Once upon a time, a great astronomer visited Akbar’s Kingdom. He was very wise and learned but was arrogant. He flaunted his knowledge about the earth, the solar system and the universe.
The Astronomer said to King Akbar “Many people say that the world is flat. It is round. We have found out that it is shaped like a sphere”
Akbar said, “You say that the earth is round in shape. So if I travel in a straight line around the world, then will I come back exactly here?”
The astronomer said, “My King, you are correct!”
The King asked, “Why has no one done it already in real life?”
The astronomer said, “Because the route is no land alone. You will have to cross vast oceans, high mountains and dense forests to go around in a straight line.”
The King said, “Well, that can be easily done then. We have boats to sail across oceans. We can cross mountains on horses. We use elephants to cross the forests”.
“Yes sir. It is possible but is still extremely difficult,”
Akbar asked, “Why?”
The astronomer said, “It will take many years to complete the whole journey. The earth is very large.”
Akbar said, “Can you tell me how many years it would take to cross the world?”
The astronomer said, “No one can calculate that! My guess is that it will take a more than a hundred years.”
King Akbar said, “I will ask my courtiers. They have an answer for everything,”
Various answers came from the audience:
One courtier said, “This is impossible to calculate!”
Another courtier said “It will take around 25 years!”
One courtier said, “It will take fifty years.”
One courtier said, “Ten years!”
Everybody said something or the other but Birbal kept quiet.
King Akbar said, “Birbal, why are you so silent. Can you tell me an answer for this question?”
Birbal said, “My King, I was calculating the time required to go around the earth”
King Akbar asked, “Do you have the answer?”
Birbal said, “Yes! It will take just one day”
King Akbar laughed and said, “Only one day! Even I know that it is Impossible! How can you even say that answer. In one day, we cannot cross one end of our kingdom to another”.
Birbal laughed and said, “Yes my King. It is possible. If you travel on turtle back, it will take you 1000s of years. If you travel on the back of the fastest horse, it will take you a few years. However, if you travel at the speed of the sun, it will take you exactly one day.”