Have you heard the tale of Akbar’s wise minister Birbal and his Birbal ki Khichdi? I grew up listening to bedtime stories about Akbar & Birbal. Birbal was a clever man, his wit and wisdom was well known in Akbar’s kingdom. He was Akbar’s advisor, he had a simple solution for every problem in the kingdom.
Birbal was the only one who could even teach the King a lesson when he was wrong just by using his wit. One such famous tale about Akbar is called “Birbal ki Khichdi”. This is how the story goes.
One day in winter, Akbar and Birbal were taking a morning walk by the lake, discussing some official matters. Suddenly the king slipped and lost his slipper in the lake. The water was cold that he squealed like a little girl and jumped out of the water. When Birbal giggled at this little mishap, the King, to mask his weakling reaction declared a public dare. Any man who would stand in knee deep water all night in this lake would be given a big reward from the King’s treasure.
A poor man, who needed money to get his three daughters married decided to accept the dare. On a winter evening, he stood all night in knee deep water in the lake to win this reward. When he came in front of the King to claim his reward, the King couldn’t accept his defeat and refused the prize claiming the man had cheated. Akbar said that there was a little lamp lit miles away, at a window in his palace. This man was warming himself up by looking at that lamp all night, and so was he did not deserve the prize.
The man hurt and helpless went away. Akbar was happy that he had outsmarted Birbal this time, and he wouldn’t have to pay the man. Birbal was not one to stand such injustice. He decided to teach Akbar a lesson.
The following day, Birbal did not come to the Darbar. He sent word to the King saying that he would come once he had cooked and eaten his Khichdi. When many hours passed Akbar felt angry and frustrated and decided to go by the lake himself, where Birbal was cooking this khichdi all morning. Akbar was shocked at what he saw.
Birbal had lit a small lamp on the ground and tied a pot of khichdi to a long bamboo over it. The bamboo was really long and it was impossible to cook the khichdi that way. Akbar frustrated to see this said to Birbal, “this is ridiculous Birbal! It is impossible to cook the khichdi from that far.”
Birbal smiled and said to Akbar, “Why my King? If an old man can warm himself with a little lamp far, far away, then why can’t my khichdi cook on this bamboo?”
Akbar realised his mistake right away, he smiled and agreed to pay the old man who had stood all night in the lake. And so, once again, Birbal saved the day.
Since the day I heard this story as a five year old, I’ve been fascinated by what Birbal ki Khichdi would taste like. Slow cooked, rich with lots of ghee, gooey and beautifully garnished for the King and his ministers. Here’s my recipe for Birbal ki Khichdi.