At the age of 18, Akbar had been emperor of the Mughal empire for four years. This was 440 years ago, in the year 1560. But the king still had many desires that any ordinary young man would have at his age. He loved cock-fights and he liked to play practical jokes. He also had a great curiosity to know about the lives of ordinary people. For that reason he would go to places where festivals were celebrated — not as emperor but as an ordinary man without any fanfare surrounding him.

The Emperor who Rolled his Eyes [Illustration by Sudheer Nath]
The Emperor who Rolled his Eyes [Illustration by Sudheer Nath]

Once Akbar decided to attend a popular festival in the town of Bahraich. It was some distance from his capital Agra. As usual, the emperor did not travel alone; a big group of servants and attendants accompanied him. They knew that they had to behave in a manner that would not let the people know of Akbar’s identity.

The plan was to spend a night at Bahraich. The thought of being able to mingle with ordinary people as an ordinary man excited Akbar no end. For he could observe the behaviour of different kinds of people to his heart’s content.

There was a big crowd at the festival and all kinds of people could be seen there: the good and the bad, the honest and the ruffian types. The 18-year-old emperor was so busy looking at people that he almost missed the piercing glance that a tough looking guy gave him. From his appearance he looked like a scoundrel. He had recognised the emperor and he wasted no time in whispering the fact to his friend.

Akbar had to think fast. In a second he changed his appearance. He started rolling his eyes and pretended he had a squint. And he no longer looked like emperor Akbar! That made the people there remark that those were not the eyes or features of their king. When the emperor got back to his capital, he showed his biographer Abul Fazl how he had changed his appearance. Abul Fazl was stunned. As for Akbar, he had had his share of fun.

360 words | 3 minutes
Readability: Grade 7 (12-13 year old children)
Based on Flesch–Kincaid readability scores

Filed under: features
Tags: #festivals, #emperor, #akbar

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