An Akbar-Birbal Episode Never Told Before!
February 26, 2013 4 Comments
Emperor Akbar was known to come up with whimsical posers for his court to find answers.
So it was this time too and his question was: ‘What is the most ‘beautiful’ sound?’ ‘Beautiful ‘ meant a sound that one has heard and would like to hear over and over again.
On the appointed day, the court assembled to discuss the Emperor’s question and seek the best answers. Besides the members of the court, the common folks too turned up in good number to watch the proceedings.
Once the question was announced, the responses came in fast and thick:
‘A mountain brook in frolicking flow.’
‘The call of a koel in thick of a mango orchard.’
‘The happy gurgle of a baby on sighting the mother after her absence.’
‘The jingle of gold pieces (currency).’
‘The early morning call of the temple bells.’
‘The tinkle of the anklets of a bashful bride withdrawing behind silk curtains.’
’The prattle of the Emperor’s grandson.’
The suggestions were wild, poetic, philosophical, romantic, humorous, fawning and some bordering on the ridiculous.
However the Emperor did not appear to be happy with what was coming to him.
One of the courtiers observed impatience writ the Emperor’s face and made an appeal: ‘My lord, we see you’re not pleased. May I make a submission?’
‘Your Highness, we observe Birbal hasn’t spoken a word. Perhaps he could address the question?’
The courtiers were jealous of Birbal’s standing in the court. They did not miss an opportunity to show him in poor light and cause him discomfort.
Akbar turned to Birbal: ‘Yes, I do see you unusually silent today. Would you know what is the most beautiful sound?’
Birbal was cautious: ‘Jahampana, clearly you’ve something more in mind than what you’ve heard here today. I request for some time to find and present it before you.’
‘Birbal, you’ve seven days and we meet again.’
In the following days, Birbal was seen to be busy more than ever. He scoured the city, met people at their houses, visited temples, gardens, palaces and markets and went to all places where people gathered.
When the court assembled again, it was a much harried looking Birbal taking his seat.
Akbar: ‘Birbal, we’re ready for you. And, hope you’ve not returned empty-handed.’
Birbal: ‘I seek your permission to present it before you, my lord.’
Akbar nodded his assent.
Birbal took a bow and turned to the footmen standing at a distance.
On cue, they marched a diffident looking young man right up to the front. Birbal held him by his shoulders seemingly to assure him everything was okay and the man had nothing to fear.
On seeing this piece of drama, a frown appeared on Akbar’s face: ‘My dear Birbal, we are here to hear your response to the question we had posed and you bring a man here…’
The courtiers perked up to see Akbar pulling up Birbal.
‘Jahampana, this man here lives in our city at the outskirts and is a carpenter by profession.’
The entire assembly went silent for a few moments feeling quite unsure of what would happen next.
The deep voice of Akbar broke the silence: ’We hope you’re not going to trivialize the subject or be flippant about it.’
‘No, I would never be emboldened to do so, my lord. I assure you this man knows what is the most beautiful sound. And if you kindly permit him to tell us…’
Barely concealing his impatience and fixing both of them in his stern glare, Akbar allowed him to proceed.
Thereupon Birbal in a slow soothing voice posed the question to the young man.
The young man bowed before the court, paused nervously for a moment and said:‘Sirs, the most beautiful sound I regard is my mother’s snore.’
The entire court was aghast at what they had heard. Birbal must have surely gone out of his mind to produce this man before the Emperor. The courtiers were secretly overjoyed to be a witness to Birbal’s certain fall from favor.
Akbar was visibly annoyed at Birbal: ’If this is some kind of a joke, Birbal, you know we’re not amused.’
Birbal in an assuaging tone: ‘My lord, please bear with me for a minute.’
Turning to the young man Birbal asked him to explain his strange response.
The young man said: ‘Sirs, my father passed away a few years ago. There are only two of us now – my mother and I. Unfortunately for several months now my mother contracted some unknown ailment that no vaidya is able to cure. I’ve called any number of them home to treat her, but to no avail. She has this intense pain in her stomach that does not let her do any work in her waking hours nor does it let her catch a wink of sleep. I’m unable to provide any palliative care besides helplessly watching her suffer. Occasionally out of sheer exhaustion she falls into sleep. And those are the moments I thank the almighty for and her snore at this time is the most beautiful sound to my ears.’
For a perceptibly long time the Emperor could not find his voice, nor the court.
About Akbar and Birbal
Abu’l-Fath Jalal-ud-Din Muhammad Akbar also known as Shahanshah Akbar-e-Azam or Akbar the Great (1542 – 1605), was the third Mughal Emperor. He was of Timurid descent; the son of Emperor Humayun, and the grandson of the Mughal Emperor Zaheeruddin Muhammad Babur, the ruler who founded the Mughal dynasty in India. At the end of his reign in 1605 the Mughal Empire covered most of northern and central India. He is most appreciated for having a liberal outlook on all faiths and beliefs and during his era, culture and art reached a zenith as compared to his predecessors (Wikipedia).
Raja Birbal (1526 – 1586) was the Wazīr-e Azam or Grand Vizier or the adviser of the Mughal court in the administration of the Mughal Emperor Akbar. He was one of his most trusted members along with being a part of Akbar’s inner council and most valued of nine advisors, known as the navaratna (Sanskrit: meaning nine jewels). Birbal’s duties in Akbar’s court were mostly military and administrative, but he was also a very close friend of the Emperor, who appreciated Birbal for his wit and wisdom, often involving humorous exchanges. These stories have become part of a rich tradition of folklore and legend. ,It also lead to the jealousy of other courtiers., they often trying to put him down in Emperor’s eyes (Wikipedia).
Credit: indianchild.com for the image