Tenalirama in Babur’s Court
The tales related to Tenali’s superior intelligence and quick wit had reached quite far and wide, even from the deep south to the Royal Mughal court in Delhi where Babur ruled. When he heard about Tenalirama from his courtiers, he was willing to meet him.
When his messenger reached Vijaynagar, Raja Krishnadevrai grew apprehensive as he thought the Mughal king had sent his messenger to find a pretext to attack his kingdom. But when the messenger told him that he came there after hearing a lot about Tenalirama’s intelligence, the king was considerably relieved. Then the messenger said: “Our Emperor wants to meet Tenalirama. Maharaja! Please send him with me to the Delhi Court!”
The king accepted it and asked Tenali to go with the messenger. He also said: “Tenali! Now comes the moment of the test of your intelligence and quick wit. I order you to go with the messenger and show your class. Remember that the entire prestige of our kingdom is under test. If you could impress the Mughal king and get some award from him, I promise to award you ten thousand gold additionally, or else–,”
“Or else— Your Majesty,” asked Tenali, “Or else your head shall be shaved and you shall be exiled from the state for ever. This is the question of Vijaynagar’s prestige! You must accept the challenge and meet it successfully!” the king concluded.
Tenali only said this much: “Your Majesty! Tenali shall not disappoint you!”
Next day Tenali left with the Mughal messenger for Delhi.
There, in Delhi, when Babur heard about Tenalirama’s reaching his capital, he said to his courtiers: “You all know he is a very intelligent court jester and has a knack of making one laugh not withstanding the most amusing remark this fellow makes. If I find anyone laughing I’d severely punish him.”
When Tenalirama reached the royal court, he showed different tantrums and antics but no one even smiled. Then he said many amusing things but still no effect. Fifteen days elapsed in his making efforts to make people laugh but in vain.
Then Tenali realised that something was definitely amiss. He was quite intelligent to know that the Mughal courtiers were keeping a sombre face deliberately. Now, Tenali thought that if could not impress the Mughal King and his courtiers, this would mean his defeat. And that defeat would mean his losing prestige, honor and his position even in the Vijaynagar State. So, he decide to start a fresh.
Then disguising himself Tenali began to minutely observe Babur’s routine.
Babur used to go for a walk every morning regularly with his one minister who always carried some gold coins in his pocket to dole them out to the needy ones, the beggars and others of such type. He used to give them the coins on the instruction of his king.
Having observed his routine minutely, one day, disguising himself as an old Muslim labourer, with a spade on his shoulder and a plant of mango in his hand, he went and stood at a point on the bank of river Yamuna where from Babur passed daily during the course of his stroll.
When Tenali spotted Babur approaching with his wazir, he began to dig the ground.
Babur was surprised to see an old man with white flowing beard planting a mango sapling. He couldn’t help asking: “well Bade mian! What are you doing?
“Jehanpanah! Planting a mango sapling. This type of mangoes are not grown in this area! Replied Tenalirama disguised as Bade Mian.
“But, Bade Mian,” Babur again said: “you appear quite near your grave already.. even if this sapling takes root, grows and bears fruit, what would you gain? Surely you won’t be surviving till that time.”
“I’m not planting it for my own sake, Jehanpanah, but for others. It is this way: I enjoy the fruits of the trees planted by my father. And now this tree would bear fruits for those who live after me… and in doing so I’m delighted.”
Babur responded admiringly: “Oh you are really a kind man who cares for others. I like your ideas. Have these coins from me and plant more of such trees!”
The emperor beckoned his wazir to give the old man small bag containing gold coins.
Accepting the award the old man bowed gratefully and said: “May God grant the emperor long life and may you reign till the Day of Judgment. You really love old and poor people. You see! Normally people get fruit after many years of planting the tree but I got it immediately after planting this tree. It shows that consideration for others definitely reaps rich harvest.”
Babur was again pleased by the old man’s way of putting his arguments. Again he awarded him another bag ful of coins.
Again the old man said: “You’ve really made this old man happy. While this tree would bear fruit once a year when mature, but you’ve awarded me twice after my planting this tree! Twice I have been awarded now!”
Babur again liked even this utterance of that old man (Tenalirama): “well said! I like your style of talking. Again you deserve an award.” And thus that old Muslim man received award thrice. So his wazir advised Babur: “Your Highness! This old man appears to be quite wise. Move a head or else his pithy utterance may force you empty your coffer here only!”
Babur smiled and moved ahead. Then the old man yelled: “Hazoor! Just wait for a moment!”
Smiling, Babur looked back and asked: “Anything new, Bade Mian?”
“Nothing Hazoor! Just cast a glance at me once again,” and saying so Tenali began to remove his false beard and mustaches. And soon there stood the familiar beaming face of Tenali. He then said: “I’m no else but your humble servant Tenalirama.”
Seeing him squarely duped by this intelligent man, Babur burst out laughing. The he said, “I’m not at all sorry at having awarded you, Tenalirama! You really deserve it! People were not wrong about you. I found you as intelligent and wise as expected.”
Then Babur invited Tenalirama to his palace and gave him more rewards. When Tenali reached Vijaynagar, he was delighted at having preserved the honor of his native state. When Maharaja Krishnadevrai heard about Tenalirama’s coming back victorious, he not only gave him landed property! Tenalirama became dearer to the King’s heart.