AKBAR - THE GREAT
King Akbar was chivalrous and just to all men, but he could be violent and overmastering, if needed.
His magnetic personality won the love and affection of his people and the respect and admiration of his enemies.
Akbar was superb at riding, polo and swordsmanship, and he was a crack shot with a musket. He was
courageous, often fighting personally in the heat of battle. He was a brilliant general, a master of speed, surprise, and
Akbar worked hard at the trade of king, sleeping only three hours a night. Although he could neither
read nor write (he was probably dyslexic), he had legions of scholars who read to him.
His son, Prince Sultan Salim, later the Emperor Jahangir, wrote that no one could have guessed
that Akbar was illiterate. He loved religion, philosophy, music, architecture, poetry, history and painting. He forged an
Empire that enjoyed long-lasting peace and high cultural refinement.
The Empire of the Mughals was vast and fabulously
rich. Akbar's lower taxes and rising conquests created prosperity for the people and floods of treasure for the Crown. European
visitors estimated that just one province of Akbar's Empire, Bengal, was wealthier than France and England combined.
Birbal court had "Nava Ratna - The Nine Jewels of the
Mughal Crown". Nine of these exceptional men were gifted.
One of them, Tansen,
was a singer so skilled that candles burst into flame at the mystical power of his song. Another, Daswant,
was a painter who became First Master of the Age. Todar Mal was a financial wizard.
Abul Fazl was a great historian, whose brother, Faizi,
was a famed poet. Abud us-Samad was a brilliant calligrapher and designer of Imperial
coins. Man Singh was a mighty general. Mir Fathullah
Shirazi was a financier, philosopher, physician and astronomer. But of all Akbar's Nine Jewels, the people's
favorite was his Minister - or Wazir - Birbal: the clever, the generous, and the
BIRBAL - THE BRAIN
Birbal is surely one of the best-loved figures in the folklore of India. For generations the Birbal stories have delighted
children and grown-ups alike, from one end of India to the other.
Birbal was born to a poor Brahmin family of Tikawanpur on the banks of the River Jamuna.
He rose to the exalted level of minister (or "Wazir") at Akbar's court by virtue of his razor like wit. He was a good poet,
writing under the pen name of "Brahma," and a collection of his verse is preserved today in the Bharatpur Museum.
Birbal's duties at court were administrative and military, but his close friendship with the Emperor
was sealed by Akbar's love of wisdom and subtle humor. In Birbal the young King found a true sympathizer and companion.
Many courtiers were jealous of Birbal's star like rise to fortune and power, and, according to
popular accounts, they were endlessly plotting his downfall.
The character of Akbar in these stories is rather fanciful,
and, historically. Many of these tales were probably invented by village storytellers over the ages and simply attributed
to Birbal and Akbar because their characters seemed to fit.
How they met ?
|Emperor Akbar loved to go hunting. Even
as a child, he would run away from his lessons and his tutors in order to go riding and hunting. When he grew up, he was a
better rider and a more fearless hunter than any of his courtiers.
One day, chasing a tiger, Akbar and few brave soldiers rode so fast that they left
all the others behind. They had gone a long distance from the royal capital at Agra and, as evening came, they realized that
they were lost. They went on slowly. They were hot, dusty, and tired.
Presently, they reached a place where three roads met. "Ah at last", the emperor
exclaimed. Then, turning to his men, he asked, "Which way shall we go ? Which road goes to Agra ?"
|The roads all looked the same. It was hard to tell which
road led to Agra. The men looked at each other. Just then, a young man came walking down one of the roads. Seeing him the
Emperor's men called out to him and ordered him to come forward.
He did so, looking up at the richly-dressed hunters with bright eyes. "Tell us, boy", said Emperor Akbar, "which road
goes to Agra?"
The young man began to smile. "Huzoor, everybody knows that roads cannot move. How can this road go
to Agra, or go anywhere else?" he said, and he chuckled delightedly at his own joke.
There was absolute silence. The emperor stared down at the youth. His soldiers held
their breath. They knew the emperor's temper. Not one of them dared to say a single word. The boy again said, "People travel,
not the roads, do they?"
|"No, they don't", the emperor cried suddenly and began
to laugh. Nervously, his soldiers began to laugh too. The youth ignored them and continued to look up at the emperor with
"What's your name?" Emperor Akbar asked the young man. "Mahesh Das", he replied.
"And what is your name, Huzoor?" The emperor pulled off an enormous emerald ring which he wore on his hand. Leaning down,
he gave it to the young man.
"You are speaking to Akbar, Emperor of Hindustan (India)", he said. "We need fearless
young men such as you at our court, Mahesh Das. Bring this ring with you when you come, and I shall recognize and remember
you. And now, show us the road we must take in order to got to Agra".
Mahesh Das bowed low and pointed towards the
capital. The emperor turned his horse and galloped away, followed by his soldiers.
Mahesh Das's Fortune
|When Mahesh became a young man, he took the few coins which were all his savings, along with the Ring of the Royal Seal, kissed
his mother farewell, and set out upon the long road to the new capital of the Empire, Fatehpur Sikri.
He walked a long way to the Palace & finally reached the red walls of the palace.
The palace gate was so large and so richly ornamented, Mahesh thought it must be the door to the Emperor's own home. But it
was far from that. Beautiful as it was, it was merely the outermost edge of the great city within a city, which was the Imperial
As soon as the guard on duty noticed the astonished gaze of this simple-looking country boy, he slashed the
air with his spear and barred Mahesh's path.
"Where do you think you're going, oaf?" "I have come to see the King,"
said Mahesh, mildly.
Making fun of him the guard continued, "Oh, have you? How very fortunate. His Majesty has been
wondering when you'd turn up." Mahesh replied,"Yes, Well, now I'm here and let me pass."
"Fool ! Shah Akbar is
very busy, Go away!" Mahesh looked at the quivering moustaches of this arrogant warrior and half-smiled.
situation Mahesh started polishing him, "Please, brother let me go. I know when you were young, no doubt you fought wonderfully
on the Emperor's frontiers but now that they have given you this easy job - why do you want to risk it?" The guard became
furious and as he was about to hit him, he stopped short as Mahesh held out Akbar's ring. Even a guard could recognize the
Mahesh then said, "Our good King receives all who come to see him. Many years ago he had sent for me.
Now let me pass." The guard was very annoyed as now he has to let the young man pass, but he was unwilling to let him off
scot-free. "You can pass on one condition," he scowled. "If you obtain anything from the Emperor, you will give half to me."
"Agreed," smiled Mahesh, and went by.
Shade trees rocked with the breeze as Mahesh followed the path through the royal
gardens. Each building he passed seemed more magnificent than the last. Finally, he reached the Hall of Public Audience. Seeing
so many richly dressed courtiers his heart pounded as he felt that he was not to properly dressed in order to meet the king.
But at last he saw Akbar, seated upon a throne of gold which was studded with flashing
gems, a man of simple elegance. He needed to look no further.
Pushing past the generals, Rajput princes, and Persian artists, Mahesh prostrated himself before the Throne and caught the
"May your shadow never grow less, O Full Moon!" Akbar smiled. "Ask, O One of Bright Prospects." "Sire,"
said Mahesh, rising. "I have come at your command, which none dare disobey."
And he handed back to the Emperor the ring which he had given the country boy so
many years before. Akbar laughed with pleasure. "Welcome, welcome. What can I do for you? What can I give you? What is your
The courtiers hushed at this unusually generous reception by the King. Who was this shabby-looking
young man? Mahesh thought for a moment and then said, evenly: "I would like you to punish me with one hundred lashes."
exploded the king. "A hundred lashes? But you have done nothing wrong!" Mahesh then said, "Will Your Majesty go back
on his promise to fulfill my heart's desire?" "Well, no; a King must always keep his word..."replied Akbar.
great reluctance, Akbar ordered Mahesh's back to be stripped and a hundred lashes of the whip to be laid upon it by the Court
Executioner. To the acute interest of all the assembled courtiers, Mahesh endured every stroke with a stony expression, and
without uttering a sound.
But when the whip had cracked for the fiftieth time, he suddenly jumped up and shouted: "Stop!"
"Ah!" cried Akbar. "Then you see how foolish you are being."
"No, Sire. It is only that when I came here to see you, I was unable to enter the Palace, unless I promised the guard at the
front gate half of whatever he gets from the King's generosity. So I have taken my half of the hundred lashes. Please be kind
enough to deliver the rest of them to him."
The entire crowd shouted with laughter, and Akbar loudest of all. His fingers snapped,
and the unhappy guard was hauled into the Presence Chamber to receive his humiliating "bribe."
When he was dragged out in disgrace, Akbar turned to Mahesh and said:
are as brave as when you were a child, and, if possible, you have grown even cleverer. I have tried in many ways to weed out
corruption at my Court, but your little trick today will make greedy officials honest. From now on, since you are so wise,
you shall be called 'Birbal'. And you shall stay by my side and advise me in all things."
Birbal Caught the Thief
|Birbal grew more and more famous.
In time, he became the king’s favorite. Akbar would consult him in all matters, and gave him great powers. He used to
solve most of the problems of Akbar's court.
Once a rich merchant’s house was burgled. The merchant was angry and he suspected that the
thief was one among his servants. He tried to find out who the thief was on his own, but failed.
He approached Birbal and narrated the whole incident. Birbal went to the merchant’s house
and ordered all the servants to assemble in the front hall.
When all the 5 servants assembled Birbal asked them about the burglary. On inquiry, all the servants
denied the charges. Birbal knew that one of them is the culprit and came up with an idea.
Birbal then gave each one of them a stick of the same length and told them to go home with the
stick.He also said that their stick was a magical stick and the stick will become shorter by two inches in length, by the
next day but the stick of the real thief will remain the same.The servants went home with the sticks.
Next day Birbal
called all the servants and asked them to show their sticks. He found that the stick of one of the servant was short by two
inches. He then declared that he is the thief. The merchant and others were surprised at Birbal decision.
Birbal explained that the thief when took home the stick he got worried, and thought that if it
is a magical stick then his stick will not become short like others so he cut off two inches from the stick, fearing he will
be caught. But in fact it was not a magical stick rather it was an ordinary stick. Akbar was very happy with Birbal fair judgement.
Pundit's Mother Tongue
|Once Akbar’s court was visited by an eminent Pundit who was well versed
in many languages. He challenged everybody in the Court that he could answer any question in any languages. No doubt he used
to answer queries in whichever language he was asked. Nobody could guess his true mother tongue. |
He once said to Emperor
Akbar that by tomorrow your courtier’s should tell me which is my mother tongue and if they failed to do so, I assume
that I am superior than all your courtiers.
Everyone in the court thought it to be an easy job and pleaded their inability
to judge his mother tongue. But everyone failed now Akbar turned to Birbal to solve this problem. Birbal accepted the challenge
and asked for some time till the next morning. Time was granted & the durbar (social gathering) was dismissed.
That night Birbal went to Pundit's house and entered his bedroom. When the Pundit was fast asleep Birbal tickled his
ear with hay (dry Grass).
The Pundit’s sleep was disturbed, he turned to the other side and slept, again Birbal tickled
his other ear. Now Pundit's sleep was disturbed he woke up and loudly said “Yevvurura Adi” (Who is that?) and
seeing no one he went back to sleep. Birbal came out of his house unnoticed.
The next morning, the court assembled,
and the Pundit was also invited. Pundit again started in different languages, finally Birbal said that ‘TELUGU’
is the mother tongue of the Pundit. The Pundit was very much surprised at Birbal's answer and he accepted the defeat and left
Akbar asked Birbal, how he found out the true mother tongue. Birbal said that a man in distress will talk
in his mother tongue whenever he is disturbed in sleep and then narrated the happening of the previous night. Akbar praised
Birbal for his timely Wisdom.
Journey to Paradise
|As we all know, Birbal was not only Emperor Akbar’s favorite minister
but also a minister dearly loved by most of the commoners, because of his ready wit and wisdom. People used to come to him
from far and wide for advise on personal matters too.
However, there was a group of ministers that were jealous of his growing popularity and disliked
him intensely. They outwardly showered him with praise and compliments, but on the inside they began to hatch a plot
to kill him.
One day they approached the king’s barber with a plan.
As the barber was extremely close to the king, they asked him to help them get rid of Birbal permanently. And of course, they
promised him a huge sum of money in return. The wicked barber readily agreed.
The next time the king called him to trim his beard, the barber started a conversation about the emperor’s father who he also used to serve. He sang praises
of his fine, silky-smooth hair. And then as an afterthought he asked the king that as he was enjoying such great prosperity,
had he made an attempt to do anything for the welfare of his ancestors?
The king was furious at such impertinent stupidity and told the barber that it was not possible
to do anything because they were already dead. The barber mentioned that he knew of a magician who could come of help. The
magician could send a person up to heaven to inquire about his father’s welfare. But of course this person would have
to be chosen carefully; he would have to be intelligent enough to follow the magicians instructions as well as make on-the-spot
decisions. He must be wise, intelligent and responsible. The barber then suggested the best person for the job – the
wisest of all ministers, Birbal.
The king was very excited about hearing from his father and asked the barber to go ahead and make
the arrangements immediately. He asked him what was needed to be done. The barber explained that they would take Birbal in
a procession to the burial grounds and light a pyre. The magician would then chant some ‘mantras’ as Birbal would
ascend to the heavens through the smoke. The chanting would help protect Birbal from the fire.
The king happily informed Birbal of this plan. Birbal said that it a brilliant idea and wanted
to know the brain behind it. When learning that it was the barber’s idea, he agreed to go to heaven on condition that
he be given a large some of money for the long journey as well as one month’s time to settle his family so that they
had no trouble while he was gone. The king agreed to both conditions.
In the duration of this month, he got a few trustworthy men to build a tunnel from the funeral
grounds to his house.
And on the day of the ascension, after the pyre had been lit, Birbal escaped through the concealed
door of the tunnel. He disappeared in to his house where he hid for a few months while his hair and beard grew long and unruly.
In the meantime his enemies were rejoicing as they thought that they had seen the last of Birbal.Then
one day after many, many months with his hair and beard grown long and shaggy, he came out
"Birbal!" cried the Emperor. "Where have you come from?" The
king was extremely pleased to see him.
"From Paradise, Majesty. I spent
such a lovely time with your father that he gave me special permission to return to earth." Birbal told the king that his father was in the best of spirits and had been provided with all the comforts
The king wanted to know what was lacking because now he thought he had found a way to send things
and people to heaven. Birbal answered, "Do you see my whiskers and long hair? Well, it seems
very few barbers make it to Heaven. Your father asks you to send him yours at once."
So the king decided to send his barber to serve his father in heaven. He called both the barber
and the magician to prepare to send him to heaven. The barber could say absolutely nothing in his own defense as he was caught
in his own trap. And once the pyre was lit he died on the spot.Nobody dared to conspire against Birbal again.
How Many Crows in the Kingdom?
|Being Emperor Akbar’s favorite minister, Birbal used to solve many of
One day Emperor Akbar and Birbal were taking a walk in the palace gardens. It was a nice summer
morning and there were plenty of crows happily playing around . Akbar was enjoying seeing so many crows playing.
Suddenly, while watching the crows, a question came into Akbar’s head. He wondered how
many crows were there in his kingdom.
Since Birbal was accompanying him, he asked Birbal this question. Birbal looked at the crows
and after a moment’s thought, Birbal replied, “There are ninety-five thousand four hundred and sixty-three crows
in the Kingdom”.
Amazed by his quick response, Akbar tried to test him again, “What if there are more crows
than you answered?”
Without hesitating Birbal replied, “If there are more crows than my answer, then some crows
are visiting from other neighboring kingdoms”.
“And what if there are less crows”, Akbar asked. “Then some crows from
our kingdom have gone on holidays to other places”. Akbar was very much impressed at this intelligent answer from Birbal.
Birbal solves the problem
|Several courtiers were vying for the post of royal advisor. The emperor told
them that he would put them to the test and the one who passed the test would be appointed as the royal advisor.
Akbar then unfastened his waist cloth (Cloak) and lay on the floor. He then challenged the courtiers
to cover him from head to toe with the cloak.
One by one the courtiers tried, but their attempts proved futile. If the head was covered, the
feet remained exposed. Some even tried pulling and tugging at the coak but in vain.
Just then Birbal entered. The emperor asked Birbal if he could do it. Birbal took the cloak and
then looked at the emperor lying on the floor.
“Jahanpannah, would you kindly draw up your knees?” he said. The emperor drew up his
knees. Birbal then threw the cloak over him and it covered him from head to toe.
The courtiers, realizing that they had
failed the test, quietly filed out of the room.
Flowers for Emperor
|Emperor Akbar and some of his courtiers were strolling through the royal gardens.|
beautiful is that flower, Man can never produce anything as beautiful as this?” said the court poet, drawing the emperor’s
attention to a flower growing on a bush.
“Man can sometimes produce more beautiful things,” said Birbal. “I don’t
believe it!” said the emperor. “You are talking nonsense, Birbal!”
A few days later Birbal led a master craftsman of Agra into Akbar’s presence. The man presented
the emperor with an exquisite marble carving of a bouquet of flowers.
The emperor rewarded him with a thousand gold coins. Just then a small boy entered and gave Akbar
a bunch of roses. Akbar thanked the boy and gave him a silver coin.
“So the carving was more beautiful than the real thing,” said Birbal softly and the
emperor realized with a start that once again he had played into the hands of
his witty courtier.
Birbal's sweet reply
|One day the Emperor Akbar startled his courtiers with a strange question.|
somebody pulled my mustache what sort of punishment should be given to him?" he asked.
"He should be flogged!" said one courtier.
"He should be hanged!" said another.
"He should be beheaded!" said a third.
"And what about you, Birbal?" asked the emperor. "What do you think would be the right thing thing
to do if somebody pulled my mustache?"
"He should be given sweets," said Birbal. "Sweets?" gasped the other couriers.
"Yes, said Birbal.
"Sweets, because the only one who would dare pull His Majesty's mustache is his grandson."
So pleased was the emperor with the answer that he pulled off his ring and gave it to Birbal as
|Once Birbal was invited to a lunch by a rich man. Birbal went to the man's
house and found himself in a hall full of people. His host greeted him warmly. "I did not know there would be so many guests,"
said Birbal who hated large gatherings.
"They are not guests," said the man. "They are my employees, all except one man. He is the only
other guest here beside you."
"Can you tell me which of them is my other guest?" he asked. "Maybe I could," said Birbal, "Tell them a joke
or something and I will observe them."
The man told a joke that Birbal thought was perhaps the worst he had heard in a long time. When
he finished everyone laughed uproariously.
"Well," said the rich man. "I've told my joke. Now tell me who my other guest
Birbal pointed out the man to him. "How did you know?" asked his host, amazed. "Employees tend
to laugh at any joke told by their employers," explained Birbal.
"When I saw that this man was the only one not laughing at your joke, and in fact, looked positively
bored, I at once knew he was your other guest."
Three words or less
|One day Akbar asked his courtiers if they could tell him the difference between
truth and false in three words or less. The courtiers looked at one another in bewilderment.
"What about you, Birbal?" asked the emperor. "I'm surprised that you too are silent."
because I want to give others a chance to speak," said Birbal.
"Nobody else has the answer," said the emperor. "So go ahead and tell me what is the difference
between truth and false — in three words or less."
"Four fingers" said Birbal. "Four fingers?" asked the emperor, perplexed.
"That's the difference
between truth and false, your Majesty," said Birbal.
"That which you see with your own eyes is the truth. That which you have only
heard about might
not be true. More often than not, it's likely to be false."
"That is right," said Akbar. "But what did you mean by saying the difference is four fingers?'
"The distance between one's eyes and one's ears is the width of four fingers, Your Majesty," said
Birbal. Akbar was astonished at his reply.
Question for a question
|One day Akbar said to Birbal: "Can you tell me how many bangles your wife
Birbal said he could not.
"You cannot?" exclaimed Akbar. "You see her hands every day while she serves you food. Yet you
do not know how many bangles she has on her hands? How
"Let us go down to the garden, Your Majesty," said Birbal, "and I'll tell you."
They went down the small staircase that led to the garden. Then Birbal turned to the emperor: "Your
Majesty," he said, "You go up and down this staircase every day. Can you tell me how many steps there are in that staircase?"
The emperor grinned sheepishly and quickly changed the subject.
Outwits the Cheat
|A farmer and his neighbor once went to Emperor Akbar’s court with a
“Your Majesty, I bought a well from him,” said the farmer pointing to his neighbor, “and now
he wants me to pay for the water.” “That’s right, your majesty,” said the neighbor. “I sold
him the well but not the water!”
The Emperor asked Birbal to settle the dispute.
“Didn’t you say that you sold your
well to this farmer?” Birbal asked the neighbor.
“So, the well belongs to him now, but you have kept your water in his well. Is that right?
Well, in that case you will have to pay him a rent or take your water out at once.”
The neighbor realized that he was outwitted. He quickly apologized and gave up his claim.
|ONCE when Akbar was riding near a mango grove, an arrow whizzed past him.
His soldiers rushed into the grove and caught hold of the archer, a young man, and brought him before Akbar.
“Why did you try to kill me?” Akbar shouted at the youth. “ Jahanpannah, I wasn’t trying to kill you. I was only trying to knock the mango down with my arrow!”
said the youth, who was already very afraid.
The king was too angry to listen to him.
“Put him to death in the same manner he tried
to kill me,” he ordered to his soldiers.
Receiving the King's orders soldiers tied the youth to a mango tree and another steadied his bow
and arrow to shoot him.
“This is not fair!” shouted Birbal who had been watching quietly. “If you want
to shoot him the same way he tried to shoot the emperor, you will have to aim at the mango and the arrow will have to miss
the mango and then strike him.”
Akbar, who had calmed down by now, realized he had been unfair to the youth and ordered his soldiers
to release him. The young man bowed and thanked the king & Birbal .
|ONCE an old man, Ramdas, thought of going on a pilgrimage but he was worried about his money so before
setting out on a a pilgrimage to the holy places, he had entrusted a jar containing money to his neighbor, Govind.
Ramdas returned six months later and went to his neighbors house and asked for the jar. Govind
returned the jar to him, but the money was not there in the jar.
It had been replaced with mango pickle. Confused Ramdas went to Govind's house and asked for his
money but Govind denied that he had not taken his money. Nobody could help Ramdas and finally he complained to the emperor.
Akbar asked Birbal to decide the case. Birbal carefully examined the jar of pickle.
"Are you sure this is the same jar that was given to you?" he asked Govind."Yes," said
Govind. "That was the jar that was entrusted to my care six months ago."
"And now it contains pickle," said Birbal. "It must always have contained pickle, I
never looked inside it" said Govind.
Birbal sent for some women from the royal kitchen and when they came Birbal asked them
to inspect the pickle.
"How old is the pickle?" he asked them. "Less than a month old," said the women. "The
mango pieces are still fresh." Turning towards Govind, Birbal said that he was lying & he should confess in front of the
king and he shall be pardoned.
Govind admitted to the theft and begged for mercy.
Empty Jungle's in Dowry
|ONCE Emperor Akbar had a passion for hunting. So he asked Birbal to accompany
him. While resting in the jungle with Birbal, he heard two owls hooting.
“Birbal, what do you think those two owls are saying to each other?” he asked.
“Huzoor, they are discussing dowry. The owl who is the groom’s father wants 40 jungles
in which there are no animals. The bride’s father says he can only arrange for 20.”
At that moment the owl hooted once more.
“Huzoor,” continued Birbal, “The
bride’s father says that if the groom’s side is willing to wait for six more months, he could arrange for another
twenty jungles.” “How?” asked the emperor puzzled.
“Huzoor, he says the emperor hunts down so many animals that he should be able to provide
the empty jungles by then.”
The emperor understood what Birbal was trying to convey him and from that day he gave up hunting
|Once Akbar tried to test the IQ level of all his ministers. So he threw his
gold ring into a dried up well and asked his ministers to retrieve it without climbing down into the well.
The ministers scratched their heads and thought deeply but soon they had to admit their defeat. Birbal, however could
never resist a challenge.
He came forward and said, “Jahanpanah, you shall get back your ring before sundown”.
He took some fresh cowdung from the ground and threw it on top of the ring. He then tied a stone
to one end of a long piece of a rope and retaining the other end, threw the stone on the dung.
After a while when he felt sure that the cowdung had completely dried, he pulled up the string.
To everyone’s surprise the cowdung came up and stuck at the bottom was the emperor’s ring. Everyone appraised
Birbal's sense of Humor.