Unravelling in the court of Akbar, the well-known Birbal stories illustrate the minister’s sagacity and problem-solving acumen. It has become trendy to identify various management and leadership styles with historical and mythical personalities such as Attila the Hun, Winnie the Pooh, Mulla Nasiruddin, Confucius, Jesus Christ, and with philosophical systems and religious books like zen, Taoism, Kabballah, Bible, Bhagavad Gita and Sufism. Against this backdrop, the authors thought it would be appropriate to unveil the managerial wisdom and problem-solving principles that Birbal’ s stories embody.
They have retold some of the Birbal stories and at the end of each tale, they have pointed out the Management Moral of the narrative, whose wisdom remains eternal. They have divided each story into two parts. The first part consists of the problem and the second part provides Birbal’s solution.
Readers are encouraged to pause just before the solution is given and think of their own solutions to the problem. Only when they have thought of one or more solutions should they read Birbal’s solution. There is no other effective way of honing one’s own creativity.
At the end of the book, the authors have devised a technique that they have termed BIRBAL (an acronym), which readers can use to solve their problems.
Luis S.R. Vas has authored about a dozen books and some 500 articles during his decade-long career in feature writing, publishing and corporate communications.
Anita S.R. Vas has co-authored The Joy of Natural Living and has done courses in personal counseling and cosmetology. She conducts Portuguese and English-speaking classes. She is a Portuguese translator as well.
Centuries ago the Great Mughal Emperor Humayun died, leaving his kingdom to a 13-year-old Prince named Akbar. Bright and bold, the boy fought fierce battles with myriad enemies to defend the vast kingdom that his father had left him. Finally, peace settled across his beautiful domain and Akbar inaugurated Golden Age in India.
The young king encouraged everyone to worship in their own ways. Subject of every description and origin stood as equals before him. Akbar loved philosophy and ll the fine arts, and sought the company of the wisest and most talented men he could find inside and outside his kingdom, bringing them to the Imperial Court. Nine of these exceptional men were such gifted and rare examples of talent that people called them Nava Ratna – ‘The Nine Jewels of the Mughal Crown’ –since their value exceeded the price of precious stones.
One of them, Tansen, wa a singer so skilled that candles were said to burst into flame at the sheer power of his song. Another, Daswant, was a painter who became First Master of the Age. Todar Mal was financial wizard. Abul Fazl was a great historian, and his brother, Faizi, a noted poet. Abud us-Samad was a brilliant calligrapher and designer of Imperial coins. Man Singh was an exceptional military strategist. Mir Fathullah Shirazi was an exceptional military strategist. Mir Fathullah Shirazi was a man of many parts: financier, philosopher, physicianand astronomer. But of all Akbar’s Nine Jewels, the people;s favrourite was his Minister – or Wazir – Birbal, who was noted for hi cleverness, generosity and sense of justice.
Birbal became one of the best-loved figures in the folklore of India. For generations, the Birbal stories have delighted children and grown-ups alike across all regions of the country.
Jalaludin Mohammed Akbar Padshan Ghazi, Emperor of India, ruled from 1560 to 1605. Akbar was great in an age of great rules: Elizabeth I of England, Henry IV of France, Philip II of Spain, Sulaiman the Magnificent of Turkey, and Shah Abbas the Great of Persia.
Akbar was generous and just to all men, but he could be violent and overpowering when called for. His Mangnetic Personality won the love and affection of his people and the respect and admiration of his enemies.
The Emperor excelled at riding, polo and swordsmanship, and he was a brilliant marksman with his musket. He was courageous, often fighting personally in the heat of battle. He was an outstanding general, a master of speed, surprise and logistics. His lightning conquests of India, from the Hindu Kush to Bengal, were feats of military genius.
Akbar worked hard at his duties as a king, sleeping only three hours a night. Although he was illiterate (it has been conjectured that he was probably dyslexic), he had legions of scholars who read to him. His son, Prince Sultan Salim, latter the Emperor Jahangir, wrote that no one could have guessed that Akbar was illiterate. He had an insatiable appetite for religion, philosophy, music, architecture, poetry, history and painting. He built an empire that enjoyed long-lasting peace, prosperity and high cultural refinement.
The empire of the Mughals was vast and fabulously rich. Akbar’s lower taxes and rising conquests created wealth for the people and mounting treasure for the Crown. European visitors noted that just one province of Akbar’s empire, Bengal, was wealthier than France and England combined. But the Emperor’s most precious asset was his quick-witted Wazir.
Birbal was born to a born to a poor Brahmin family of Tikawanpur on the banks of the River Jamuna. He rose to the exalted level of minister at Akbar’s Court by virtue of his razor- shap wit. He was an accomplished poet, writing under the pen name ‘Brahma’, and a collection of is verse is preserved to this day in the Bharatpur Museum.
Birbal’s duties at Court were administrative and military, but his close friendship with the Emperor was enhanced by Akbar’s love of wisdom and subtle homour. In Birbal – who was 14 years older than Akbar – the young king found a true sympathiser and companion. In an attempt to unify his Hindu and Muslim subjects, when Akbar founded new religion of universal tolerance, the Din-I- Ilahi, or ‘Divine Faith’, there was only one Hindu among the handful of his followers, and that was Birbal.
Akbar’s Court was mobile, a tradition inherited from his nomadic ancestors, the Mongols of Central Asia. (Mughal is Urdu for Mongol.) The Emperor ruled sometimes from the fortress of Agra and sometimes from the elegant city of Lahore. During the period of these tales, 1571 to 1585, Akbar held court in the scintillating city that he had built for himself –Fatehpur Sikri.
Many courtiers were jealous of Birbal’s meteoric rise to fortune and power and, according to popular accounts, they were endlessly plotting his downfall.
The poet, however, died with a sword in his hand. This happened in February 1586 while he was leading an expedition to subdue an Afghan trible in north - western India. Akbar,it is said, was inconsolable when he heard the news.
The character of Akbar in these stories is rather farfetched. But historically, Birbal stories can really be attributed to Birbal. Many of these tales were probably invented by village storytellers over the ages and simply attributed to Birbal and Akbar because their characters seemed appropriate. But there is no doubt that they make entertaining and instructive reading.
We would like to suggest that there is a deeper psychological and sociological reason behind the Birbal stories. They tend to show to the subject people under the Moghuls that although the Emperor is enlightened and virtually all-powerful, his Raja, Birbal, coming from the subject stock, is the cleverer, wiser man, getting the Emperor out of all kinds of difficulties and outwitting him in debate. The tales served to boost the morale of the subjects of the Moghul Empire and their descendants.
The stories also illustrate the leader’ s sagacity and problem-solving acumen of Birbal or whoever thought them up.
At a time when it is fashionable to identify various management and leadership styles with historical and mythical personalities like Attila the Hun, Winnie the Pooh, Mulla Nasiruddin, Confucius and Jesus Christ, and with philosophical systems and religious books like Zen, Taoism, the Kabballah, the Bible, the Bhagwad Gita and Sufism, we thought it would be appropriate to underscore the managerial wisdom and problem -solving principles which Birbal’s stories illustrate.
So, we have retold some of the Birbal stories that we gathered and at the end of each we have pointed out the management moral it teacher, turning Birbal into a virtual Edward de Bono of the 16th century whose wisdom and lateral thinking remain as fresh as ever. We have divided each story into two parts. The first part consists of the problem; the second part provides Birbal’s solution.
You are encouraged to pause just before the solution is given and think of your own solution to the problem. Only when you have thought of one or more solutions should you read Birbal’s solution. There is no more effective way of honing your own creativity.
You are also encouraged to sharpen your creativity by thinking up additional management ideas that these stories evoke. We shall be happy if you send us more such stories with your own interpretations of the principles they illustrate, to include them in future editions of this book.
At the end of the book we have devised a process which we have termed BIRBAL (an acronym) and which you can use to solve your own problems.
We have written this book jointly to provide you with a balanced perspective of the issue explored in it. We would appreciate your comments.
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