Read more Akbar Birbal stories here.
One hot summer day, Emperor Akbar and his friends had gone on an hunting expedition. They did not find any game and were very thirsty. “Let us go to the nearest village and get some water.” On their way they saw a young boy carrying twigs for firewood on his head. They approached him, “we are very thirsty and want to go to the nearest village for some water.” The boy replied, “there is a lake near my house. You can drink some water and so can your horses.”
One of the royal said, “come jump on my horse, so we can reach there faster.” They jumped on the horses and the party proceeded towards the boy's village.
“What is your name?” asked Akbar. “What is your name?” asked the boy without replying Akbar's question. Akabar was taken aback, since he was not used to getting a question for a question. “Don't you know who I am?” asked Akbar. The boy asked, “do you know the name of the most learned pundit of our village?” “No” Akbar replied. “My answer to your question is the same.” The boy replied.
Akbar was amused by the boy.
They soon reached the village. The thirsty party was offered some gud (jaggery) and water. The horses were fed with chana (chick peas) and a drink of water. When it was time to leave, Akbar asked the boy, “which road goes to Agra?” “Have you ever seen a road go anywhere? These roads always stay here, they do not go to Agra or to any other place.” The eyes sparkled with mischief and the boy gave a hearty laugh at his own joke. Then he turned to Akbar and said, “Mahashay, people travel on the roads and go places. This road will take you to Agra.” Akbar was very pleased by his wit. When they were ready to leave Akbar gave the boy his ring with the royal insignia and said, “Now you will know who I am. When you grow up come visit me” and he rode off. The boy looked at the ring and immediately recognized Akbar. By then there was just the dust cloud left behind by the riding horses. “My name is Maheshdas, my name is Maheshdas.” he said running behind the horses.
When Maheshdas grew up and was ready to go to the Delhi Durbar, he took the ring with him and went to Delhi. After a long and tiresome journey he reached the outskirts of Delhi. He rested for the night and the next day early in the morning he was at the gates of the palace. The guard at the gate would not let Maheshdas in. He showed him the royal ring and said, “I have an invitation from the Emperor. Let me in. Soon I shall make a name for myself and earn rich rewards.” “I will let you in only if you promise to give me half the reward you get today.” said the guard. Maheshdas thought for a while and agreed.
He reached the durbar. Akbar was sitting on the peacock throne and noblemen stood in front of him on both the sides. Akbar had posed a very simple question. “Which is the most beautiful flower?”
“Rose” said one.
“Lotus” said the other.
“Jasmine” said yet another
Maheshdas could not keep quiet, “the most beautiful flower is the cotton flower.”
Everyone began to laugh. Akbar asked, “ Why do you say that? It has no smell, texture or color”
“JahanPanaha! Every one knows that clothes are made from cotton flower. Very fine Muslin is made for the summer and heavier fabric is made for winters. It can be dyed with any color of the rainbow. Young or old, Prince or pauper, every one uses it. No other flower can be better than it.”
Akbar smiled at the clever answer. “What is your name? Where have you come from?”
“My name is Maheshdas and I come from a village with a lake where you and your friends once had some water.” And he showed the ring to Akbar. “I remember you. I am glad you have come. I like your clever answer. I wish to give you a hundred gold coins.”
“Your Majesty! Please forgive my impudence. I do not want the hundred gold coins. I want one hundred lashes instead.” Akbar was perplexed. Why would anyone want lashes as reward. He tried to talk him out of it, but Maheshdas would not agree. Finally Akbar said, “I give up. If that is what you want then be it. Give him a hundred lashes.”
“I cannot accept the whole reward. I promised someone to share half of my reward. Call your palace guard and give him the first 50 lashes. I will then take the remaining fifty.” Maheshdas said. He then explained how he had to bribe the guard to come inside the palace. Hearing this Akbar said, “I am trying to remove the culture of bribery. You have made a fine example. Give the guard all 100 lashes. And as for you, I appoint you as my courtier Birbal.”
Read more Akbar Birbal stories here.