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Birbal Brings a Princess from Heaven
|by Minal Saran & G.F. Wear|
A Birbal Story
One day Akbar said to Birbal, ‘You are one of the cleverest men I have ever met; I want you to do something which has never been done before; something which will surprise the whole city.’ After a few moments’ thought, Birbal replied: ‘Yes, Sire, I can do what you desire, but first I need some money, and then a year to carry out the work.’
The king agreed to both requests, but told Birbal that it must be something never heard before. He promised him that he would not be punished, whatever it was. Nothing more was said about the matter, and as the king had much to do he soon forgot about it.
A few days later, word came to the king that Birbal was dying. He was much upset at the news, and went to see Birbal himself. He found him in a sad condition and, at his request, agreed to look after his wife and children when he died. Two days later, the king was told that Birbal had died. His enemies were glad, but Akbar was not. He ordered the court to go into mourning for three days.
Several months passed, and one day an excited guard ran into the palace.
‘What is the matter?’ asked Akbar.
‘Sire, Birbal!’ was all the man could say. Before the king could ask him to explain, Birbal himself walked in.
‘Is it really you, Birbal?’
The king and all the courtiers stood up in surprise.
‘Yes, Sire,’ was Birbal’s answer. ‘I died and went to heaven. I was able there to perform some good actions, and in return was allowed to come back to earth to serve you.’
Akbar was very pleased to hear this and ordered a great welcome.
‘Sire, I have brought you a princess of great beauty,’ said Birbal, ‘and some clothes from Heaven; they are lovely.’
‘Bring them here,’ said the king. ‘Why are you waiting?’
‘Oh, Sire,’ replied Birbal, ‘this is no ordinary princess. She has come from heaven. She will have to be invited to the palace; we must all go and bring her back.’
Akbar wanted to see the princess very much, but he was not sure if Birbal was telling the truth, so he thought he would send his Dewan, or chief minister, and some courtiers with Birbal, to find out.
They all went a little way into the forest, when they came to a palace of great beauty; it was red and gold in color. Birbal stopped at the gate.
‘Look at the window on the seventh floor,’ he said. ‘The princess will appear there when I call.’
He called, and everyone waited, but nothing happened. No princess came to the window.
The Dewan thought this joke had gone far enough.
‘What is this, my friend? Where is the princess?’
‘I forgot to tell you,’ said Birbal. ‘She is a heavenly princess. Only those of really good family, whose wives are faithful, and who are pure and honest themselves, can see her. Now look again.’
They looked, and Birbal’s words had their effect. The Dewan did not want anyone to think he was not honest, or that his wife was not true to him, so he said: ‘Oh yes, there she is! What a creature of beauty!’
The other courtiers thought it necessary to say the same. When they all returned to the king, they told him of the beauty of the palace and of the princess in it. Akbar was very pleased, and ordered a big procession to go into the forest. He went first with Birbal.
When the king arrived at the palace of red and gold, he looked at the window pointed out to him by Birbal.
‘There, Sire, there she is, looking down at you,’ said Birbal. Akbar could see no one.
‘Where?’ he asked.
‘There, Sire,’ said Birbal, and he told the king what he had told the Dewan and the courtiers. Akbar also did not want people to think that he was low-born, that he was not honest, or that the queen was not faithful to him, so he pretended to see the princess.
‘Yes, yes,’ he cried. ‘Now I see her. What a beauty!’ and he started to go inside. Birbal stopped him.
‘One moment, Sire. We must first take off our earthly clothes and put on the heavenly ones I shall give you.’ He gave the king some rich clothes. Then he pretended to give the Dewan and the courtiers some also. Thinking that they would be considered low-born and not honest if they could not see the clothes, first the Dewan and then the other courtiers pretended to put the ‘heavenly’ clothes on. But first they had to take off the clothes that they were wearing. Most of them stood behind the Dewan, wearing nothing at all and feeling rather ashamed.
Birbal went alone into the palace, then came out looking sad.
‘I am sorry to say, Sire, that the princess does not think that this is the right moment to come out.’
Akbar was not very pleased, but did not wish to anger the princess. ‘We will go back, then,’ he said, and led the procession back to the city. Only Akbar and Birbal were dressed. The others had nothing on.
As they came near the city, the news quickly spread. Some thought the courtiers had gone mad, others that they had been robbed, and various things were said.
At last a small boy cried out, ‘The Dewan is naked! The Dewan is naked!’
Soon other children picked up the cry.
At last one of the courtiers could suffer the shame no longer. He went up to the Dewan and said: ‘I may be low-born, not honest, and my wife may not faithful, but this has gone on too long.’
‘Who do you mean?’ asked the Dewan, careful to show nothing in his voice.
‘This Birbal is making fools of us all,’ was the reply. ‘There are no heavenly clothes, there is no princess either.’
The Dewan at last agreed, and all decided to say what they thought to the king. Birbal decided that the time had come to tell the truth. He spoke to the king immediately.
‘Do you remember about eight months ago telling me to do something which would be strange, never heard of?’
‘I remember, but you died since then.’
‘Today I have done something which no one, not even you, Sire, could do: I have made the Dewan and the courtiers walk naked through the city. No one would have thought this possible. If they are angry with me, I cannot help it. I trust that you, Sire, will protect me.’
But Akbar only laughed. The Dewan and the courtiers walking along naked were certainly something to laugh at!
Birbal Brings a Princess from Heaven
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