Akbar & Birbal Tales: The Nine Sticks (Episode 162)

Episode 162
14m | Jan 27, 2024

Akbar and Birbal folktales are very famous in India. These are a set of moral stories inspired by the interactions of Mughal Emperor Akbar and his wisest courtier Birbal and have been enjoyed by children for many many years. These stories were mostly passed on from generation to generation by word of mouth, till the print medium started. You know children, Birbal was an extremely witty courtier and. you will really enjoy listening to the witty, interesting, and sometimes funny, occurrences in the lives of Akbar and Birbal. These stories also help us to think smart just like Birbal.

Today's story: The Nine Stick is a witty story where Akbar loses his favourite ring and requests Birbal to help out find the thief. Was Birbal successful? to find out, listen to the story.

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Akbar was one of the greatest rulers in India.

As the highest ruler in the land, the emperor, Akbar resided in a spacious palace with throngs of obedient servants and so many riches and treasures, it would take all one thousand of his elephants to carry them!

The emperor’s most precious riches and treasures were his jewels. Glittering gold crowns... sparkling silver anklets... radiant ruby earrings... The glistening gems were so dear to the emperor that he kept them locked away in a big locker hidden deep beneath the palace.

Only ten people had a key to that locker: the emperor himself, plus nine pf his trusted attendants who had a very special job.

Every time the emperor wished to wear a piece of jewelry, be it - the emerald pendant — the one shaped like a peacock! or a shimmering bracelet, he would ask one of the trusted servants to bring it from the locker.

To get to the locker, the attendant had to push through a secret hole in the wall. Then they had to run down a hidden set of stairs and unlock a heavy steel door. Once they entered the vault, they would seek out whichever jewel the emperor desired, bring it back to the great ruler’s chamber, and then help him put it on as he admired himself in the mirror.

One day, the emperor, Akbar, decided he’d wear a thick gold ring set with a dazzling diamond the size of an apricot. The ring had been passed down in his family from generation to generation, and the emperor considered it to be his greatest treasure.

So, he asked one of his nine attendants to fetch the ring from the locker. But when the attendant came back, the great ruler was flabbergasted to hear that the ring wasn’t there!

The emperor exclaimed, “What?!? My greatest treasure is missing? It can’t be! Send for another attendant! Let them try!”

So a second attendant went to the locker to look for the ring… and, like the first attendant, he too claimed it was nowhere to be found.

Emperor said not believing the attendant, “ Come now! That ring didn’t just get up and walk away! The door to that vault is as thick as the trunk of a banyan tree!”

But then the third attendant too reported the ring was gone. And so did the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth and the ninth.

All returned empty-handed.

The emperor was now very angry and decided to go himself and look for the diamond ring himself.

So, the emperor grabbed his key, marched down to the locker and spent hours sifting through his vast collection of jewels… until, at last, he collapsed in a heap.

Emperor Akbar called out to Birbal, “ You need to help…my greatest treasure is gone!”

Birbal was the emperor’s favourite advisor. The wise and witty man was famous for his razor-sharp intellect and was the first person the emperor called whenever he had a problem he couldn’t solve, a question he couldn’t answer, or a puzzle he couldn’t crack.

Children, do you know any riddle? Please ask either your friend or your family members to solve it.

As the emperor told Birbal what had happened.  The shrewd advisor, Birbal,  listened carefully, scratching his chin and nodding his head. By the time the emperor finished his story, Birbal’s brilliant mind was already hard at work.

Birbal said, “Kindly remind me, Your Imperial Highness… Who in this palace holds a key to the vault of jewels?”

“Well, I do, of course… plus my nine jewellery attendants. And all nine of them gave their word that the ring isn’t there!” said Akbar.

Birbal said, “Looks like your ring has been stolen. And it seems like one of your nine jewellery attendants is the culprit! But leave everything to me, sir, and you will see your greatest treasure very soon. All I need is a little bit of wood, a little bit of time... and maybe… just maybe… a little bit... of magic!”

Children, What do you think Birbal is talking about?

So that night, the emperor’s favourite advisor… wise, witty Birbal... summoned the 9 attendants to his office.

Birbal said, “Welcome, everyone. As you know, we have a mystery on our hands. The emperor’s diamond ring is missing from the vault… and one of you has stolen it! Now ladies and gentlemen... other than the emperor himself, you nine are the only ones in this entire palace who possess a key to the locker  So if you’re the thief who made off with His Imperial Excellency’s diamond ring, confess now and you will be forgiven.”

Birbal waited a moment, but no one would confess.

Birbal added, “So since none of you will come clean, we’ll just have to resort… to magic!”

Birbal strolled over to his desk and pulled open a drawer. He reached inside and then lifted out nine sticks of wood. All nine sticks were identical: same color, same thickness, same length. The wise advisor handed one stick to each attendant.

Laying the nine sticks on the table Birbal said, “Ladies and gentlemen, you may think these nine identical sticks look like ordinary pieces of wood… but no!

These sticks have special powers… powers that will tell us who stole the emperor’s ring!”

The attendants looked confused. Birbal smiled and added, “Let me tell you how these sticks will find out the thief. If you give one of these sticks to an honest, trustworthy person, nothing will happen; the stick will stay exactly as it is. But if you give the stick to someone who is dishonest and deceitful… someone who has stolen, say... the stick will grow exactly two inches longer! Overnight!”

The attendants looked at the sticks in awe.

Birbal then asked each one of the attendants to go back to their room taking their sticks and placing them under their beds. The they should lock the door and make sure no one else entered the room. Then, the first thing next morning they should bring back the sticks and the sticks would tell who stole the emperor’s ring.

Bright and early the next morning, the nine attendants grabbed their sticks, unlocked their doors, and returned to Birbal’s office.

Birbal entered with the emperor Akbar and said, “ Good morning, ladies and gentlemen! Now, we need to measure those sticks of yours! Why don’t you do the honors, Your Imperial Excellency?”

Birbal handed the emperor a measuring tape. The great ruler walked from attendant to attendant, measuring each of their sticks with care.

Once the emperor was finished, he turned to Birbal with a quizzical look.

Akbar said quizzically, “ Well, this is most peculiar! According to my measurements, none of the nine sticks have grown longer! But one of the nine sticks... has gotten shorter!”

The attendants gasped. Birbal’s eyes gleamed.

With a twinkle in his eyes Birbal asked,

Birbal with a surprise look said, “One of the sticks has ‘gotten shorter,’ you say? How much shorter, Your Imperial Highness?”

The emperor held up two fingers and gestured toward one of the attendants whose stick was shorter by two inches.

The attendant immediately began to shudder and sweat. Birbal walked over to the nervous woman and took the stick from her quivering hand. He peered at the stick closely.

Birbal exclaimed, “This attendant’s stick is two whole inches shorter than all the rest! Ladies and gentlemen, we have found the thief who stole the emperor’s.”

He asked the royal guards to take the attendant to her room and bring back the emperor’s diamond ring.

Akbar was confused.

“You told that in the hands of someone dishonest and deceitful, the magic stick was supposed to grow two inches overnight. But that attendant’s stick didn’t grow two inches... It shrank!”

The wise advisor smile and explained that the sticks weren’t magical. He just hoped that he would make the thief believe that they were and at night the culprit cut the stick by exactly two inches.

In short, the guilty attendant cut two inches off of her stick because that way, if the stick grew two inches overnight, it would still look like all the other sticks come morning!

Akbar patted Birbal’s back and said, “You are my real gem.”

Thanks to Birbal’s wit and wisdom, by the end of the day the emperor was wearing his thick gold ring set with a dazzling diamond the size of an apricot.

But the great ruler no longer considered the bright, brilliant jewel his “greatest treasure.”

Because now he realized that his greatest treasure was bright… and brilliant… but it wasn’t any ornament.

It was Birbal! A wise and witty friend who was always there for him, no matter what.


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