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Akbar-Birbal (The Three Questions)

Akbar and Birbal’s relationship was exemplary in the kingdom at the time of Akbar’s rule. It was evident to the whole court that Akbar was extremely impressed with Birbal. People would always have their eye on Birbal’s activities and behavior so they might find a glitch and thus bring him down in king’s eyes. Amongst these jealous souls, remained a specific courtier who hated whenever Akbar encouraged and praised Birbal. He always wanted to be the chief minister but sadly enough; the seat was occupied by Akbar’s very own Birbal.

The courtier finally expressed his anger to Akbar and challenged him with three questions. He demanded that if Birbal could not answer these questions, he should be demoted from the position, as he didn’t deserve to be the chief minister. Akbar, who always believed Birbal, but yet, wanted to test his wit and intelligence agreed to the challenge. He informed Birbal that if he didn’t answer these questions, he would be required to step off the seat.

The courtier asked the following questions:

How many stars span across the sky?

Where does the centre of earth exist?

The number of males and females in the world?

Birbal brought back his version of answers.

For the first question, he presented a sheep, and replied that the number of hair on this sheep exactly equals the number of stars spanning the sky, and to be sure, the courtier has full right to count them.

For the second question, he drew couple of straight lines on ground and stuck a metal rod in between them. He claimed that it was in fact the centre of the earth, and the courtier can measure it, to his own precision.

The third answer was the most witty and humorous. He replied that the number of males and females cannot be determined nor counted as there are people like the courtier who can neither be termed males nor females and in order to know the exact number, such people would have to be killed.

Akbar was surprisingly proud of his choice. As a result, Birbal continued being the chief minister.