Birbal born Mahesh Das or Raja Birbal, was a Saraswat Hindu Bhatt Brahmin advisor and main commander (Mukhya Senapati) of army in the court of the Mughal emperor, Akbar. He is mostly known in the Indian subcontinent for the folk tales which focus on his wit. Birbal was appointed by Akbar as a Minister (Mantri) and used to be a Poet and Singer in around 1556–1562. He had a close association with Emperor Akbar and was one of his most important courtiers, part of a group called the navaratnas (nine jewels). In February 1586, Birbal led an army to crush an unrest in the north-west Indian subcontinent where he was killed along with many troops in an ambush by the rebel tribe. He was the only Hindu to adopt Din-i Ilahi, the religion founded by Akbar. Birbal was one of the first officers to join Akbar’s court, possibly as early as 1556, when he was twenty-eight years old. He also had a naturally generous nature and all these traits combined—elegant repartee, largesse, and poetical talent—made Birbal the ideal Mughal courtier.
Local folk tales emerged primarily in 19th century involving his interactions with Akbar, portraying him as being extremely clever and witty. However, it is highly unlikely that they are true considering the strict court etiquette of the Mughals, which would not have tolerated outspoken attitude of anyone like Birbal, and these tales are not mentioned in any official Mughal document. As the tales gained popularity in India, he became even more of a semi-fictional legendary figure across the Indian subcontinent. These most probably fictional tales involve him outsmarting rival courtiers and sometimes even Akbar, using only his intelligence and cunning, often with giving witty and humorous responses and impressing Akbar.