Monday, 5 August 2013

Birbal - An extremely clever minister of Akbar's Court.

Born: 1528
Died: 1586

A Brief Introduction :

Birbal was one of the navaratnas (nine jewels) of Akbar, who constituted Akbar`s inner committee of nine advisors. He was one of the main advisor and a friend of Akbar. Birbal was appointed by the emperor as a poet and singer, but because of his unique qualities of being extremely clever and witty, later he formed a close association with Akbar, becoming an important advisor and soon being sent on military expeditions despite having no previous background.

Early Life :

Birbal was born to Ganga Das and Anabha Davito, a brahmin family, in 1528, in a village near Kalpi, Uttar Pradesh, India. His original name was Mahesh Das. Birbal was educated in the Hindi, Sanskrit and Persian languages and specialized in music and poetry in the Braj language. He was talented in writing prose and in music and gained fame for his poetry and singing.

It is stated that before coming to Akbar, Birbal had spent some time in the service of Raja Ram Chandra of Reva, where he was known with the name "Brahma Kavi".

First Meeting with Akbar :

Akbar and Birbal
It is stated that Akbar met Birbal for the first time during a hunting expedition, where he was so impressed by this young man`s wit that he gave him a ring and asked him to visit his palace. After that he appointed him as a poet and singer, later he became on of his good friend as well as a one of the main advisor of the court.

Mahesh Das to Birbal:

Birbal was given the title "Kavi Rai" (poet laureate) from the emperor within a few years of his appointment in the emperors court. Later when Birbal became one of the good friend of Akbar then Akbar bestowed him with the new name "Birbal".

Birbal comes from Bir Bar or Vir Var which means courageous and great, but is unlikely the reason that the emperor bestowing it upon him since he was not known for his bravery or as a soldier.  For giving titles to his Hindu subjects, Akbar based it on their traditions and according to S.H. Hodivala, this could have been taken from a character in the folk tale Vetal Panchvinshati (Betal Pachisi). It featured a courtier called Vir Var who showed great loyalty to his king. Akbar also bestowed upon him the name 'Birbal' with the title "Raja" (which means a King).

Birbal's Position in Akbar's Court:

Birbal in Akbar's court
Birbal in Akbar's court.
Birbal's growing reputation led him to be made part of the emperor's nine advisers, known as the navaratna or nine jewels,with Todar Mal, Man Singh, Bhagwan Das, Rajahs Bhar who were some of the other members. Soon he played the role of a religious advisor, military figure and close friend of the emperor, serving him for 30 years.

In 1572, he was among a large army sent by the emperor to aid Husain Quli Khan against an attack from the emperor's brother, Hakim Mirza, this was his first role in the military. Later, he accompanied the emperor during his important Gujarat campaigns. Despite having no military background, he often participated in Akbar's campaigns and was given leadership positions, like the other advisor Todar Mal, who helped the emperor in economic matters.


In 1586, Birbal was sent to help the commander Zain Khan to fight against the Yousafzai tribes of Afghanistan, where Birbal along with 8000 soldiers were killed by the Afghans in the battle.

Read Akbar Birbal Stories in English | Read Akbar Birbal Stories in Hindi. | Watch Akbar Birbal Stories in English


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