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Birbal Enters Akbar's Court
by Minal Saran & G.F. Wear
 Many many year ago, before you and I were alive, there lived in India a great king called Akbar. He ruled over a large country and was famous for being wise. He liked clever men and welcomed them to his court. People came to it from all over the world: poets, musicians and teachers of religion. There were nine of these clever men whom Akbar liked above all others but he liked Birbal the best. This is the story of how Birbal came to King Akbar’s court.

Birbal lived a long way from Delhi, where Akbar ruled, but when he heard of the court and the people there, and of the king, Birbal decided to go and see for himself. After many days on the journey, he came to Delhi. He was tired, but glad that his long journey had come to an end. As Birbal was going to enter the gates of the city, a guard stopped him.

‘Where are you going?’ asked the guard, ‘ You cannot enter so easily.’

Birbal explained that he had come a long way; he was tired; he wanted to see the king. But it was of no use. The guard first wanted a large sum of money as a present.

‘What can you give me?’ he asked.

Birbal had no money, nor anything else to give. But being clever he thought quickly, and then said: ‘If the king is pleased with me, I promise to give you half of what I receive from him.’

The guard accepted this arrangement, and let Birbal go in. Birbal entered King Akbar’s court and soon became well liked by the king, for he could tell many stories and jokes. One day the king was so pleased with him that he said: ‘I am very happy today. I have not laughed so much in all my life. What do you desire from me? I will give you anything you ask.’

‘Sire’, replied Birbal, ‘if you are really pleased with me, then order this guard to give me a hundred strokes of the whip.’

The king and the people there were much surprised, for who ever thought of choosing beating as a prize? Akbar asked Birbal again if that was what he really wanted.

‘Yes, Sire,’ answered Birbal. ‘ I think I am the first person who has asked for such a thing, but if you wish to take back your offer, my lord, it does not matter.’

Akbar at first would not agree, for the whip was used to punish bad men.

‘Ha, ha,!’ laughed the courtiers. ‘Perhaps he thinks the whip will improve his mind and make him wiser.’

Birbal turned to the courtier, ‘You are right,’ he said. ‘Some people will learn only through a beating.’

Akbar now had no choice in the matter, for he saw that Birbal was determined, and thinking that Birbal was really a fool he gave the order for the whipping. When fifty strokes had been given, Birbal shouted, ‘Stop!’

‘Ah, have you changed your mind?’ said the king with a smile.

‘No, my lord, but I have promised to give a friend half of what I received from you. May I have your permission to bring him here?’

This permission was given, so Birbal went in search of the guard at the gate. he found him and brought him in. The king was surprised to see his own guard there, and he asked Birbal to explain. ‘Sire,’ said Birbal, ‘before this man would let me through the gate of the city, he made me promise to give him half of what I received from you, for I had no money to give him.’

‘He wanted money from you?’ said the king.

‘He told me that it was the custom here,’ Birbal continued, ‘for strangers to give some payment to him.’

Then a number of courtiers told stories of the same kind. They had experienced the same things when they arrived, and most of them had given the guard money. Akbar was very angry that his own guard should take payments like this. ‘Let him have half the prize,’ said the king, ‘and see that the strokes of the whip are hard ones.’

The guard did not understand so Birbal turned to him and said, ‘You asked for half of what the king gave me. I was given a hundred strokes of the whip. I have already taken fifty; now it is your turn to take the other fifty.’ Then turning to the courtier who had laughed at him, Birbal said, ‘If you do not believe that a man becomes wiser through beating, take a lesson from this. The guard will realize how wrong it is to take payments.’

The guard received the fifty strokes which he deserved.

As for Birbal, the king and all the court were very pleased with him. The king gave him money and land, and asked him to stay at the court.  

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3-Dec-2006
 
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