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Greater Than God

2006-07-13 21:55

  Emperor Akbar enjoyed listening to stories and poems from distant lands, and travellers to Fatehpur Sikri were welcome and treated kindly. One day, two poets from a faraway kingdom arrived at the court. They delighted all who listened with songs and poems and the emperor, with his customary generosity, rewarded them well. The poets had seldom seen so much gold before. They had certainly never been given a whole bag of gold coins each in their entire lives. They were overwhelmed and when the emperor ordered the treasurer to give them a set of clothes each, one of the poets begged permission to offer a poem of thanks. Emperor Akbar nodded and the poet began his recitation. He spoke of the emperor's bravery and kindness. He praised the emperor's learning and wisdom and in the final verse, inspired beyond sensible limits, he ended by declaring that Emperor Akbar was the greatest king that had ever ruled “over this world or any other. He is greater than Lord Indra himself!” cried the poet as he bowed and left the hall.

  There was a moment's silence. Many of those in the hall were absolutely shocked that the poet had compared a mortal to a god. Emperor Akbar looked around and his eyes began to twinkle mischievously. “So”, he said, “it appears that I am now even greater than God Indra!”

  All the people in the hall looked at their emperor in horror. Had he really believed the poet's word? Suruly not! And yet, they weren't entirely sure. Emperor Akbar looked back at his ministers and commanders, his nobles and his counselors, wondering if any of them would have the courage to speak truth. The ministers, commanders, nobles and counselors looked back at him. Nobody stirred. “In that case”, said the emperor, beginning to feel irritated, “You all agree, then. Your emperor is greater than the God Indra himself!”

  Nobody dared to disagree. Slowly, one by one, the countries bowed to show that they agreed. A low, ashamed murmur of “Ji, Huzoor. It is so, Jahanpana”, filled the hall.

  Emperor Akbar thought that the foolishness had gone far enough. He turned to Birbal with a frown. “And you, Birbal. Do you agree?” he asked.

  “Oh yes”, Birbal replied immediately. The emperor's frown grew. “Huzoor, you can do something even God cannot!” Birbal said. “If any of your subjects displeases you, Jahanpanah, you can send him on a pilgrimage, or banish him from your empire, never to return. But God cannot. For God rules over the entire earth and the sky and the heavens. There is no place in this world or any other that does not belong to God. So he cannot banish any one of his creatures!” Emperor Akbar's frown vanished. “Well said, Birbal”, he cried delightedly. And, from every corner of the court, relieved courtiers began to smile weakly and then to laugh. Birbal had done it again!

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