It was winter. The ponds were all frozen.
At the court, Akbar asked Birbal, “Tell me Birbal! Will a man do anything for money?” Birbal replied, ‘Yes’.
The emperor ordered him to prove it.
The next day Birbal came to the court along with a poor Brahmin who merely had a penny left with him. His family was starving.
Birbal told the king that the Brahmin was ready to do anything for the sake of money.
The king ordered the Brahmin to be inside the frozen pond all through the night without any attire if he needed money.
The poor Brahmin had no choice. The whole night he was inside the pond, shivering. He returned to the durbar the next day to receive his reward.
The king asked “Tell me Oh poor Brahmin! How could you withstand the extreme temperature all through the night?”
The innocent Brahmin replied “I could see a faintly glowing light a kilometer away and I withstood with that ray of light.”
Akbar refused to pay the Brahmin his reward saying that he had got warmth from the light and withstood the cold and that was cheating.
The poor Brahmin could not argue with him and so returned disappointed and bare-handed Birbal tried to explain to the king but the king was in no mood to listen to him.
Thereafter, Birbal stopped coming to the durbar and sent a messenger to the king saying that he would come to the court only after cooking his khichdi.
As Birbal did not turn up even after 5 days, the king himself went to Birbal’s house to see what he was doing. Birbal had lit the fire and kept the pot of uncooked khichdi one meter away from it.
Akbar questioned him “How will the khichdi get cooked with the fire one meter away? What is wrong with you Birbal?”
Birbal, cooking the khichdi, replied “Oh my great King of Hindustan! When it was possible for a person to receive warmth from a light that was a kilometer away, then it is possible for this khichdi, which is just a meter away from the source of heat, to get cooked.”
Akbar understood his mistake. He called the poor Brahmin and rewarded him 2000 gold coins.