[ A dish made of daal and rice* ]
The Birbal Stories are very popular in India. The old and the young like them alike. We popularly know them as Akbar-Birbal Stories.
A Mogul Emperor in lived in India. Akbar The Great (1542-1605), who ruled India from 1560 to 1605. He was not literate, but he did select and appoint many learned personalities in his court.
Among them, nine were extraordinarily talented and were called Nav Ratna (nine jewels) of his court.
Again among them, five were more more popular - Tansen, Todarmal, Abul Fazal, Maan Singh and Birbal He was known for his wit, wisdom and valuable advice
Akbar's son, later known as Jehangir wrote that nobody could make out that Akbar was an illiterate. He was a very hard-working man. It is also said that he slept for only three hours.
Birbal’s (1528-1583) duties in the court of Akbar were mainly administrative and related to military but he was a very close friend of Akbar. Birbal was also a poet and an author.
It is believed that he was the son of a poor Braahmin of Trivikrampur who lived on the banks of the River Yamuna. According to a popular legend, he died on an expedition to Afghanistan at the head of a large military force.
It is also said that when Birbal died, Akbar mourned him for many months.
The exchanges between Akbar and Birbal have been recorded in many books. Many of these have become folk stories in Indian tradition.
It so happened that many courtiers were jealous with Birbal and often plotted for his downfall. There are many stories found on this issue alone.
We may enjoy reading this one of Birbal Stories named : The Cooking of the Khichdi.
It was winter time. The ponds were frozen.
At the court, Akbar asked Birbal, "Tell me Birbal! Will a man do anything for money?"
Birbal replied, “Yes” .
The emperor ordered “Prove it !”.
The day after, Birbal came to the court along with a poor Brahmin.
He merely had a penny left with him. His family was starving.
Birbal told the king, “The Brahmin would do anything for the sake of money, Sir!”
Akbar asked the Brahmin to be inside the almost frozen pond throughout the night without any attire ,if at all he needed the money.
The poor Brahmin had no choice. That night he remained inside in side the almost frozen pond, shivering.
He returned to the durbar the next day and requested for his reward.
Akbar asked him, with disbelief writ large in his eyes."
"Tell me Oh Brahmin!”
“How could you withstand the extreme temperature all through the night?"
The poor Brahmin was afraid of the King’s wrath.
He replied "Your Majesty…I could see a faintly glowing light nearly one kilometer away and I withstood with the heat of that ray of light."
Akbar refused to pay the Brahmin any reward saying that he got warmth from the light and that is why he could withstand the cold, which amounted to cheating.
The poor Brahmin could not argue with him. He returned disappointed .
Birbal tried to convince the king but the king was not in a mood to listen.
After this, Birbal stopped coming to the court and sent a messenger to the king saying that he would come to the court only after his khichadi was cooked.
As Birbal did not turn up even after about a week, Akbar himself went to Birbal's house to see was going on.
Birbal had lit a fire but kept the pot of the uncooked khichdi one meter away from it.
Akbar questioned him "How will the khichdi get cooked when the fire was 1 meter away?
“What went wrong with you Birbal?" asked he
Birbal, cooking the khichdi, answered
"Oh the great King of India! When it was possible for a person to receive heat and warmth from a tiny source of light that was 1 kilometer away, then it is possible for this khichdi, to cook from a source of heat which is just a meter away !"