Polished like gemstones in the river of time, the tales of Birbal’s wit and insight have delighted children and grownups across India for generations. These tales have entertained and taught people on all levels for hundreds of years. Although these tales are charming and amusing, they are not fictional. They are true stories of a wise man who lived in age old India in the palace of Emperor Akbar. Birbal served his Emperor with wit and wisdom, and he became so renowned that even today, parents and grandparents use these clever adventures as morality tales.
Birbal was the grand vizier and most trusted adviser of the Mughal emperor Akbar. Birbal’s duties at court were mostly military and administrative. He was a close friend of the emperor and was well known for his wit and wisdom.
One night, Emperor Akbar dreamed that he had lost all his teeth, except one. The next morning he invited all the astrologers of his kingdom to interpret this dream.
After a long discussion, the astrologers told Akbar that all his relatives would die before him. Akbar was very upset by this interpretation and sent them all away without any reward.
Later that day, Birbal entered the court. Akbar told Birbal his dream and asked him to interpret it. After thinking for a while Birbal replied that the Emperor would live a longer and more fulfilled life than any of his relatives. Akbar was pleased with Birbal’s explanation and rewarded him handsomely.
Another time Emperor Akbar and Birbal were taking a walk in the palace gardens. It was a nice summer morning and there were many crows happily playing around the pond. Akbar decided to test Birbal’s wit.
He asked Birbal how many crows there were in his kingdom. After a moment’s thought, Birbal replied, “There are ninety-five thousand four hundred and sixty-three crows”.
Amazed by his quick response, Akbar asked, “What if there are more?” Without hesitating Birbal replied, “If there are more crows, then some are visiting from other neighboring kingdoms”. “And what if there are less crows?” Akbar asked. “Then some crows from our kingdom have gone on holiday to other places”.
Although he was well loved by Emperor Akbar and the common people because of his wit and attention to justice, the other courtiers at Akbar’s court were jealous of Birbal and they continuously plotted his downfall, without success. Even Birbal’s death in battle was said to be caused by treachery rather then defeat. Akbar mourned for several months on hearing the news.
There are many books, videos, and CD ROMS available that have a rich collection of Birbal stories and are useful not only to children, but also young adults living outside of India. Amar Chitra Katha helps to reacquaint them with their heritage.
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