Akbar was waiting for the third session in Diwan-i-Am (open court) to hold a full durbar. The usual daily ordeals of people lasted for an hour and a half, with particular matters.
Fatehpur Sikri was inhaling Akbar’s rule in the 15th century. A sunny morning. The ‘Santri’ (guard)was in charge of the gate and looking after the security of the palace and the invitation of craftsmen.
Santri asked one of the Craftsmen, ‘five coins and then only, I’ll allow you to enter the court.’ One craftsman handed him five coins.
Santri again asked the next craftsman, five coins.
Sir, I don’t have five coins; Baadshah himself has invited me to the court.
Santri got furious; what? The baadshah invited you? Santri, in anger, pushed the craftsman and told him to leave now; I won’t allow anyone without five coins.
He was a crooked and corrupt person who was misusing his power.
There was a calm person, walked to the santri; his name was Mahesh Das.
Sir, I don’t have five coins, but I have the baadshah’s ring; he gave it to me himself.
Santri’s eyes opened, and he told Mahesh Das, I’ll let you go, but on one condition. You’ll have to share half of the prize you get from baadshah. Understand?
Mahesh Das, alright. As you wish.
The palace was colossal, and Mahesh Das, along with other artisans, entered the Diwan-i-Am. Religious teachers were on one side and the other gems of Mughal Court.
Raja Todarmal, Raja Man Singh, Tansen were the Hindu gems of the Mughal Court.
Akbar, who was sitting on the throne of India, his grandeur personality, bestowing his aura and blessing on his people like Allah, himself walked on earth.
Mahesh Das moved ahead with his folded hands, Badshah Akbar.
Akbar; I remember you; you are Mahesh Das, the wise. What reward do you want, Mahesh Das?
Mahesh Das; Will you give what I ask?
Mahesh Das: Baadshah Salamat (Long live the baadshah) all I want is fifty whips behind my back.
The whole court started mumbling, what? Fifty whips? Is he mad? Who would ask for such a gift?
Mullah-do-Piyaza(Mughal advisor): Ya Allah!! Are you mad? You’re standing in front of the almighty. You should ask, clothes, jewelry, money, food. Why fifty whips?
Mahesh Das: I want fifty whips only.
Akbar: Alright, your wish shall be fulfilled, but why do you want fifty whips?
Mahesh Das: Oh! Baadshah. The Santri, outside the palace gate, let me enter on one condition only. ‘Whatever I get from the baadshah, I shall share half of the prize with him.
Akbar stood up with rage on his face and shouted, bring that Santri to the court.
Santri came running and stood with confusion and fear on his face, baadshah salamat, how can I be of your service?
Akbar: I have heard you’re doing your work diligently, and this person has promised to share his reward with you. I am impressed, and I have decided to give you his full reward, not half.
Santri smiled and thanked Akbar.
Akbar: Don’t you want to know your reward?
Santri: Oh! Baadshah, what is it?
Akbar: Fifty whips behind your back!
The Santri: In fear, he dropped his sword and shield and fell on his knees. Forgive me, baadshah, forgive me! Tears were rolling down his face.
Akbar: Guards, fulfil his wish of fifty whips. Akbar, convey this message, bribery and corruption will not be taken casually. There will be a massive penalty for it.
Akbar: Mahesh Das, you are clever, and I thank you for bringing this to us. If bribery has taken over the Mughal court, what would be the condition of common people?
Akbar: I am impressed with your approach; I at this moment announce Mahesh Das to be a part of the darbar from now on.
Mullah-do-Piyaza: I apologize for interrupting baadshah; no doubt this man is clever, but adding him in the darbar is incorrect.
Akbar: I am sure he will be an asset, and he can contribute a lot to the darbar. Why don’t you test his intelligence? If he answers your question satisfactorily, he’ll become part of the darbar.
Mullah-do-piyaza: what if the answer is wrong? He shall deserve punishment.
Akbar: What if the answer is right, Mullah-do-piyaza?
Mullah-do-piyaza: I’ll bow down to him in front of everyone for the next two full moons.
Mullah-do-piyaza started smiling and came up with a question.
Mullah-do-piyaza: Baadshah, my question is tricky. Before, Akbar would answer.
Mahesh Das: Please, ask your question.
Mullah-do-piyaza: Alright, then tell me, ‘what is going on inside my mind right now? What am I thinking?
The court and the darbari were amazed by the question, and Mahesh Das looked at baadshah first, and then Akbar told him to answer the question.
Mahesh Das: Baadshah, I know what Mullah-do-piyaza ji is thinking right now!
Mullah-do-piyaza ji is praying in his mind, calling the god, he is asking, Allah! Oh! Allah! May you bestow your blessings on baadshah with good health, long life, and brain, and may we all have baadshah’s blessing on us forever.
Akbar, with pride on his face, smiled.
Mahesh Das: Baadshah, please ask mullah-do-piyaza Ji, is my answer right?
Akbar: Mullah-do-piyaza, is that what you’re thinking right now?
Mullah-do-piyaza: Laughs hysterically, oh! Baadshah, that’s precisely what I am thinking right now.
The whole court burst into laughter, and religious teachers acknowledged Mahesh Das for his cunning brain.
Akbar: Mahesh Das’s brain is mighty; he will be known as ‘Birbal’!
The court congratulated Mahesh Das, and this is how the tail of Akbar-Birbal became immortal.