Thursday, April 18, 2013

Story time - Birbal Ki Kichdi (Birbal’s Kichdi)

By now you must be knowing of my partiality to short stories. More than once have  I mentioned it in my blog. One such story is “Birbal Ki Kichdi”. Yesterday I was thinking about this post I always wanted to write and it had a small reference to this story. So I thought why not share the story with you first. This is one of the numerous anecdotes of Mughal Emperor Akbar and his witty Minister and friend Birbal. We had this story to study when I was 8 or so. So in case anybody knows the story well and finds a lot of deviations please bear with me as I rely on an almost 20 year old memory.

It was an extremely cold winter that year. River Yamuna was freezing and that gave Emperor Akbar an idea for a contest. Anybody who could spend a whole night standing in the waters of Yamuna up to their neck would win a hundred gold sovereigns.  Many tried and failed and at last there was one Brahmin who succeeded. Pleased Emperor Akbar invited him to the court to award him his gold coins.

In the court, Akbar asked the Brahmin how he managed to complete the feat when so many others failed. The Brahmin explained that every moment he was in the water; he was concentrating on a lamp on the top of the watch tower which was in the other end of river Yamuna. And while he did so he felt his body to warm up and thus he could stay in the water for the whole night.

“But that is cheating.” Someone in the court called out. “He survived on the warmth of the lamp”. The cry was taken up by others and Akbar fell for it too. He revoked the award, admonished the Brahmin and sent him away warning him never to cheat again. The dejected Brahmin went away. Birbal was there among the courtiers and he vowed that the Brahmin would get his rightfully earned reward. 

 The next day the Emperor and the Ministers got a special invitation from Birbal for lunch. In his invitation, Birbal said that he himself would prepare a delicious Kichdi for all. (A very tasty Porridge type dish- it’s a comfort food for many here in North India). So the Emperor and the Ministers reached Birbal’s home promptly. They were warmly invited in by Birbal and who proceeded to wash their hands and allot them their places. Then Birbal apologized for the delay as the Kichdi was still cooking and asked for all to wait. Everyone happily complied.

Every 10 minutes or so Birbal would go check on the Kichdi and then report that it might take some more time. When minutes turned to hours, and stomachs began growling, and tempers began to get soured, an enraged Akbar burst out. 

“Enough Birbal. The time has passed for the Kichdi to be cooked two or three times. How come your Kichdi is not yet cooked? Show me your Kichdi,” he commanded

Birbal took him to his kitchen. The courtiers followed the Emperor too. And Lo Behold! What did they see?

They saw that there was a pot of porridge alright but it was hung from a stick about one and a half times the height of a person and a small flame in the ground below it.

Emperor Akbar’s anger knew no bounds.

“What is this Birbal” he thundered. How do you expect the porridge to get even warm, forget getting cooked? How do you expect the heat to reach the pot?”

“Why your highness!” Birbal replied. “If the Brahmin can get heat from a small lamp on the top of the watch tower which is a hundred times the length of this stick, then definitely my Kichdi can also cook, can it not?” Birbal’s eyes twinkled.

The emperor was dumb folded at first but soon the twinkle in his eyes matched those of Birbal’s’. He quietly went back to the palace.

The next day, the Brahmin was invited, honored, apologized and awarded 200 gold sovereigns for his extreme will power.


  1. Title should be Birbal Ki Kichdi (Birbal’s Porridge)

  2. :), True the literal translation might be that though kichdi si extremeley tasty. Can't say I didnot think of it. But Kichdi has such a nice ring to it I didnot feel like changing it , after all it was the name of a dish.

  3. It is North Indian version of Pongal isn't it?

    1. Pongal + sambar maybe. Atleast thats what i felt. Thought the basic combination of dal and rice is same, I felt as if the flavours were more in kichdi. I had to acquire the taste of Pongal whereas I loved Kichdi the very first time I had it.


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