One day, Akbar was sitting in the court along with all his courtiers. The business of the court was already over. Akbar asked his courtiers, “Which is the brightest thing on this earth?” The courtiers thought for a while. One of them said, “Your Majesty! Cotton is the brightest thing on this earth.”
Another said, “No, Your Majesty! Milk is certainly the brightest thing on this earth.” the courtiers started discussing whether cotton or milk is the brightest thing. Birbal, who was quietly listening to the discussion smiled.
Akbar saw Birbal smiling and said, “Birbal, why are you smiling? Do you have a different answer?” Birbal said, “Your Majesty, I believe that light is the brightest thing.” “You will have to prove your statement,” said Akbar. Birbal said, “I will prove it at the right time.” Akbar agreed. After a month, one day, Birbal went to meet Akbar in his palace. Akbar was sitting with his head held between his hands. He looked disturbed. Birbal asked him, “Your Majesty! What is the problem?” Akbar replied, “I have got a terrible headache. I am feeling very uneasy.”
Birbal said, “Many a time, this happens because of too much light. Your Majesty! Please tie a cloth on your head and rest for some time. I will close all the doors and windows of this room.” Akbar heeded Birbal’s advice. He tied a cloth on his head and went to sleep.
Birbal piled up a heap of cotton near the door of Akbar’s room. He then placed a vessel filled with milk near the heap. Finally Birbal closed all the doors and windows of the room, and waited outside. When the doors and windows were closed, the room became completely dark. Akbar could sleep peacefully for a long time. After some time when we woke up he was feeling much better. Akbar got down form his bed. While searching for the door in the dark Akbar stepped on the heap of cotton.
Birbal replied, “Your Majesty, it was dark inside the room. So I put two bright things in your room so that you could see the door clearly in the dark.” Akbar said, “However bright a thing is, it cannot be seen until light falls on it.” Birbal said, “That was exactly what I had told you a month ago. But you did not believe me then. I hope you are convinced now that light is the brightest thing.”
As he went further, he tripped over the vessel of milk. At last, with great difficulty, he reached the door and opened it. The room brightened with light. It was then that Akbar could see the heap of cotton and the vessel of milk near the door. He came out of the room and asked Birbal, “What is all this nonsense? Why is there a heap of cotton and a vessel of milk in my room?”