Category Archives: Akbar and Birbal Stories

The Wicked Barber’s Plight

As we all know, Birbal was not only Emperor Akbar’s favourite 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 required his services, 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 enquire 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 dead 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 chantings would help protect Birbal from the fire.

The king happily informed Birbal of this plan. Birbal said that he thought 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 Birbal arrived at the palace with news of the king’s father. The king was extremely pleased to see him and ready with a barrage of questions. Birbal told the king that his father was in the best of spirits and had been provided with all the comforts except one.

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 that there were no barbers in heaven, which is why even he was forced to grow his own beard. He said that his father had asked for a good barber. 

So the king decided to send his own 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 defence 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.

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The Foolish Brahmin

Once upon a time a foolish brahmin came to visit Birbal with a strange request. He wanted to be addressed as ‘pandit’.  Now, the term ‘pandit’ refers to a man of learning. But unfortunately this poor brahmin was uneducated. Birbal tried to explain the difference to him saying that it was not correct to call an uneducated man a pandit and because of this very reason it would be improper to call him so. But the silly brahmin had his heart set on this title. 

So, as usual, Birbal had a brilliant idea. He said that as the brahmin was an uneducated man he should hurl abuses and stones at anyone who dared to address him by the very same title he wanted. Then Birbal called all his servants to himself and ordered them to call this lowly brahmin a pandit. The brahmin was very pleased.  But the moment the servants started calling out to him as ‘pandit’ he pretended to be very angry and started to abuse them loudly. Then he picked up a few stones and hurled them in their direction. All as per clever Birbal’s advice.

All this shouting and screaming drew a crowd. When people realised that this brahmin was erupting every time anyone called him ‘pandit’, they all started to tease him. Over the next couple of days, he would constantly hear the refrain ‘pandit’ wherever he went. Very soon the whole town started referring to him as ‘pandit’ much to his delight. 

The foolish brahmin never realised why people were calling him in this manner. And was extremely pleased with the result. He thanked Birbal from the very bottom of his foolish heart.

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Poet Raidas

In the town of Agra there lived a rich businessman. But he was also quite a miser. Various people used to flock outside his house everyday hoping for some kind of generosity, but they always had to return home disappointed. He used to ward them off with false promises and then never live up to his word.

Then one day, a poet named Raidas arrived at his house and said that he wanted to read out his poems to the rich man. As the rich man was very fond of poetry, he welcomed him in with open arms.
Raidas started to recite all his poems one by one. The rich man was very pleased and especially so when he heard the poem that Raidas had written on him, because he had been compared with ‘Kubera’, the god of wealth. In those days it was a custom for rich men and kings to show their appreciation through a reward or a gift, as that was the only means of earning that a poor poet possessed. So the rich man promised Raidas some gifts and asked him to come and collect them the next day. Raidas was pleased. 

The next morning when he arrived at the house, the rich man pretended that he had never laid eyes on him before. When Raidas reminded him of his promise, he said that although Raidas was a good poet he understood very little of human nature. And that if rich businessman truly wanted to reward him, he would have done so the very same night.  Raidas had been offered a reward not because he was really pleased or impressed, but to simply encourage him.

Raidas was extremely upset, but as there was nothing that he could do, he quietly left the house. On his way home he saw Birbal riding a horse. So he stopped him and asked for his help after narrating the whole incident. Birbal took him to his own house in order to come up with a plan. After giving it some thought he asked Raidas to go to a friend’s house with five gold coins and request the friend to plan a dinner on the coming full moon night, where the rich man would also be invited. Birbal then asked Raidas to relax and leave the rest to him.

Raidas had one trustworthy friend whose name was Mayadas. So he went up to him and told him the plan.. The next day, Mayadas went to the rich man’s house and invited him for dinner.  The dinner has been planned for the coming full moon night. He said that he intended to serve his guests in vessels of gold, which the guests would get to take home after the meal. The rich man was thrilled to hear this and jumped at the offer.

After sunset on the full moon night, the rich man arrived at Mayadas’ house and was surprised to see no other guests there but Raidas. Anyhow, they welcomed him in and started a polite conversation. The rich man had come on an empty stomach and so was getting hungrier by the minute. Raidas and Mayadas were quite full as they had eaten just before the rich man’s arrival.

Finally at midnight the rich man could bear his hunger no longer and asked Mayadas to serve the food. Mayadas sounded extremely surprised when he asked him what food was he talking about. The rich man tried to remind him that he had been invited for dinner. At this point Raidas asked him for proof of the invitation. The rich man had no answer. Then Mayadas told him that he had just invited him to please him and had not really meant it. He then went on to say that even though they did not do anything good for other people they also would never try to hurt another human being. He asked the rich man not to feel bad. 

At that point Birbal walked into the room and reminded the rich man of the same treatment that he had himself meted out to Raidas. The rich man realised his mistake and begged for forgiveness. He said that Raidas was a good poet and had not asked him for any reward. He himself had promised to give him some gifts and then cheated him out of them. To make up for his mistake he took out the necklace that he was wearing and gifted it to Raidas. Then they all sat down to eat a happy meal.

Raidas was all praise for Birbal and thanked him profusely. Emperor Akbar also invited him to his court and honoured him, all thanks to Birbal.

Birbal really was a wise man. 

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Birbal’s Khichri

On a cold winter day Akbar and Birbal took a walk along the lake. A thought came to Birbal that a man would do anything for money. He expressed his feelings to Akbar. Akbar then put his finger into the lake and immediately removed it because he shivered with cold.

Akbar said “I don’t think a man would spend an entire night in the cold water of this lake for money.”

Birbal replied “I am sure I can find such a person.”

Akbar then challenged Birbal into finding such a person and said that he would reward the person with a thousand gold coins. 

Birbal searched far and wide until he found a poor man who was desperate enough to accept the challenge. The poor man entered the lake and Akbar had guards posted near him to make sure that he really did as promised.

The next morning the guards took the poor man to Akbar. Akbar asked the poor man if he had indeed spent the night in the lake. The poor man replied that he had. Akbar then asked the poor man how he managed to spend the night in the lake. The poor man replied that there was a street lamp near by and he kept his attention affixed on the lamp and away from the cold. Akbar then said that there would be no reward as the poor man had survived the night in the lake by the warmth of the street lamp. The poor man went to Birbal for help.

The next day, Birbal did not go to court. The king wondering where he was sent a messenger to his home. The messenger came back saying that Birbal would come once his Khichri was cooked. The king waited hours but Birbal did not come. Finally the king decided to go to Birbal’s house and see what he was upto.

He found Birbal sitting on the floor near some burning twigs and a bowl filled with Khichri hanging five feet above the fire. The king and his attendants couldn’t help but laugh.

Akbar then said to Birbal “How can the Khichri be cooked if it so far away from the fire?”

Birbal answered “The same way the poor man received heat from a street lamp that was more than a furlong away.”

The King understood his mistake and gave the poor man his reward.

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The Three Questions

King Akbar was very fond of Birbal. This made a certain courtier very jealous. Now this courtier always wanted to be chief minister, but this was not possible as Birbal filled that position.

One day Akbar praised Birbal in front of the courtier. This made the courtier very angry and he said that the king praised Birbal unjustly and if Birbal could answer three of his questions, he would accept the fact that Birbal was intelligent. Akbar always wanting to test Birbals wit readily agreed. 

The three questions were
1. How many stars are there in the sky
2. Where is the centre of the Earth and
3. How many men and how many women are there in the world.

Immediately Akbar asked Birbal the three questions and informed him that if he could not answer them, he would have to resign as chief minister.

To answer the first question, Birbal brought a hairy sheep and said �There are as many stars in the sky as there is hair on the sheep�s body. My friend the courtier is welcome to count them if he likes.�

To answer the second question, Birbal drew a couple of lines on the floor and bore an iron rod in it and said �this is the centre of the Earth, the courtier may measure it himself if he has any doubts.�

In answer to the third question, Birbal said �Counting the exact number of men and women in the world would be a problem as there are some specimens like our courtier friend here who cannot easily be classified as either. Therefore if all people like him are killed, then and only then can one count the exact number.�

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Pandit Sevaram

One day a Brahmin by the name of Sevaram asked Birbal for help. He said that his forefathers were great Sanskrit scholars and that people used to respectfully refer to them as Panditji. He said that he had no money nor need for wealth, he was content living a simple life.  But he had just one wish. He wished people would refer to him as Panditji too. He asked Birbal how he could achieve this.

Birbal said that the task was fairly simple. If the Brahmin followed his advice word for word, this task could be achieved. Birbal advised the Brahmin to shout at anyone who would call him Panditji from now on.

Now the children who lived on the same street as the Brahmin did not like him since he scolded them often. They were just waiting for an opportunity to get back at him. Birbal told the children that the Brahmin would get really irritated if they would start calling him Panditji. The children started calling him Panditji and the Brahmin as advised by Birbal started shouting at them. The children spread the word to all the other children in the neighborhood that Sevaram hated being called Panditji, so they in turn all started calling him Panditji. After a while, Sevaram got tired of scolding them but everyone already was used to calling him Panditji. Hence the game was over but the name stuck.

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How many Crows in the Kingdom

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 the pond.  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.  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”.

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