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Monday, September 22, 2014

Entry of Birbal in Ekta Kapoor's Jodha Akbar

Hello everyone,

This is the first post in the new Jodha-Akbar section of the Blog. Hence, let me introduce this in brief to all of you. 

This section has been started on the basis of popular demand by many Blog readers for discussing the episodes of Ekta Kapoor's magnum opus, Jodha Akbar, currently being aired on Zee TV at 8.00 P.M. on weekdays. This section has been kept separate to prevent the show-based discussions from being mixed up with the PURELY historical posts on the Blog. 
I am dedicating this first post to Birbal, the latest character set to enter the show along with his wife in the coming week...!!! Yesterday, various media channels announced the same...

TOI           Business Standard       PTI         ABP

I will discuss the historical background and importance of Birbal in the historical section. But, here is a brief introduction to Birbal, as far as the show is concerned.

Introduction to Birbal

As we all know, Birbal was a wise and clever man, who was the brightest among the 9 Gems in Akbar's court and his Favorite! Initially appointed as a good Singer and a Poet, he soon rose to become an indispensable Adviser and a close personal Friend to Akbar. 
Birbal is mostly remembered in Folk Tales, which focus on his wit, subtle sense of humor and wisdom in the Mughal court.

His original name was Mahesh Das. Akbar bestowed upon him the title of Raja "BirBal". Bir means Courageous and Bal means Strength in Hindi. This name is derived from VirVar, as per some texts. I will go into details on this issue in the historical section.

Birbal was one of the few people who joined Akbar's Newly Developed Faith - Din-e-illahi. He was given many honorific titles and the rank of a commander of 2000 by Akbar. This made him unpopular with many of Akbar's courtiers. Many of the folk stories revolve around how Birbal is trapped by Akbar's jealous courtiers and how he outsmarts them through sheer wit and presence of mind alone.

Birbal was also sent on military expeditions, though he had no experience of warfare! He first ventured against Akbar's step-brother, Mirza Hakim of Kabul. He also accompanied Akbar on his Gujarat campaigns. He died during one such military misadventure in/near Swat Valley. His body was never found. Akbar was really grief-struck when Birbal died. It is said he didn't eat or drink for 2 days - such was his grief.

This was the historical background of Birbal in brief...But, what are our expectations from the Show.?. 

As the show revolves around Jodha and Akbar, it is expected that the tracks of Birbal will be woven around this royal couple. There are many folk tales involving Akbar and Birbal. Some of them contain Jodha also, which is inevitable. It would be fun if these folk stories are shown, albeit in a 'royal manner', interwoven with the Jodha Akbar love story. It would be a welcome step towards toning down the CV's obsession with negativity and glorification of vamps all the time. 

Here are a few of those folk-tale anecdotes.

a. The Mango Fruit

One fine summer day, Akbar along with his wife Jodha was enjoying mangoes. Birbal was also present. 

Akbar thought of playing a prank on Jodha. After eating the mangoes, he silently put all his mango seeds also on Jodha's plate, while her attention was somewhere else. Birbal observed this, but remained quiet, as he knew Akbar would speak to him on this matter. He was correct. The next moment, Akbar said to Birbal - " Birbal.! My wife(your sister-in-law) loves mangoes more than me. Just look at her plate, which is full of mango seeds, while mine is empty..!! "

Jodha knew Akbar was playing some prank and hence she remained silent. Birbal, with his trademark innocence, expressed confusion and said, " Shahenshah, my sister-in-law may have eaten mangoes. But she is not ahead of you."

Akbar asked, "But, how .?. Her plate is full of seeds."

Birbal replied with a grin, "She has eaten only the mangoes, but you have eaten the mangoes ALONG WITH THE SEEDS ..!! Your plate does not contain even a single mango seed."
Akbar understood that Birbal had caught him YET AGAIN...And his face turned a deep shade of red with an embarrassed smile. Jodha, who was a mute spectator till now, burst out in laughter.

b. The Favorite Thing

One day, King Akbar got annoyed with his favorite queen . The queen apologized, did everything to please him, but he bluntly said "I don't want to see your face ever in my life. So just get away from here."

The queen started crying and began to pack her luggage. After doing that, she went to Akbar to apologize for the last time. But Akbar was unmoved.

He said, "You can take your favorite thing from the palace with yourself."
With a heavy heart, the queen prepared to leave. Suddenly she remembered Birbal, she requested him to solve her problem. Birbal suggested her something, hearing which the queen's face started glowing.
She went to the King with a goblet full of some drink in her hands and said, "Before leaving, I just want to serve this drink to you with my own hands."
Akbar gladly agreed. The drink was actually a strong wine, drinking which the King fell in a deep slumber. When he got up, he found himself in his chariot accompanied by the queen.
The King started, "Where am I? Who brought me here?"
"You are on the way to my home town," said the queen lovingly, "I brought you here."
"But why?" asked Akbar.
"Why?" said the queen, "Didn't you say that I can take my favourite thing with me? I swear upon God, you are the most precious person for me. There is none better than you."
Akbar got flattered by the sweet words of the queen. He forgave her and asked the charioteer to take them back to the palace. After returning, the queen gave many gifts to Birbal.

cWriting an Epic

Akbar always wanted an epic to be written by which his name could become eternal. When he heard about the Mahabharata, he wished it to be written.
He expressed his wish to Birbal saying, "I want the Akbari Mahabharata to be written."
"That's a very good thought, Sir. It's not a very difficult job," said Birbal.
"Can you write it, then?" questioned Akbar.
"Of course, Your Majesty," replied Birbal. "I just need some time and money." Akbar chuckled and said, "Take as much time as you want. You can get money from the royal treasury."
"Okay, sir. I will soon start writing the epic," said Birbal. He took some amount from the royal treasury and donated it to  temples and orphanages.
After a few days, Birbal arrived in the court with the manuscript which was nothing but a huge bundle of useless papers. Akbar asked him, "Birbal, have you written the epic?"
"Sir, some part of it is still left," answered Birbal. "That can be completed only if you allow me to ask something from the queen."
"Permission granted," said Akbar. Birbal went to the queen and said, "Your Majesty, His Majesty wants me to write an epic for him which should be like the Mahabharata. But, in the Mahabharata, Draupadi had five husbands. So I want to tell me about the rest of your husbands. I know that King Akbar is your husband. But who are the other four husbands of yours? Do let me know." 
The queen started burning with anger. "Birbal, what kind of insolence is this?" she said, "And what sort of senseless epic is this?"  Saying this, she threw the manuscript into the fire. When Akbar heard this whole incident, he called Birbal and said, "I've realised my mistake and I promise you that I'll never be whimsical again."

d. List of Blinds

Once, Akbar's Queen wanted to give alms to all the blinds in the kingdom. Emperor Akbar wanted to be sure that none of the blinds were deprived of alms, so he directed his men to prepare a list of blind people in his kingdom.

As per order of the Emperor, a comprehensive list of the blind people was made and presented before the king. Emperor Akbar handed over the list to Birbal and asked him to make adequate arrangements for distribution of alms.

Birbal glanced at the list and said, "Your Majesty, I will do the needful. But, do you know that there are more blind people than the ones listed here? In fact, the number of blinds is far greater than the number of sighted people in our kingdom."

Akbar said, "That is a ridiculous thing to say, Birbal! If it is true, prove it to me." Birbal accepted the Emperor's challenge.

The next day, Birbal took a frame of an old cot and carried it with him to the main crossing. He then, sat on the road and started weaving its rope. He had a servant with a paper and a pen, standing next to him. Soon, a courtier came and exclaimed, "Birbal, what are you doing?"

Birbal did not answer him. He just whispered something in the ear of his servant and kept at his work. A little later, some more people gathered on the street. They were extremely surprised to see Raja Birbal weaving a cot and thus, started asking all sorts of 
"What is wrong with Raja Birbal?"
"Why is he doing this?"
"What could be the reason behind this?"

Each time someone made a comment, the servant quickly jotted down something on the piece of paper. The news that Raja Birbal was weaving a cot on the road spread like wildfire in the city. By evening, Akbar, too, came to know about this. He went to Birbal to see for himself. 

He asked Birbal in a surprised tone, "I don't understand what you are trying to do!"
The servant again wrote down something on the paper. Birbal stood up and greeted the king. He said, "Jahanpanah, I was making the list of blinds!" He then gave the list to the Emperor to see.

Emperor Akbar was astonished to see his name at the end of the list. He asked Birbal, "Birbal, why have you included my name in your list of blinds?"

Birbal politely replied, "Your Majesty, you are also one of them! You were the last person to come and ask me that what I was doing, even though you could clearly see that I was weaving the cot."
Akbar burst out laughing! 

e. The Magical Donkey (Tamil)

Akbar gifts a necklace to the Queen, which gets stolen from her chamber. Watch the video to see how Birbal finds the necklace.

The Magical Donkey (English Version)

These were some incidents from the Akbar Birbal folktales, which included Jodha also. The Queen in these stories refers to the mother of Salim. Some of these can be dramatized to be shown in the serial while maintaining the "Royal persona"..

 I wish the Creatives find a sensible balance in the depiction of Birbal, and explore all his qualities, viz., humor, wit, bravery, etc.. Till now, we have Raja Man Singh, Rahim, Tansen and TodarMal - The 4 Future Gems of Akbar in the Show. The entry of the 5th one, Birbal, evokes a sense of freshness in the minds of the viewers. 

Lets hope the Creatives of Jodha Akbar do complete justice to the character of Birbal along with the leads!

You all are welcome to share some other interesting anecdotes about Akbar-Birbal-Jodha here, and your expectations from the new character.

This article has been posted under the  Jodha-Akbar section of  history_geek's BLOG.


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  1. Hi,

    It is a refreshing feeling to finally see the entry of an ultra positive character in the otherwise negativity-filled show. Till now, the story was like a medieval version of the Godfather. Now things should look up with the exit of villains like Mahamanga and Adham Khan, the rehab of Nigar and the temporary misplacement of Mahachuchak / Abul Mali and the entry / rise of the navratnas like Tansen, Todarmal, Man Singh and Birbal. I would also love to see more of the young Rahim Khan-e-Khana. : )

    1. Today's episode of JA was on similar lines..I think Birbal is present in the show to give a dose of laughter. :)
      At least some balancing will be done, vis-a-vis, existence of villains in the story..

  2. these may bring some enlightenment for ppl who "Have NOT come Across" Anecdotes involving Akbar-Birbal And Jodha...!! :)

    1. Really! Just a single glance at the internet or any children's story book about Akbar-Birbal is enough to throw up an array of stories with Jodha included. : ) She was the queen; how could she be excluded from Akbar's interactions with close aides and friends?

    2. Exactly.... she had been mentioned in so many places "as the favorite Queen" and still some eyes fail to see the connection.

    3. @KDR and radhika..

      I so concur with you both. There are anecdotes present in Akbar Birbal folk tales which mention his favorite Queen/ mother of Salim..There is a show which rums on Big Magic Channel, named - "Har Mushkil Ka Hal - Akbar Birbal" .There also, one can see anecdotes involving this Queen.. :)

    4. KDR, I guess you didn't read the reasons offered to support the argument " Yahan bhi Jodha?". According to some, a Mughal queen is supposed to follow strict purdah rules and not laugh at a courtier's witty remarks in this is against royal etiquettes. I wondered, why bring up royal etiquettes now? When we have already seen the following....

      Another royal khas queen barges in DEK ( clearly against purdah rules and royal etiquettes) and openly humiliates the Emperor in front of his courtiers.

      A queen is royally humiliated and punished ( no purdah) in front of the courtiers.

      A queen is made to stand in the middle of DEK and sing to entertain the courtiers...against her wish ( Royal etiquette? ) .

      Queens have been shown to play chess in front of courtiers in DEK
      (no purdah).

      A queen has been shown to play chaugaan in front of courtiers
      (no purdah...err, no dupatta this time).

      The list is long. So I don't see any reason why we can't have some lighthearted Birbal-Akbar-Jodha scenes.

    5. LOL......Yeah..u r right Cleo.. :D
      I didn't see those reasons....I had forgotten that some people have the tendency to write their "OWN " set of "history" and "Royal Mughal Household rules"....and have a problem with anything progressive shown by Jo begum.....even if it is within limits of "16th Century COC for women...."

  3. It's interesting to note that Birbal was not really a court jester, the way we think of him now. : ) He was an adviser and a close friend of Akbar and quite an intelligent and serious person, in spite of his wit and sense of humor.

    Much of these stories came into being much later, towards the end of Akbar's reign, many of them after Birbal had passed away. They are quite similar to the tales of Tenali Ramakrishna (Vijayanagar) and Gopal Bhand (Bengal).

    What possible reason could there be to turn Birbal into a legend by weaving folklore around him? The general population was quite in awe of Akbar and may be it wanted to seek relief through this tradition of story telling in which Akbar appeared human and flawed (much like he does in JA!).

    Why only Birbal, why not the others? May be because he was the closest to Akbar among all the navratnas also.

    1. Radhika,

      The points you have raised are most pertinent..One reason of Akbar Birbal stories being developed could be - to give a "literary stamp" and to preserve their memory..So, that people do not forget them.. In times, when communal disharmony overtook every aspect, that time, the friendship of Akbar and Birbal was a remarkable event, a friendship of 2 faiths, which is a proven fact, when we look into contemporary accounts..

  4. Thank you for creating this section. The interest in Heer Kuvari/HK and Akbar is so much more due to the serial JodhaAkbar. HK is referred to as Jodha in JA. I hope Birbal's entry brings in some much needed positivity. Hope to see lot of cute Akbar Jodha and Birbal scenes. Loved reading the many stories shared here.
    After Akbar and Jodha, BIrbal is probably the most known name out of the 9 gems of Akbar's darbar.

    1. Welcome Medha..I have high expectations from the character of Birbal..
      And i too hope to see the glorification of negative characters being replaced with the positivity..

      After watching today's episode, it seems, Birbal has been introduced to give a fresh lease of humor in the show...Let's watch out how this turns out to be..Seems to be an exciting prospect.

  5. This is your most delightful post. The name Birbal evokes so many good memories. I am excited at the entry of our Birbal. My only concern is that he should be treated with respect, not as lamp post as are the other navrattans like Todar Mal and Man Singh.

    The CV's have a Ruqaiya fixation. They give her 5 star treatment but deal with the navrattans as if they are extras. Do they really think that Ruqaiya brings in extra ratings, but that is not true. I hope they give Birbal a lot of screen space. Since Gopal Singh has acted in movies, he would not have accepted the role if this had not been promised to him. Let us hope for fun times ahead.

    1. Thank You..
      I also have similar concerns as far as the treatment of Navratans is concerned..

      After watching today's episode, it appears to me, that he can be our best bet. I am almost sure, he is here to provide the much needed dose of humor to us.. Hoping for the best.. :)

  6. Ah! I was waiting fr long fr this entry :) With Ruqiyya's track, it was like watching a saas bahu serial. I havn't seen the promo, but it will be interesting to see how their first meeting would be, how Akbar discovers his intelligence:) History -geek, what would hv been his age? Both Akbar Birbal were of the same age?
    After the rona dhona over the death of infants,there will finally be laughter on the card fr us along with Jodha Akbar.

    1. Hi Geeta.
      Nice to see you here..
      I have not read many old comments...Just happened to see yours first..

      Yes, introduction of Birbal is a welcome event in the show...
      By the way, Akbar was around 14-15 years younger than Birbal. :)
      Hoping for some, light moments in the show, after the loss of twins.

    2. Yes, Birbal was older, contrary to popular view that Birbal was younger than Akbar.

      I have even read stories about how Akbar met Birbal. The story goes that Akbar was out hunting when he met this young boy in a village and was impressed by his wit and courage in facing the king.

      But this is just a story. : )

  7. Thanks for giving us so much information on Birbal. I am very excited about his much needed entry in the show.
    Enjoyed reading the folk tales. What fascinates me that they often had a beautiful message hidden in the story. One of my favorites is Birbal ki khichri.
    Q. Was Bibal really the only courtier to be given the privilege of having a residence within the Emperor's palace premises. And what about Atgah, Adham and SD? Where did they reside?

    1. Cleo,

      In Fatehpur Sikri, Birbal was the only courtier to have a house within the palace complex. Such was his standing with Akbar!

      Atga and Adham are dead and SD was probably in Nagaur?

    2. @cleo and radhika

      Atga, Adham, Sharif-ud-din(SD) did not reside in the Agra's Harem complex. They had separate residences, away from the Harem of Shahenshah, where his wives stayed.

      I will get back to you with a separate post on Birbal's residence soon. :)

    3. Seriously, when I see Shareefuddin loitering around the harem ogling Jodha and acting fresh with the other begums of Jalal, I get irritated. The CVs have no concept of a harem! How can they think that any male can live in the same harem as the king's wives and other female relatives?

      A harem in Akbar's time was well-secured with 3-4 layers of guards around it, with Rajput soldiers in the outermost layer as they were the most trusted.

    4. Radhika,

      You are right, about this. Harem was well guarded by eunuchs and the Rajput soldiers forming the outermost layer. Though, the Creatives seem to have no idea of this concept.

      By the way, i have posted about the "supposed" Birbal's Palace in Fatehpur Sikri, which you and Cleo were discussing above.

      Here is the link :: ->

      Is Birbal's House really present in Fatehpur Sikri.?.

    5. Thanks for the post. It's very informative and the picture of the palace shows it was exquisite. Must have been some glorious building in its heyday!

  8. Nice folk tales Abhay... :)

    some of my favourites is Birbal's Khichadi :D and also the "How many crows are there in Agra?" And I guess everyone knows about "Chor ki dadhi me tinka" ;)

    Oh and we can discuss JA episodes here??? Thanks so much for this section.

    1. Rasika

      Please tell us also the stories you have mentioned here. Would love to read them and read again. : )

    2. Rasika,

      Can you elaborate on the tales you mentioned in details..?
      I have heard the names but not the actual details.
      Yes, episodes can be discussed in this section. :)

    3. Would love to post them here Abhay and Radhika :)

      Posting one in comment below...

  9. Birbal Ki Khichadi...

    On a cold winter day Akbar announced that whoever spends whole night standing in a cold water lake would be rewarded.

    One poor Brahmin agreed and entered the lake. Akbar had guards posted near him to make sure that he really did as promised. The next morning the guards took the poor man to Akbar.

    Akbar asked the poor man if he had indeed spent the night in the lake. The poor man replied that he had. Akbar then asked the poor man how he managed to spend the night in the lake.

    He replied that there was a lamp glowing on the top of Akbar's palace, he kept his attention towards it and could survive the cold.

    On hearing this Akbar refused to reward the man saying he did cheating coz he got warmth from the lamp on top of the Palace.

    Next day Birbal did not show up in the court. When asked about his whereabouts Birbal sent message to Akbar that he will come only after cooking khichadi :)

    Hours passed, finally Akbar decided to go himself and take a look.

    He found Birbal sitting on the floor near some burning twigs and a bowl filled with Khichadi(Rice) hanging five feet above the fire. The king and his attendants couldn’t help but laugh.

    Akbar then said to Birbal “How can the Khichdi be cooked if it so far away from the fire?”

    Birbal answered “The same way the poor man received heat from a palace lamp that was more than a furlong away.”

    Akbar understood his mistake and gave the poor man his reward.

  10. Thanks, Rasika! Beautiful story ... had read it as a child and you revived those buried memories. : )

    Let me also add a story here. I am reproducing from far away memory. Hope I get it right.

    Once the queen is very upset with Akbar and stops talking to him. Akbar is despondent about this and does not know how to make her talk again. Just then Birbal approaches him and asks him for the reason for his glumness. Akbar stops short of telling him the reason, as he feels that this is a perfect opportunity to test Birbal's acumen.

    Akbar tells Birbal that if he can make the queen come to him (Akbar) and talk to him on her own, then he (Akbar) will reward Birbal with anything the latter asks.

    Birbal understands that there must be some reason why the king has given him this task. He promptly goes to the queen and starts crying loudly. The queen asks him why he is crying. He replies that she is such a wonderful wife to the king, yet the king has decided to marry again because she has not been able to keep him happy.

    The queen is shocked. She is scared that her cold war with Akbar has upset him to such an extent that he has decided to marry again. She asks Birbal if there is any way she can stop this marriage. Birbal says that she must promptly go to the king and tell him that she will always keep him happy, but he must not marry again.

    The queen rushes to the king, followed by Birbal. When Akbar hears her beg him to forgive her and promise that she would always be a good wife to him, he is secretly pleased with Birbal. Outwardly he tells her that he can never think of marrying anyone else when he is so much in love with her.

    In this way, Birbal used to douse the flames of many a fight between Akbar and his favorite queen. : )

    1. Such a lovely story. I really liked it a lot. Thanks for sharing Rasika.

    2. @radhika and rasika

      Beautiful stories.. Thanks for sharing..!!

  11. The video of the English Version of the Magical Donkey story has been added now, in the post... Readers can Check now..

  12. i have another of jodha akbar birbal story... once there was a discussion going on about theft and akbar believed that a lack of vigilance only could allow any person to steal while birbal believed that a only a thief will steal no matter what.
    some days later akbar wanted to gift his favourite begum a dress made of a cloth so rare that no one in the entire land would have or seen. so birbal employed a tailor who was known to steal and gave him the cloth to fashion a dress. the tailor would be in vigilance all the time while he worked and ate and slept at the same place.

    on the 2nd day the tailor's son came to meet him and said that the tailor's wife wanted to know when he will be back. tailor shouted at the boy and threw a shoe at him. finally the dress was ready and was gifted to the empress.

    one day the empress came to akbar in agitation and said that jahapanah you told me that this dress is unique, one of a kind, but i saw another woman wearing the same dress..

    akbar called birbal and birbal gave him account of the security of the tailors workplace. akbar then asks how could such a thing happen...birbal says that the cloth must have been in the shoe the tailor threw at his son..