Saturday, July 10, 2010

Story Of Birbal Maheshdas Bhat

Birbal, whose real name was Maheshdas Bhat, was the Chief Minister (Wazir-e Azam) of the Mughal court in the administration of the Emperor Akbar. He was one of Emperor’s most trusted members along with being a part of Akbar’s nine advisors, known as the “navaratnas”, meaning “nine jewels”. He was the only Hindu who was a “Din-i-Ilahi” believer, a new religion created by the Emperor Akbar. He was a very dear friend of the emperor, who liked Birbal most for his wit and wisdom, as a result of which they frequently had witty and humorous dialogues between them. These conversations have become stories and now are part of a rich tradition of folklore and legend.      (  Changpas of Ladakh )

Early days of Birbal’s Life: Birbal grew up in a Kayastha Brahmin household, poor but well educated. He was very shrewd and talented in using wit to his advantage in any situation.  He learnt Sanskrit, Hindi and Persian (it was state language at that time) at the age of 5 from his grandfather. As a family tradition he also learnt music and poetry. He started writing his own poems at that young age only. He was also good any tuning and singing poems and his wit mixed with humor attracted any person who had a conversation with him.

Maheshdas got a chance to show his talent in writing poems and singing ability when he was invited by Bhagwandas, the king of Jaipur, who was very fond of encouraging artists. Maheshdas used to write poems with the penname “Brahmakavi”. Then he also went to the King of Rewa and served in his court. At that time Tansen was also a member of the same court at Rewa. Later he joined the court of Akbar in 1556 A.D and worked with him for 30 years.    (  Shastri Jee )

Birbal’s family: Maheshdas Bhatt was born in the city of Trivikrampur in 1528 A.D to Gangadas and Anabhadevi.  They were Kayasth Brahmins. His grandfather Roopdhar was a great Sanskrit scholar and resided in Patrapunj. Maheshdas was the third child and at a very young age lost his father Gangadas. His mother sent him to her father Roopdhar at Patrapunj.

And he got his education by his grandfather. Because of his accomplishments Maheshdas was able to marry a girl from a well known family in Kalinjar. After marriage, he was financially settled.

Last Days of Birbal’s life: It was said that Raja Birbal met Guru Amar Das, the third guru of Sikhism on his way to the battle of Malandari Pass. He and his army had their meals in the Langar, when some individual told him that Guru Amar Das had a precious rasayana (a rejuvenating ointment that promised eternal youth according to Ayurveda’s Bhoota Vidya). Birbal demanded this rasayana from Guru Amar Das. But it is believed, Guru Amar Das saying God’s name is the true rasayana and this rasayana was only gifted to the previous Gurus.   (  Sanskrit as the language of introducing the gods )

Birbal did not believe him and instead got angry. However, he had orders to reach Malandari (Muhim) the next day. Abandoning his plans for the rasayana, he had to continue the journey.

Attempting to crush the unrest amongst Afghan or Pashtun tribes in Northwest India, Akbar sent troops for the battle. When the troops faced resilient resistance from the Afghans, Akbar sent Birbal to help Zain Khan in the battle, and the Zain Khan (who was jealous of Birbal due to his close proximity with the Emperor)  misled Birbal to enter a narrow pass at night. The Afghans were well prepared and were ready on the hills. Many men on Birbal’s side lost their way or were killed in the holes and the caverns and it was a terrible defeat, in which Birbal fought with bravery but died on 16 Feb 1583 A.D. The Birbal’s death was said to be caused by treachery, not military defeat.

Akbar was very shocked by the death of Birbal and he didn’t attend court for two full days and didn’t eat or drink anything and mourned for a long time. It is believed that Sanchit Fazal killed Birbal as he couldn’t stand the close relationship between Akbar and Birbal. Birbal’s last wish was that upon his death, his ashes be immersed in the River Ganga at Haridwar, but Akbar did not yield to this wish and instead he had a well dug, near the river and buried his ashes there (’Thanda kua’ near Harki Pauri, Haridwar).

Why was Birbal Popular? Maheshdas was a poet and author whose wit and wisdom impressed Emperor Akbar a lot and he bestowed a new name on him – Birbal (Bir means Brain, Bal means Strong) and the title of Raja.

Birbal’s participation in many important military campaigns proved he was a rare combination of a man with a pen and the sword. He accompanied Akbar on military campaigns to Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. Due to his high position and influence with the emperor, he was envied by many.

When Akbar heard the death of his dear friend in the battle against Afghans, he was greatly shocked and did not eat food or water nor attended his court for two full days. It is said that this was one of the only 5 times that Akbar did not attend his royal court during his reign.

Akbar Birbal’s genuine love and friendship
Akbar’s genuine love and friendship for Birbal is attested by two incidents. Once, when Birbal fell off his horse and was knocked unconscious, Akbar personally took care of him and brought back to consciousness.

Another time, while watching the fight between two wild elephants, one of the elephants went mad and ran after Birbal. Akbar brought his own horse between the elephant and Birbal and saved Birbal’s life. The elephant stood silent and didn’t attack Akbar. Everyone was shocked as Akbar could have been hurt severely or even died if elephant was attacked. These two incidents are usually mentioned to indicate the Akbar’s love and friendship towards Birbal.

Birbal’s palace at Fatehpur Sikri: Built in 1571 A.D, the palace of Birbal at Fatehpur Sikri, is one of the marvelous buildings of imperial Harem. It is at north east from Jodha Bai’s Palace and it consists of four-square rooms, all interconnected through open doorways and two oblong entrance porches on Northwest and Southeast corners. All the four rooms have flat ceilings, and porches have triangular chhappar ceiling with pyramidal roof.      ( pride of Led Zeppelin )

The rectangular columns have lotus petals and stalactite designs. The first floor has beautiful Jharokhas overlooking the court below and a simple projecting eaves. On an octagonal drum, a dome of the upper rooms rests, which is also carved with a raised trefoil pattern. The domes are crowned by an inverted lotus and kalash finials and also have the traces of tile work. The entire construction is composed of lintels and beams, and beautifully carved brackets have been used to span the spaces between the pillars and ornamental arches. These brackets are there on both faces with lotus and the Arabian designs. Approximately triangular surface area between two adjacent arches and the horizontal plane above them of the arches also have arabesque and floral design.

Akbar Birbal Stories: Birbal Stories are very famous and popular in India among all ages of people. They are usually called by Akbar Birbal Stories. Even children are very familiar with these stories as the stories have found their way into the language class syllabus.

The dialogue exchanges between Akbar and Birbal have been recorded in many volumes. Many of these have become folk stories in Indian tradition. Due to the wit and humor they depict, the Akbar-Birbal stories are loved by one and all.

No comments: