Tenali Raman was a court jester in King Krishnadevraya’s court. He was also one of the wisest men in Vijaynagar, where the King ruled. His tales of humour and wit are extremely popular, and he is often equated to Birbal, one of Akbar’s nine gems. Here is one such story.
An Arab merchant once visited Vijaynagar. He went to King Krishnadevraya’s court and claimed that he had brought with him the finest horses in the world. The King wanted to expand his army and was very impressed by the horses. He took a quick look and decided to buy them all. However, feeding and training, all of them were going to be a big task.
So the King made an announcement, “Every family will be given one horse to train and feed for three months. For this, each family shall receive three gold coins monthly.”
Tenali Raman was also given a horse and three gold coins. He built an enclosed stable in his backyard with one little window and kept the horse in it. While everyone else would spend a lot more than three coins given by the King to feed their horses, Raman would only provide his horse with a little hay every day. The horse was now used to eat whatever little was fed from that window.
Every other horse was healthy and fit, but their caretakers had grown weak. Three months passed, the King ordered everyone to come to the palace with their horses. All the people came, but Tenali Raman did not bring his horse along.
Another courtier and Raman’s rival Raj Guru saw this as an opportunity to bring Raman down before the King. He roared, “Why didn’t Tenali Raman bring his horse, your majesty?”
To which Tenali replied, “Your majesty, the horse is too ferocious, I dare not go near it.”
Raj Guru did not budge. He insisted that he will go and bring Tenali’s horse to the court and the King too, ordered him to do so.
As Tenali and Raj Guru reached the stable, Tenali said, “I am warning you, Guruji, do not go near him.”
“What nonsense!” said Raj Guru and put his head inside the window to see the horse. The horse that was starving instantly caught hold of Raj Guru’s beard, thinking it to be a bunch of hay!
Raj Guru winced with pain, and soon all villagers gathered around. They concluded that there was no way other than breaking the stable to free Guru from the horse. They brought down the structure, but the horse would still not let go of Guru’s beard. Only after the beard was chopped off, Guru was relieved.
The villagers managed to drag the untamed horse to the court. Seeing the skinny horse, the King was very upset. He asked Tenali why the animal was in such a condition. To everyone’s surprise, Raj Guru argued, “I am sorry your majesty, but this skinny horse is the mightiest of all.”
Tenali Raman said, “My lord to prove your might, you need the strong horses. Now you have the strongest horses but weak men. Strength does not lie only in your horsepower.”
The King had learnt his lesson.