Birbal Faces A Tough Poser

Emperor Akbar upset at emerging second best in a test of wits with Birbal, wished to get even by putting him down in public. Instructions went out to all officials to attend the court to be convened on the following morning without fail.


So on this day it was a full court seated in a hush when Akbar settled down in his throne. There was an unmistakable glint of mischief in his eyes that put Birbal on alert.

Akbar turned to Birbal:

‘Birbal, yesterday night, a question came to mind that robbed me of my sleep. To get back my peace I would like you to seek answers from the wise men here.’

‘My Lord, that was indeed very unfortunate. May we request you to share with us those annoying matters? I’m certain we’ll find answers in this august assembly that would satisfy you.’

‘I’m sure you’ll. Birbal. You’ve always, haven’t you? Here’s it is: Who in all of this empire has a bigger stature than your Emperor? I’m very curious to find out who it is.’

Instantly the entire court was on its feet chorusing:

‘Impossible, Jahampana, anyone to rival you? Please tell us whoever mooted this idea – we’ll have his tongue pulled out.’

‘Not an interesting answer I am looking for.’

Disappointed at the push-back, they looked at each other hoping for some spark only drawing a blank.

When it was clear they were totally flummoxed, Akbar smiled at Birbal:

Akbar-birbal folknet in

‘Usually you have an answer to every question. What do you have to say, Birbal? You appear to be tongue-tied this once.’

A caucus of officials nodded their head vigorously in affirmation. They loved to see Birbal fall from the Emperor’s favor.

Birbal: ‘My Lord, I was waiting for the court to express itself first.’

A mildly irritated Akbar: ‘Don’t you hear the loud silence? You may now say what you wanted to say if you did have something to say.’

Birbal: ‘With your permission, my Lord, I say this; I can surely think of one who is endowed with bigger proportions than my Emperor.’

A voice from the court: ‘Birbal has lost his head.’

Another voice: ’If he hasn’t already, he will now.’

A stern look from Akbar silenced the voices.

He turned to Birbal: ‘My dear Birbal, would you care to tell us who would it be?’

His even voice presently sounded neither amused nor provoked.

‘My Lord, when I say this I include not only this empire but neighboring kingdoms and far beyond.

‘You’re keeping us waiting,’ now Akbar’s curiosity fully aroused.

‘Janampana, you are seen by all present to be sitting here in this court at this moment, but this one I’m talking about – who lives by you – the presence is so massive to be perceived at once by people living far apart. Surely, has a bigger stature?’

‘You’re talking in riddles, Birbal.’

‘My Lord, what else can it be but your fame?’

A minute of silence followed.

When it sank in, Akbar laughed out aloud.


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).

You may use search to enjoy six other stories of Birbal’s wit and wisdom in this blog.

Credits: and for images


One Response to Birbal Faces A Tough Poser

  1. birbal’s intelligence and diplomacy was amazing!


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