Birbal and Tansen
Birbal being Emperor Akbar’s greatest favourite, had many enemies in the court. Once, a courtier who was jealous of Birbal said to the Emperor, “Maharaj, instead of Birbal, you should appoint the world-famous singer Tansen as your Prime Minister.”
The Emperor said, “Well! I shall have to subject them to a test and that will determine the entitlement to the post of Prime Minister.”
The next day, Emperor Akbar gave one sealed letter each to Birbal and Tansen and said, “Take this message to the Emperor of Russia and bring back his reply to me!”
When Birbal and Tansen reached Russia, they handed over their letters to the Emperor. The letter said, “Please kill these two messengers immediately!”
At once, the Emperor of Russia ordered to cut off the heads of Tansen and Birbal. Accordingly, both were taken by the guards to the place where their heads were to be hacked off.
Tansen was very frightened. He started crying and weeping. He said to Birbal, “Birbal, I don’t want to become a Prime Minister. Please save me from this death punishment!”
Birbal, on his part was not in the least worried. He whispered something in Tansen’s ears. Birbal’s words gave Tansen some courage. Then both of them started arguing between themselves as to who should first step forward to get his head cut off. Birbal said to the executioner, “Please kill me first!”
Tansen stepped forward, “No sir. Let my head be cut off first!”
“No, no, let mine be cut off first!”
Those present there were astonished to listen to their argument. They informed this strange incident to the Russian Emperor.
The Emperor too was surprised when he learnt this. He asked Birbal, “Tell me why is it that you want to be killed first?”
Birbal said, “Your Majesty! This is a secret we would not like to reveal. You do according to what our Emperor has requested.”
The Emperor now became even more curious. He said, “No! I won’t have any of you two killed, unless I come to know the truth.”
Then Birbal said, “Our Emperor has a secret wish of annexing your kingdom. But you are too strong to be defeated. Emperor Akbar’s guru has told him, that if he sends two innocent men to your kingdom and makes you behead them, you will become a sinner and thus, Akbar would get a pretext to attack your kingdom. The guru had also predicted that the one who sacrifices himself first will be the Emperor of Russia in his next birth and the person who will be beheaded afterwards will be the Prime Minister of Russia. So I want you to kill me first!”
When the Emperor heard this, he refused to kill either of the two. He said, “I don’t want to become a sinner by killing you two.”
The Russian Emperor sent them back to India. Emperor Akbar was surprised to see them back safe and alive from Russia.
Tansen said to Emperor Akbar, “Maharaj, Birbal really deserves the post of Prime Minister. I would’ve been a dead man had it not been for the timely help by Birbal.”
All the courtiers who were jealous of Birbal lowered their heads.