Who hasn’t heard of the wit and wisdom of Birbal, the minister and companion of the famous Emperor Akbar! Perhaps the name of Akbar is seldom taken without that of Birbal. On many an occasion had Akbar’s pride been humbled by ‘Birbal the Wise’.
Well, the story goes that once the Akbar-Birbal duo went on a journey to a far off destination. En route they had to cross a forest. Somehow the got separated from the others. Night fell before they envisaged and they were lost in the dense and dark forest. Besides being lost, they were tired and hungry too. Akbar told Birbal, “We’ll have to look for shelter and also look for some forest dweller who can give us food and water.” Birbal said, “Your majesty, I’m tired. Let’s sit here and pray to God, I’m sure he will help us.”
Akbar looked at him scornfully at him and said, “What do you mean by, ‘pray to God’, how can that get us food? We’ll have to move around to search for help. Come, get up and let’s look for someone who can help us. Birbal said, “No, your majesty. It’s time for me to do my evening prayers. You go ahead if you like.”
So saying, Birbal sat down to do chant Rama-nama. Akbar shrugged his shoulders and started off in search of food. After some time, Akbar saw a faint light glowing at a distance. Using it as a lighthouse, Akbar made his way to a small cottage. He knocked at the door. An elderly couple was overjoyed to find their king at the doorstep. They offered him food and water. After eating, Akbar asked them if they could pack some food for Birbal. They happily conceded. Akbar made his way back to the clearing where Birbal sat, deeply immersed in chanting Rama-nama. Akbar said, “Look Birbal, even God expects you to make an effort to gain something. Had I not gone in search of help, we would have had to sleep on a hungry stomach. Here, I have brought some food for you. Eat it!” Birbal slowly opened his eyes and took the food from Akbar. He opened the packet and started eating the food, savouring every mouthful as if in bliss.
Akbar expected him to say that the Emperor has been right indeed. Instead Birbal said, “Your majesty, did I not tell you that if we sit down and pray, God sends help to us. You are king, yet you went out to ask for food, like a beggar. I am but a commoner, yet the king of the land has brought food for me, whilst I sat down and prayed to the Lord. What more proof do you need of the power of the name of Rama?”