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Akbar Birbal Chutkule

History of Birbal

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India Parichay Akbar Birbal history of BirbalWhen one hears of Birbal the next name that comes to mind is Akbar. The two were very close and had a great rapport and friendship between them. Birbal was also known as Raja Birbal and amusingly both were titles conferred to him and were not his real name.

Birbal's real name was Maheshdas Bhatt and he was born in the city of Trivikrampur or Tiwkapur in 1528 to brahmin couple Gangadas and Anabhadevi. His grandfather Rupdhar was a great Sanskrit scholar and resided in Patrapunj. Maheshdas was the third child and at a very young age lost his father Gangadas. His mother sent him to her father Rupdhar at Patrapunj.

Maheshdas's grandfather Rupdhar started his education at age of 5 and taught him Sanskrit, Hindi and Persian (the state language). Then according to the family tradition he learned music and poetry. Soon he was writing his own poems and setting them to tunes and singing them in his sweet voice. He became famous as the poet-musician-singer. He also had a great wit and humor. His witty conversation made a mark on anyone he met.

Kings in those days were great patronizers of art. They gave royal positions to writers, poets, musicians, sculptors and other artists. When Bhagawandas, the king of Jaipur heard about Maheshdas, he invited him with great honor. Maheshdas sang his own composition in the court. He was writing under the pseudonym “Brahmakavi”. Soon his real name was forgotten.

From the court of Jaipur, Maheshdas went to the court of Raja Ramachandra of Rewa. Raja Ramachandra was great lover of art and Maheshdas and the famous singer Tansen were amongst his courtiers. Because of his accomplishments Maheshdas was able to marry a girl from a well known family in Kalinjar. By marriage, he was financially settled.
The fame of Maheshdas and Tansen reached the ears of Akbar and he invited the two to his court. They soon became part of the nine gems at the court of Akbar.

So Maheshdas became Brahmakavi but how did he become Birbal?

Maheshdas was not only an accomplished musician but was an expert at the art of warfare which was proven by taking part in the expedition of Sultanpur at Punjab. Emperor was so pleased that he conferred him with the title Veervar and the Jagir of Nagarkoth. Emperor Akbar was very fond of bestowing titles based on Hindu cultural system, history and mythology like Kaviraj, Mahapatra or Jagatguru. The title Birbar or Birbal conferred on Maheshdas became so popular that it replaced his real name. He himself preferred this name used it sometimes in his verses. Akbar is said to have borrowed this name from 'Vetal Panchvishanti' or the 'betal pachisi' the twenty five tales of Vikram and Vetal. In the third story a man named Veervar offers his services to the king and fully earns the high pay allowance by showing extraordinary proof of his loyalty and devotion. The title Veervar was transformed into Birbal on the basis of sanskrit rules according to which when two r sounds occur in close proximity the later is pronounced as L.

Birbal entered the court of Akbar in 1556 and worked with him for 30 years. Birbal rose to a very high position in the court with his wit, wisdom and humorous nature. He became one of the closest and trusted ministers of Akbar. Because pof his enviable positions many legends surround him. It is wise to enjoy the wit, humor and wisdom contained in them instead of validating the truthfulness of them.

Birbal's participation in many important expeditions proves he was a rare combination of a man with a pen and the sword. Akbar took him on expeditions to Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. Because of his high position and influence with the emperor, he was envied by many and had many enemies amongst the courtiers. One of them was Zain Khan.

The northwest frontier of India was always of security concern to all the rulers of India. The Yusufzai and Mandar Afgan tribes living on the border, with their restless ways and abhorrence for any authority, led a constatnt marauding attacks. Akbar had sent Zain Khjan to deal with the frontier problem. The Yusufzais pretended defeat and then came back with renewed fight. The Emperor then sent Shaikh Farid, Shaikh Faizi, Sher Khwaja Fataullah with more reinforcements to no avail. The tribes had the home ground advantage in a huge area 40 miles by 60 miles.

At last, Akbar sent Birbal to help Zain Khan who misled him to enter a narrow pass at night. The Afgans were well prepared and were ready on the hills. They were trapped in the narrow alley. Many men lost their way or were killed oin the holes and the caverns. It was a terrible defeat called in the history as the Yusufzai disaster, in which Birbal, along with his entire army perished. Birbal fought with bravery and lost his life in the service of Akbar on 16 Feb 1583.

When Akbar heard the death of his dear friend he was profoundly shocked and did not eat food or water nor attended his court for two full days. It is very notable that this was one of the only 5 times that Akbar did not attend his royal court during his reign.

Akabar's genuine love and friendship for Birbal is attested by two incidents. Akbar was very fond of chowgan (modern day polo). During one such game, Birbal fell off his horse and was knocked unconscious. Akbar got down from his own horse and personally brought Birbal back to consciousness.

Another time, when Akbar was watching the fight between two wild elephants, one of the elephants went to attack a servant standing nearby. Halfway, the elephant changed his mind and ran after Birbal. He was about to strike Birbal when Akbar with the intention of saving his friend brought his own horse between the elephant and Birbal. The spectators were aghast and a cry went into the air. The elephant stood still overcome by the majestic courage. Akbar's uncommon venture was a great feat and there could be no greater test of his sincerity, love and friendship for Birbal.

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History of Birbal

Maheshdas Becomes Birbal

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Akbar Birbal StoriesOne 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.”

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Maheshdas Becomes Birbal

Young Birbal

Read more Akbar Birbal stories here.

Akbar Birbal ChutkuleIn the olden days, artists often visited various cities and showed their skills at town squares or market places to informally gathered crowds. It was in a way similar to the concerts and the tours that most recording artists do today, except it wasn't at such scale and was not professionally managed as it done today.

This artist called 'bahuroobiya” or a mimic. He was no ordinary mimic just doing voices or different personalities but could mimic even animals. He was an expert performer and an entertainer too. Soon, a crowd began to gather at the market place. People were soon talking about his skill and he was the talk of the little town Tiwkapur.

The mookhiya - local head, heard about this artist and arranged for a performance. The whole village was invited. Men and women, old and young, everyone gathered for the performance. The show began and as the artist had mastered his craft very well, everyone watching was engrossed. The climax of the show reached when the Bahuroobiya turned himself into a bull. The imitation of the bull was so good, the crowd was spellbound. The mookhiya gave the artist a bag of gold coins.

A little boy in the crowd threw a small pebble at the bull. The bull quivered just as a bull. The boy was so pleased, he could not contain his admiration. “Wow, what great imitation!” he exclaimed. He had nothing to give other than his old battered topi (cap). He took his topi off and gave it to the artist, “ take my reward.”

The crowd began to laugh and giggle at the boy. “Who cares for the old battered cap. What use is it to the artist. It will not even fit his head.” they said. The boy came forward and said very courageously, “ The real appreciation is in testing and finding the real value, not just giving away expensive rewards. I threw a stone at the imitation bull and he shivered just like a bull. It was a true test.” The artist agreed with the boy. “He is right. He alone tested me and I treasure this dirty old cap. It will remain as one of my prized possessions.”

The little boy was Maheshdas who grew up to be Birbal.

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Young Birbal

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