The Learned Man and the Foolish Man | Akbar Birbal

Learned Man and the Foolish Man

Birbal had to leave home for a few days once. So, Emperor Akbar put his brother-in-law Hassan in place of Birbal as a courtier until Birbal could return.

The new courtier felt very important and said, “I will do my job well!” Akbar thought, “He’s proud of what he has.” Let me test his pride to see if it matches it.

The next day, Emperor Akbar went to the market and saw a big elephant footprint. He showed it to Hassan and told him, “Take good care of this valuable elephant foot.” Hassan sat there without eating for three days. On the fourth day, he was so hungry that he collapsed. He told Akbar, “Sire, the elephant’s footprint is safe, but I am starving to death.” Akbar gave Birbal the same job when he came back.

He placed an iron bar and tied a 50-yard rope around the footprint immediately. He said that the rope would be broken, and the person would go to jail if their house were inside the circle. People offered Birbal a fine and begged him not to destroy their homes. They also said they would not touch the elephant’s footprint. In this, people gave money to the government.

In front of his courtiers, Akbar told Hassan, “Watch what Birbal does. The elephant’s footprint is safe even without a guard, and Birbal even got money for it.” At that moment, the royal guard walked into Akbar’s court and told him, “Your Majesty, three men have come to see you.” Akbar asked, “Why? Do they want to settle a problem or disagreement?”

The guard said back, “Your Majesty, no. They want to be your royal advisors, they say.” Emperor Akbar was an intelligent man. He was also brilliant.

Akbar didn’t like people who were proud and stupid. He was sure that the people who came today would be the same! Since all three of them thought they were smart, he wanted to know which one of them would make the best royal advisor. “Give them to us. I will try them out, “said Akbar.

Three men in nice clothes walked into the court in just a few minutes. Akbar gave them each a short piece of silk and told them, “You have to wrap this whole piece of silk around me. If you do well, the king will choose you as his advisor.”

The men did try. But the length of the silk wasn’t long enough to cover Akbar’s height! So, they didn’t pass the test. Then Birbal came to help. He told the king, “Your Majesty, please be comfortable. Instead of standing, please fold your knees and sit on your throne.”

Akbar did so. He was no longer so tall. Birbal used the silk to cover him right away. Akbar was proud of Birbal, so he smiled and told the men, “Gentlemen, it is true that common sense is rare. Is it not?” The three men were embarrassed by how proud they were.

Emperor Akbar was always putting his courtiers to the test to see how smart and knowledgeable they were. So, one day, he asked them, “What is the one thing in the world that never stops moving?”

The courtiers had some time to think. Then, they all came up with different answers. “Your Majesty, it’s the sun!” said one of the courtiers. Someone else replied, “No, it’s the moon.”

The courtiers kept trying to figure out what was moving. Then another one said, “Your Majesty, it is certainly our planet Earth. It never stops moving.”

None of the answers were good enough for Akbar. So, he went over to Birbal and asked him the same thing.

Birbal said, “It is the interest on the money that is borrowed, Your Majesty. The interest rate is always changing. This interest keeps going up until the whole amount owed to the moneylender is paid back. I feel like this interest is always changing.”

Emperor Akbar liked Birbal’s answer. He knew that Birbal was the most intelligent and learned courtier. He gave Birbal a tricky question to answer. “Birbal, do you know the difference between a wise and a foolish man?”

Birbal answered right away, “Yes, Your Majesty! I know what’s different about them.” Akbar, the emperor, was interested in what Birbal had in mind. He asked, “Please tell me all about the difference.”

Birbal told him, “Your Majesty, a learned person is someone who uses their mind when they are in trouble. He doesn’t let things get out of hand.” “So, Birbal, who is a fool?” asked Emperor Akbar. “Your Majesty, a fool is someone who doesn’t know how to handle things well. He doesn’t think much. He messes up the job or makes things worse. “Yes,” said Birbal.

Emperor Akbar thought Birbal would say that an educated person is a learned person and an uneducated person is a foolish person. Emperor Akbar loved Birbal even more after hearing his clever answer.

Then, Emperor Akbar asked Birbal, “Birbal, I want to meet a man who knows a lot. Please bring the person with the most knowledge to my court.” Birbal spoke up. “Your Majesty, we can do this if you agree to two things.” “What do you want, Birbal?” Emperor Akbar asked.

“I’ll need 500 gold coins, which lasts for seven days.” “Yes,” said Birbal. Birbal asked Emperor Akbar for something, and he quickly agreed. Birbal gave all the poor and needy people gold coins. Then he went home and stayed there for seven days. On the eighth day, Birbal found a boy who was wearing dirty clothes and was the son of a shepherd. He washed the shepherd’s son and put him in clean clothes. Then he took the boy to the king’s palace. On the way, Birbal gave him advice about how to act in the royal court.

Birbal gave the shepherd’s son to Emperor Akbar and told him, “Your Majesty, this is the smartest person I know.” He was surprised, so Emperor Akbar asked him many questions: “What’s your address? What is it about you that makes you special?” He didn’t say anything. The King then asked, “Are you blind and deaf? Why don’t you answer me?”

Birbal told him, “Your Majesty, his elders have taught him not to speak in front of an Emperor or anyone smarter than him. So, he hasn’t said anything. He really knows a lot.” The boy amazed the Emperor, who gave him many gifts. Then Akbar told Birbal, “Bring me the four most stupid people in my kingdom.” “As you wish, Your Majesty,” Birbal told the king.

Birbal went to the market after leaving Akbar’s court. He met a man there carrying a big plate full of presents. When Birbal asked about it, the man said, “My ex-wife found a new husband. She has just had a baby. She will get these gifts.”

Birbal told the man to come to the court of the Emperor the next day. A little while later, Birbal saw a man riding a buffalo. On his head, the man carried a load of grass. “Is he the next fool?” Birbal wondered. The man proved it by saying, “My buffalo is with child. So, I put the heavy load of grass on my head.”

Birbal told him that he, too, should be at the court. He brought the two men to court the following day. “Where are the other two fools?” asked Akbar. As he said, “Birbal bowed,” “You are the third fool, Emperor Akbar since you asked to find fools. I’m the fourth fool because I tried to find them.”

Everyone laughed along with Emperor Akbar. So, Birbal showed everyone what a wise and foolish man is like.

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