weighed down with
the pandit's question. Even the Emperor himself felt somewhat uneasy seeing
his high class intellectuals keeping quiet at this quizzical problem. Then
the Emperor looked toward Birbal. Akbar felt reassured seeing a faint smile
on Birbal's face. Akbar gave the signal to Birbal who got up to say:
"You Majesty! The answer is simple. It is the wind, Mahabali," said Birbal. Everybody in the court felt relieved and jubilant for Birbal could easily save the prestige of the intellectuals of the Royal Mughal Court of Akbar.
Then came the next pandit and gave this quizzical problem.
"I can move even faster than the wind,
But I don't change my position. In fact nobody can live without me.
The whole universe is my playground. And I can reach anywhere in a Trice!
Who am I, then???"
The problem again stumped the Royal Court. Everybody began to look at Birbal for a possible answer. And a beaming Birbal replied: "It is the mind, Your Highness!"
The pandits realised that they had truly met their match, and left that place satisfied with the intellectual prowess of Raja Birbal. and Birbal he was handsomely rewarded by Akbar.
* * *
Once Akbar was sitting on the terrace in his Red-Fort with maha pandit
Birbal. It was the fifth day of Sharawan Month and the Yamuna river was
flowing full and with strong current. In fact, th current was so powerful
that it appeared as though the waves of the river were wailing in agony.
Suddenly, Akbar asked Birbal: "Birbal! Why does the Yamuna weep so?"
"Your Majesty," began Birbal: "In India there is a custom that a girl weeps when she goes to her in-laws place from her father's place. Yamuna devi is no different than a girl. Going to the sea, which is like her in-laws' place from the Himalaya Mountains her father's place, flowing through but not stopping at the place of Lord Krishna's pastimes, she is naturally weeping like an ordinary Indian girl!"
Emperor Akbar was quite impressed with this poetic answer given by his trusted friend and Minister.
* * *
In Agra there lived a very staunch pandit. He was of a very pious nature
and used to have his food with the traditional cleanliness, after having
One day while he was taking his prasadam, a shred of human hair was found in some of his sabji (vegetable). Now, for traditional Hindus' of which he was one, the presence of human hair in food makes the meal uneatable. The great pandit immediately summoned his wife and showing the shred of hair, he roared angrily: "Next time if I have hair in my food, I'll have your head shaved!" His wife begged pardon and promised to be more careful in future.
But as the irony would have it, after a fortnight or so, he found another hair in his food. And he lost it! He blew his stack, threw a wobbly, etc., etc. He sent his servant to bring a barber immediately to shave off his wife's hair. When the servant returned with the barber, pandit ji's wife felt so scared that she locked herself inside the kitchen. But that angry pandit was so determined that this was not going to happen again, and to make sure shave her hair off that he asked his servant to knock the door down. The servant the pandit together with their barber friend tried their level best to break that door down but they couldn't. Closing the kitchen doors from the outside they all decided to retire for the night.
Now in the peace of night, the wife began to think over her problem in peace. She managed to request a passing maid to inform her four brothers, who lived in a neighbouring village to come to rescue her from the wrath of her husband. The kind and sympathetic maid informed the lady's brothers.
The four brothers were sorely peeved to know that their sister was being harassed by this brute of a brother in-law, and his inflexible, intolerable, intolerant, and reprehensible behaviour. But they couldn't do anything as they were the bride's brothers. You see in those times a bride's brothers and or father held an inferior status to that of their son or brother-in-law - her husband, socially that is. Consequently although the brothers came to help her, in reality they could not achieve anything by taking the pandit to task.
Fortunately however, the eldest of the brothers knew Raja Birbal very well. He went to seek Birbal's advice. Birbal instructed all the four brothers to go to the pandit's house before sunrise the next morning, with the necessary paraphernalia for making an 'Arthi' (a bamboo plank type arrangement that is used to carry a dead body for cremation).
And Birbal himself promised to reach there with the 'Kafan' (The last Shroud). When the four brothers reached their brother-in-law's house, they were bare headed, their brahmin threads were over their right shoulders (hanging left) and in a recognisable mourning mood. Birbal also reached there with the Kafan. Now they began to forcibly lay the pandit on the Arthi. When the pandit protested, Birbal said: "Among, we Hindus a lady could have her hair shaved off only when her husband is dead! So, to fulfil your demand of shaving your wife's hair off, pandit ji, you will have to die first. Hence we have brought everything for your cremation. Now, please die soon so that we can fulfil your desire, that we can have your wife's head shaved."
Now the pandit realised his mistake. By that time his anger upon his wife had been subdued too. His wife also was released from the captivity of her kitchen, and said she would be more careful in the future.
The pandit then requested Raja Birbal: "Sir,! Please pardon me. I would have committed a sacrilege by forcing my Dharma-patni to shave off her hair. I am grateful to you!"
Birbal accepted, and requested the brahmin and his wife to live together peaceably.
* * *
One day Emperor Akbar came up with a bright idea to change the units
of the year making two old month into one new month of the Emperor's calender.
He then summoned Birbal and sought his opinion on the issue. Birbal replied: "The idea is superb, Your Majesty! But there is one minor problem."
"Spell it out Birbal, come on spell it out man!" said the Emperor rather sternly.
"It would look rather odd to have two full moons in our new month do you not think. People will be rather confused. Then all will long to have two wives on the plea that they have two full moons in a month!" Birbal Explained.
The Emperor got the message and withdrew his idea. For even the mighty Emperor could not have forced to moon to have only one full-moon in their proposed two months' one month.
* * *
Once the Emperor was praising the qualities of brinjal (eggplant) as
the most tasty and nourishing vegetable. Birbal also supported the Emperor's
contention. Not only this, he added one or two epithets from his side also.
When the Emperor saw Birbal praising the vegetable in superlative terms, he thought to test Birbal's conviction about his contention. After a few days, Akbar again had the vegetable made in the royal kitchen. When the vegetable was served, the Emperor rebuked the serving waiter: "Take away this awful vegetable. This brinjal has no taste and is full of seeds. Not only that but its consumption only adds to one's fat without giving any energy at all. Give it only to Birbal who like it very much!"
Now, when the servant placed the vegetable upon Birbal's plate, he also asked the servant to throw away this rotten vegetable and began to narrate the potential danger that the consumption of brinjal could cause to the eater's system.
The Emperor heard Birbal's remarks and said: "Why are you cursing brinjal? Just a few days ago you were praising it with gusto!!!"
"You Majesty! I praised it when you admired it. Now since you don't like it, I also detest it. Well, I am faithful to my Emperor and not to Brinjal. This brinjal can offer me no post howsoever I praise it while you can elevate my position to a very high status. I am the servant of the Emperor and not of the Brinjal."
The Emperor laughed heartily at Birbal's remark and at the outspokenness of his favourite Minister.
* * *
One day Akbar the Mughal Emperor thought to claim parity with the Hindu's
God, Lord Rama. He, then, asked Birbal to instruct all the Hindu subjects
that they should replace the name of Rama by hi name, that is, Akbar.
Birbal immediately understood his Emperor's desire and the unbridled arrogance attached to it. He said: "It is a wonderful idea! But for convincing the subjects we will have to display before them the efficacy of your name."
Then he asked a servant to bring a stone, write the name of Akbar on it and allow it to float on the water. "Only when the stone floats with your name inscribed on it, can you then claim parity of Lord Rama. As you know, Sir, Lord Rama made a bridge to Lankha out of huge boulders that floated upon the sea waters!"
The Emperor realised his mistake and from then on kept quiet.
* * *
There were many occasions that Akbar was pleased with Birbal. But on
one such occasion he was so pleased that he promised to give Birbal some
costly presents. However, with all the things that went on in the palace,
the Emperor soon forgot that he'd promised to give Birbal something. Even
when Birbal gave subtle hints many times, the Emperor evaded his reminders
to the promise.
Then after many days of the incident, the Emperor was strolling on the bank of the Yamuna with Birbal when he spotted a camel passing by. The Emperor said to Birbal: "Birbal! Why is the camel's neck curved."
"Your Majesty. It is mentioned in our scriptures that he who does not fulfil his promise has his neck curved. Surely the camel must have committed this felony to deserve this punishment by God."
As if prodded by the Supersoul within the Emperor was now reminded of his promise and gave the gifts to Birbal as promised.
* * *
On another occasion the Emperor made the declaration that he would award
five thousand rupees to the person who could stay in the icy cold waters
of the Yamuna, chest deep overnight during the winter month of January.
Ultimately, a poor brahmin decided to take up the challenge. He had to
marry his daughter off and he was in desperate need of money. He thought
he might get a kingly sum (Rs. Five thousand in those days was easily equivalent
to five lakha's today - Rs. 500,000.)
By his sheer determination the brahmin passed through the ordeal successfully. In the morning he went to collect his reward, Akbar asked: "Did you take help from any heat source?"
"Not exactly .........But I did watch the burning lamp on the top of the ramparts of th Red Fort to imagine the feeling of warmth." said the old brahmin.
"Then it is unfair! You will not get the award. You should have stood there without any heat to help you!" said Akbar.
The brahmin was bewildered at the Emperor's illogical argument. But no one was ever allowed to question the Emperor's judgment. Feeling very depressed the brahmin returned to his home.
When Birbal heard what had happened, he became piqued by the Emperor's injustice. So he decided to find a trick to impress upon the Emperor the injustice that he had committed upon the brahmin.
The very next day, the Emperor decided to go on a hunting expedition, and he summoned Birbal to accompany him. Birbal's service was to cook the meal of khichari for them, and so Birbal thought to make the message clear to Akbar to see how he could appreciate heat........!
"I am cooking khichari Your Majesty. Soon I will come and offer my respects to you!"
But despite sending repeated messages to Birbal, Birbal could not go. The Emperor, then asked angrily: "What the hell is this fellow doing while he is preparing this khichari? For the last two and a half hours I have been sending message after message to him, but he's still cooking khichari?"
When Birbal didn't appear even after a very long wait the Emperor went to that place to see what on earth Birbal was doing. He was totally surprised to see the pot of khichari being kept suspended on a very high tripod made of bamboos and a tiny fire, about twenty feet below the bottom of the cooking pot, burning weakly!"
Akbar laughed derisively at Birbal's arrangement to cook the khichari and said: "So this is why you've been taking so long to cook the khichari. You'll go on for days together cooking like that, but not one grain of the khichari will ever get cooked. This tiny fire is so weak it is unable to provide sufficient heat to do anything what to speak of heat this pot ........ How then do you expect to heat these grains and make khichari?"
"Well I've heard that heat transmits itself merely by viewing it. And if that poor and uneducated brahmin could derive heat from a lamp burning on the ramparts of the Red Fort over ! kilometre (2 miles) away why can't this tiny fire heat and cook my khichari when the pot is only twenty feet away. Surely I can do it."
The Emperor immediately got the message, realised his mistake and summoned the poor brahmin and gave him his Rs. 5,000. and for all the trouble gave him a further Rs. 1000 extra as ex-gratia payment from the royal treasury for his daughter's marriage. Repeatedly bowing and thanking the Emperor, that brahmin gave a thousand blessings to the Emperor. The Emperor was happy that Birbal's wisdom could save him from mistakenly cheating the due monies from the poor brahmin.
* * *
Some eunuchs, while giving their play's performance before the Emperor
uttered some rather vulgar remarks that did not please him. It made him
erupt into anger, and ordered the eunuch to leave the Empire within a week's
time. And, he further ordered, that if they fail to do so within the stipulated
time they all would be hanged to death.
But the poor eunuchs could not go anywhere as they had no place to go. Whatever possibility was there of their earning money by normal means in the capital, after all it was in the capital that they were forced to have their separate quarters away from everyone else.
When five days had elapsed to the promulgation of the royal order and none of them had left the city, the head of the eunuchs approached stealthily Birbal and disclosed his dilemma, with a sweat voice!!!!!? "Ohhh, Raja Sahib......we have no place to go.......where can we go? For many hundreds of years, our people have been living here. I admit that this time our play got a little out of hand, and carried away, more than what it should have, but.....! This sweat Emperor's orders are so harsh, it makes me go all weak. Please Birbal, be a sweet advise us on what we should do!"
Raja Birbal maintaining composure said: "Well your problem is really grave. Give me a few hours time to brood over the problem. Come back and see me in the evening."
"Oh you are a dear!"
The eunuchs returned later that evening, and Birbal then gave them some candid advice and they returned to their quarters.
The very next day the Emperor was going on a hunting expedition early in the morning with Birbal and some of his other Ministers. As they moved toward one of the exits from town there were many persons seated atop of the trees, perched in the branches. The Emperor asked his assistant to find out the purpose of these tree climbing people. the assistant went to them and came back and reported to the Emperor: "Your Majesty! They are all eunuchs. They say that they are doing what they are doing because of your royal order!"
"Eunuchs! Eunuchs!" said the Emperor in astonishment. "Why on earth haven't they left my empire as I told them to? Bring me the head eunuch before me. I'd have all of them beheaded," roared Akbar in furious rage.
The head of the eunuchs came before the Emperor shuddering in fear. "I asked you all to leave the empire," thundered the Emperor, "....do you have a problem with that? Then why are you still here? Go...!!!"
"Your Royal Highness, my lord!" said the head hand bound, "...we tried to go out of you empire. But the whole world appears to be under Your Majesty's rule. Where can we go? It is only in compliance with your royal order, Sir, that we are sitting perched atop of the trees, so that we may be away from the land that you rule over!" speaking what Raja Birbal had advised them.
The Emperor was pleased with their humble answer. The Emperor then pardoned the eunuchs and they again had a place to stay, their happy little dwellings.