King Akbar set in place a system to register marriages. The process was to ensure that the laws regarding marriage were observed by all, and included the presentation of the parties before the police to affirm conformity with law. Akbar also specified a marriage tax, in some proportion of the wealth of the contracting families, with the rich ones subjected to a high tax of five rupees. Since the Khatri clan was deemed rich, all Khatri marriages were taxed at the highest rate.
Birbal was Akbar’s famous associate, who was given much importance for his capacity of wise counsel. He was the only advisor allotted residence within the precincts of the palace. Birbal accompanied Akbar on his military campaigns, notably to Gujarat, and was given leadership positions in battle. The King authorized Birbal to collect the marriage tax whenever he was on war campaigns.
In 1586, Birbal was leading an army, proceeding for campaign in the Baluchistan and Swat districts of modern day Pakistan. On the way, he passed through Punjab, and set up camp at Goindwal, where the third Teacher, Guru Amar Das was leading the Sikh religion. In a surprising act of arrogance, Birbal demanded the marriage tax from the Guru, since he was a Khatri. The Guru refused, saying that he was not willing to pay tax even to the devil. Upon this, Birbal demanded that the community kitchen be emptied of all provisions, to be used by the army. The Guru responded:
All other provisions are false, only his Name is the truth;
Whosoever has this truth in his house, for him precious gems are the same as glass.
When an angry Birbal threatened to search for provisions the next day, the Guru smiled. In the night, the army received instructions to immediately move for battle and engage in the Swat area, and Birbal left before sunrise. He never returned, and was killed in an ambush by the Swat Pathan tribes.