Mahesh Das was a citizen in the kingdom of Akbar. He was an intelligent young man.
Once when Akbar went hunting in the jungle, he lost his way. Mahesh Das who lived in the outskirts helped the king reach the palace. The emperor rewarded him with his ring.
The Emperor also promised to give him a responsible posting at his court. After a few days Mahesh Das went to the court. The guard did not allow him to enter.
Mahesh Das showed the guard the ring which the king had given him. Now the guard thought that the young man was sure to get more rewards by the king. The greedy guard agreed to allow him inside the court on one condition. It was that Mahesh Das had to pay him half the reward he would get from the Emperor. Mahesh Das accepted the condition.
He then entered the court and showed the ring to the King.
The King who recognized Mahesh asked him "Oh young man! What do you expect as a reward from the King of Hindustan?" "Majesty! I expect 50 lashes from you as a reward." replied Mahesh Das. The courtiers were stunned. They thought that he was mad. Akbar pondered over his request and asked him the reason.
Mahesh Das said he would tell him the reason after receiving his reward. Then the king’s men whipped him as per his wish. After the 25th lash Mahesh Das requested the King to call the guard who was at the gate.
The guard appeared before the King. He was happy at the thought that he was called to be rewarded. But to his surprise, Mahesh Das told the King ,"Jahampana! This greedy guard let me inside on condition that I pay him half the reward I receive from you. I wanted to teach him a lesson. Please give the remaining 25 lashes to this guard so that I can keep my promise to him."
The King then ordered that the guard be given 25 lashes along with 5 years of imprisonment. The King was very happy with Mahesh Das. He called him.
It was winter. The ponds were all frozen.
At the court, Akbar asked Birbal, "Tell me Birbal! Will a man do anything for money?" Birbal replied, 'Yes'.
The emperor ordered him to prove it.
The next day Birbal came to the court along with a poor Brahmin who merely had a penny left with him. His family was starving.
Birbal told the king that the Brahmin was ready to do anything for the sake of money.
The king ordered the Brahmin to be inside the frozen pond all through the night without any attire if he needed money.
The poor Brahmin had no choice. The whole night he was inside the pond, shivering. He returned to the durbar the next day to receive his reward.
The king asked "Tell me Oh poor Brahmin! How could you withstand the extreme temperature all through the night?"
The innocent Brahmin replied "I could see a faintly glowing light a kilometer away and I withstood with that ray of light."
Akbar refused to pay the Brahmin his reward saying that he had got warmth from the light and withstood the cold and that was cheating.
The poor Brahmin could not argue with him and so returned disappointed and bare-handed.
Birbal tried to explain to the king but the king was in no mood to listen to him.
Thereafter, Birbal stopped coming to the durbar and sent a messenger to the king saying that he would come to the court only after cooking his khichdi.
As Birbal did not turn up even after 5 days, the king himself went to Birbal's house to see what he was doing. Birbal had lit the fire and kept the pot of uncooked khichdi one meter away from it.
Akbar questioned him "How will the khichdi get cooked with the fire one meter away? What is wrong with you Birbal?"
Birbal, cooking the khichdi, replied "Oh my great King of Hindustan! When it was possible for a person to receive warmth from a light that was a kilometer away, then it is possible for this khichdi, which is just a meter away from the source of heat, to get cooked."
Akbar understood his mistake. He called the poor Brahmin and rewarded him 2000 gold coins.
Birbal had been invited to lunch by a rich man.
Birbal went to the man's house and found him 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."
Then a crafty look came on the man's face.
"Can you tell me which of them is the guest?" he asked.
"Maybe I could," said Birbal. "Talk to them as I observe them. Tell them a joke or something."
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 is."
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."
One Day a scholar came to the court of Emperor Akbar and challenged Birbal to answer his questions and thus prove that he was as clever as people said he was.
He asked Birbal: "Would you prefer to answer a hundred easy questions or just a single difficult one?"
Both the emperor and Birbal had had a difficult day and were impatient to leave.
"Ask me one difficult question," sad Birbal.
"Well, then, tell me," said the man, "which came first into the world, the chicken or the egg?"
"The chicken," replied Birbal.
"How do you know?" asked the scholar, a note of triumph in his voice.
"We had agreed you would ask only one question and you have already asked it" said Birbal and he and the emperor walked away leaving the scholar gaping.
The anecdotes of Emperor Akbar and his trusted aide Birbal are entertaining as well as enlightening. Once, the Emperor received the gift of a rare perfume. As he opened the bottle, a drop of perfume fell to the floor. Akbar instinctively moved to retrieve it by wiping the floor with his finger. As he looked up he noticed a bemused look on Birbal’s face… his eyes seemed to mock the Emperor for being scrounging.
To change Birbal’s perception, Akbar summoned him the next morning to his bath. He asked his attendants to fill up the bathtub with the best of perfumes. Akbar sought to show Birbal that as Emperor he could afford to waste as much perfume, as he wanted. Birbal when asked to react said the immortal lines, “Boond se jati, woh haudh se nahi aati” (An entire tub full cannot retrieve what the drop took way!)
Birbal sought to tell the Emperor that his earlier instinctive action (that exhibited miserliness) could not be undone by an intentional action (aimed at big-heartedness). Our character is determined by our reactions, not by forced posturing. It is better to be transparent then wear favourable masks. In fact every little action and reaction, every spoken word and emerging thought reflects our true self!
The King of Iran had heard that Birbal was one of the wisest men in the East and desirous of meeting him sent him an invitation to visit his country.
In due course, Birbal arrived in Iran.
When he entered the palace he was flabbergasted to find not one but six kings seated there.
All looked alike. All were dressed in kingly robes. Who was the real king?
The very next moment he got his answer. Confidently, he approached the king and bowed to him.
"But how did you identify me?" the king asked, puzzled.
Birbal smiled and explained: "The false kings were all looking at you, while you yourself looked straight ahead. Even in regal robes, the common people will always look to their king for support."
Overjoyed, the king embraced Birbal and showered him with gifts.
Once there was a complaint at King Akbar's court.
There were two neighbors who shared their garden. In that garden, there was a well that was possessed by Iqbal Khan. His neighbor, who was a farmer wanted to buy the well for irrigation purpose. Therefore they signed an agreement between them, after which the farmer owned the well.
Even after selling the well to the farmer, Iqbal continued to fetch water from the well. Angered by this, the farmer had come to get justice from King Akbar.
King Akbar asked Iqbal the reason for fetching water from the well even after selling it to the farmer.
Iqbal replied that he had sold only the well to the farmer but not the water inside it.
King Akbar wanted Birbal who was present in the court listening to the problem to solve the dispute.
Birbal came forward and gave a solution. He said " Iqbal, You say that you have sold only the well to the farmer. And you claim that the water is yours. Then how come you can keep your water inside another person's well without paying rent?"
Iqbal's trickery was countered thus in a tricky way. The farmer got justice and Birbal was fairly rewarded.
Emperor Akbar was narrating a dream.
The dream began with Akbar and Birbal walking towards each other on a moonless night. It was so dark that they could not see each other and they collided and fell.
"Fortunately for me," said the Emperor. "I fell into a pool of payasam. But guess what Birbal fell into?"
"What, your Majesty?" asked the courtiers.
The court resounded with laughter. The emperor was thrilled that for once he had been able to score over Birbal.
But Birbal was unperturbed.
"Your Majesty," he said when the laughter had died down. "Strangely, I too had the same dream. But unlike you I slept on till the end. When you climbed out of that pool of delicious payasam and I, out of that stinking gutter we found that there was no water with which to clean ourselves and so guess what we did?”
"What?" asked the emperor, warily.
"We licked each other clean!"
The emperor became red with embarrassment and resolved never to try to get the better of Birbal again.
Ram and Sham both claimed ownership of the same mango tree.
One day they approached Birbal and asked him to settle the dispute.
Birbal said to them: "There is only one way to settle the matter. Pluck all the fruits on the tree and divide them equally between the two of you. Then cut down the tree and divide the wood".
Ram thought it was a fair judgment and said so.
But Sham was horrified.
"Your Honor" he said to Birbal "I've tended that tree for seven years. I'd rather let Ram have it than see it cut down."
"Your concern for the tree has told me all I wanted to know" said Birbal, and declared Sham the true owner of the tree.
One fine morning, a minister from Emperor Akbar's court had gathered in the assembly hall.
He informed the Emperor that all his valuables had been stolen by a thief the previous night.
Akbar was shocked to hear this because the place where that minister lived was the safest place in the kingdom.
He invited Birbal to solve the mystery. Akbar said "It is definitely not possible for an outsider to enter into the minister's house and steal the valuables. This blunder is definitely committed only by another minister of that court." Saying so, he arranged for a donkey to be tied to a pillar. He ordered all the courtiers to lift the donkey's tail and say "I have not stolen."
Birbal added "Only then we can judge the culprit." After everyone had finished, he asked the courtiers to show their palm to him. All the courtiers except Alim Khan had a black patch of paint on their palm. Birbal had actually painted the donkey's tail with a black coat of paint. In the fright, the guilty minister did not touch the donkey's tail at all. Thus Birbal once again proved his intelligence and was rewarded by the king with 1000 gold coins.
Birbal was missing. He and the emperor had a quarrel and Birbal had stormed out of the palace vowing never to return.
Now Akbar missed him and wanted him back but no one knew where he was.
Then the emperor had a brainwave. He offered a reward of 1000 gold coins to any man who could come to the palace observing the following condition. The man had to walk in the sun without an umbrella but he had to be in the shade at the same time.
"Impossible," said the people.
Then a villager came carrying a string cot over his head and claimed the prize.
"I've walked in the sun but at the same time I was in the shade of the strings of the cot," he said.
It was a brilliant solution. On interrogation the villager confessed that the idea had been suggested to him by a man living with him.
"It could only be Birbal!" said the emperor, delighted.
Sure enough it was Birbal and he and the emperor had a joyous reunion.
One day a man stopped Birbal in the street and began narrating his woes to him.
"I've walked twenty miles to see you," he told Birbal finally, "and all along the way people kept saying you were the most generous man in the country."
Birbal knew the man was going to ask him for money.
"Are you going back the same way?" he asked.
"Yes," said the man.
"Will you do me a favor?"
"Certainly," said the man. "What do you want me to do?"
"Please deny the rumor of my generosity," said Birbal, walking away.
One day Akbar asked his courtiers if they could tell him the difference between truth and falsehood 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."
"I'm 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 the difference between truth and falsehood is — in three words or less."
"Four fingers" said Birbal
"Four fingers?" asked the emperor, perplexed.
"That's the difference between truth and falsehood, 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, grinning.
Birbal was in Persia at the invitation of the king of that country.
Parties were given in his honor and rich presents were heaped on him.
On the eve of his departure for home, a nobleman asked him how he would compare the king of Persia to his own king.
“Your king is a full moon,” said Birbal. “Whereas mine could be likened to the quarter moon.”
The Persians were very happy. But when Birbal got home he found that Emperor Akbar was furious with him.
“How could you belittle your own king!” demanded Akbar. “You are a traitor!”
“No, Your Majesty,” said Birbal. “I did not belittle you. The full moon diminishes and disappears whereas the quarter moon grows from strength to strength. What I, in fact, proclaimed to the world is that your power is growing from day to day whereas that of the king of Persia is about to go into decline.”
Akbar grunted in satisfaction and welcomed Birbal back with a warm embrace.
One day the Emperor Akbar startled his courtiers with a strange question.
"If somebody pulled my whiskers 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 to do if somebody pulled my whiskers?"
"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 whiskers is his grandson."
So pleased was the emperor with the answer that he pulled off his ring and gave it to Birbal as a reward.
The Emperor Akbar was traveling to a distant place along with some of his courtiers. It was a hot day and the emperor was tiring of the journey.
“Can’t anybody shorten this road for me?” he asked, querulously.
“I can,” said Birbal.
The other courtiers looked at one another, perplexed. All of them knew there was no other path through the hilly terrain.
The road they were traveling on was the only one that could take them to their destination.
“You can shorten the road?” said the emperor. “Well, do it.”
“I will,” said Birbal. “Listen first to this story I have to tell.”
And riding beside the emperor’s palanquin, he launched upon a long and intriguing tale that held Akbar and all those listening, spellbound. Before they knew it, they had reached the end of their journey.
“We’ve reached?” exclaimed Akbar. “So soon!”
“Well,” grinned Birbal, “you did say you wanted the road to be shortened.”
A farmer and his neighbor once went to Emperor Akbar's court with a complaint.
"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.
Birbal arrived late for a function and the emperor was displeased.
"My child was crying and I had to placate him," explained the courtier.
"Does it take so long to calm down a child?" asked the emperor. "It appears you know nothing about child rearing. Now you pretend to be a child and I shall act as your father and I will show you how you should have dealt with your child. Go on. Ask me for whatever he asked of you."
"I want a cow," said Birbal.
Akbar ordered a cow to be brought to the palace.
"I want its milk. I want its milk," said Birbal, imitating the voice of a small child.
"Milk the cow and give to him," said Akbar to his servants.
The cow was milked and the milk was offered to Birbal. He drank a little and then handed the bowl back to Akbar.
"Now put the rest of it back into the cow, put it back, put in back, put it back..." wailed Birbal.
The emperor was flabbergasted and quietly left the room.
One day Akbar and Birbal were riding through the countryside and they happened to pass by a cabbage patch.
"Cabbages are such delightful vegetables!" said Akbar. "I just love cabbage."
"The cabbage is king of vegetables!" said Birbal.
A few weeks later they were riding past the cabbage patch again.
This time however, the emperor made a face when he saw the vegetables. "I used to love cabbage but now I have no taste for it." said Akbar.
"The cabbage is a tasteless vegetable" agreed Birbal.
The emperor was astonished.
"But the last time you said it was the king of vegetables!" he said.
"I did," admitted Birbal. "But I am your servant Your Majesty, not the cabbage's."