One day, when Akbar and Birbal were engaged in discussions, Birbal happened to pass a harmless comment about Akbar’s sense of humor. But Emperor Akbar was in a foul mood and took great offence at this remark. He asked Birbal, his court-jester, friend and confidant, to not only leave the palace but also leave the precincts of the city of Agra. Birbal was terribly hurt at being banished.
A couple of days later, Akbar began to miss his lies’ friend. He regretted his earlier decision of banishing him from the Court. He just could not do without Birbal and so sent out a search party to look for him. But Birbal had left town without letting anybody know of his destination. The soldiers searched high and low but were unable to find him anywhere.
Then one day a wise saint visited the palace accompanied by two of his disciples. The disciples claimed that their teacher was the wisest man to walk the earth. Since Akbar was missing Birbal terribly he thought it would be a good idea to have a wise man who could keep him company. But he decided that he would first ascertain the holy man’s wisdom.
The saint had bright sparkling eyes, a thick beard and long hair. The next day, when they came to visit the Court, Akbar informed the holy man that since he was the wisest man on earth, he would like to test him. All his ministers would put forward a question and if his answers were satisfactory, he would be made a minister. But if he failed, he would be beheaded. The saint answered that he had never claimed to be the wisest man on earth, even though other people seemed to think so. Nor was he eager to display his wisdom, but as he enjoyed answering questions, he was ready for the test.
One of the ministers, Raja Todar Mal, began the round of questioning. He asked, “Who is man’s best friend on earth?” To which the wise saint replied, “His own good sense.”
Next Faizi asked which was the most superior thing on earth? “Knowledge,” answered the saint.
“Which is the deepest trench in the world?” asked Abul Fazl. And the saint answered, “A woman’s heart.”
“What is that which cannot be regained after it is lost?” questioned another courtier and the reply he received was: “Life.”
“What is undying in music?” asked Court musician Tansen. The wise saint replied: “Notes.” And then Tansen asked, “Which is the sweetest and most melodious voice at night-time?” And the answer he received was: “The voice that prays to God.”
Maharaj Mansingh of Jaipur – who was a guest at the palace – asked, “What travels more speedily than the wind?” The saint replied that it was “Man’s thought.” Mansingh then asked, “Which is the sweetest thing on earth?” and the saint said that it was “a baby’s smile”.
Emperor Akbar and all his courtiers were very impressed with his answers, but Akbar wanted to test the saint himself. First, he asked what were the necessary requirements to rule over a kingdom, for which he received the response “Cleverness”. Then he asked what was the greatest enemy of a king. The saint replied it was “Selfishness”.
The Emperor was pleased and offered the saint a seat of honor and asked him whether he could perform any miracle. The saint said that he could manifest any person the Emperor wished to meet. Akbar was thrilled and immediately asked to meet his minister and best friend Birbal.
The saint simply pulled off his artificial beard and hair much to the surprise of the courtiers. Akbar was stunned and could not believe his eyes. He stepped down to embrace the saint because he was none other than Birbal!
Akbar had tears in his eyes as he told Birbal that he had suspected it was him and had therefore asked whether he could perform miracles. He showered Birbal with many valuable gifts to show him how happy he was at his return.