Akbar and the beggar.


A Muslim fakir once came to visit the great emperor Akbar to ask for some money for religious purposes. When he arrived at the palace the emperor was just saying his prayers, and the fakir heard Akbar whisper, “O Allah, please make me wealthier, please give me more money.”

Upon hearing these words the fakir started to leave, but Akbar motioned for him to remain. When he had finished his prayers Akbar said, “Why were you walking away?”

The fakir replied, “I came here to beg alms from you, but you yourself were just asking God for more wealth and money. So I thought that if I must beg, I would beg of God and not of another beggar.”



Akbar and Tansen.


Akbar’s court musician, Tansen, was recognized in India as the greatest musician of his time. Every evening Tansen used to light the lamps in the Emperor’s palace by singing Rag Deepak. When he sang Rag Megha, thunderclouds would gather in the sky; and when he sang Rag Varuna, a gentle rain would fall to cool the heat of a summer’s day. Akbar was naturally very proud of his gifted court musician.

Then one day the emperor was at prayer when he heard the lines of the most exquisite song being sung outside his palace. Akbar sent his guards to investigate, and a few minutes later they returned with an itinerant sadhu. This holy-man was named Haridasa, and he wandered around India singing devotional songs with his small and simple single-stringed ektara. Akbar summoned Tansen to his presence and asked the beggar to sing before his court, where everyone was deeply moved by his beautiful songs, especially Akbar. The emperor then asked Tansen to explain why he was far more moved by the singing of this wandering sadhu than he was by Tansen’s songs.

Tansen replied: “Your majesty, when I sing for you I look into your face seeking for approval, in the hope that you will give me some money, prestige or jewels. But when this man sings he looks straight into the face of God, with no desire to gain any material reward. Quite simply this is the real difference between our vocal techniques and our songs.”



Akbar and the one-eyed washerman.


Early one morning the emperor Akbar awoke and stood on the balcony of his bedroom to watch the sun rising over the River Yamuna. On the bank of the river stood a solitary washer-man or dhobi beating dirty clothes upon a flat stone. The dhobi happened to look up at that very moment, and seeing the great emperor he bowed. But in that fleeting moment of recognition when their gazes met Akbar noticed that the dhobi had only one eye, and his immediate thought was: “I wonder what this omen portends, for it is said that the first thing you see in the morning determines the course of your day”.

During the course of that particular day the emperor did indeed have a number of mishaps; a bee stung him, he tripped on a step and grazed his shin, there was a fire in the palace kitchen, and his wife came down with a fever. In the evening one of his ministers said: “Your majesty seems to have had an ill-omened day today. What was it that you first saw when you woke up?”

“I saw a one-eyed washer-man on the bank of the river,” replied Akbar.

“Then this must be the reason for your calamities,” said the minister. “Seeing a one-eyed man is certainly not an auspicious omen. He must harbour an evil spirit. Have this man arrested and put to death.”

A group of soldiers went out to find and arrest the one-eyed dhobi, and brought him trembling to the royal court to await the emperor’s judgement. But Birbal, Akbar’s wisest and most compassionate counsellor, took the poor man aside and whispered some words of advice into his ear. When Akbar arrived he told the frightened washer-man that his ill-omened face had brought about a number of calamities that day, and therefore he should be sentenced to death.

However, the poor washer-man replied, “I beg your pardon, your majesty, but I must ask you just one question. Whose face is actually more unlucky, yours or mine?”
The courtiers were astonished at the impertinence of this man, but Akbar motioned for them to be silent and said: “What exactly do you mean by that?”

“Well, my lord,” replied the washer-man. “Yours was the likewise the first face that I saw this morning, and now I am about to be executed. Surely your face was more unlucky than mine!”

Akbar laughed when he heard this statement and asked the man to tell him who had told him to answer like this. “It was Birbal, your majesty,” replied the washer-man.

“Well, my good man, it is Birbal who has saved you today,” replied Akbar, as he dismissed the one-eyed washer-man from his court.