“A battle to Baffle” written in a skit genre, consists of major characters named Tenali Raman, Krishnadevaraya, Pundit Shahane, Mantriji, ten other courtiers, ministers and scholars as well. The drama begins in the court room of Krishnadevaraya, the Emperor of Vijayanagar where all the ministers, scholars and the courtiers were seating in two rows facing one another and discussing about an urgent news.
After seeking permission from the emperor, the Mantriji informed that a very great scholarly Pundit named Pundit Shahane, who had mastered all the scriptures and had won great fame all over India had arrived their palace. Moreover,the Pundit had challenged all the Pundits of Vijaynagar to have a debate on their knowledge of the sacred writings.
The Emperor asked the scholars present in his court whether anyone was ready to face the challenge or not. After observing the hesitant facial expressions of all the scholars present in the court, the emperor felt really ashamed of all of them and said that he had never felt so disgusted before. The Pundits of Vijaynagar were actually reluctant to accept the challenge put up by Pundit Shahane. The Emperor was so angry that he even threatened the Pundits of his court that they would be exiled from the state if they were not able to win the debate with Pundit Shahane.
At such a sensitive situation, one of the scholars came forward and proposed the Emperor to call Tenali Raman, a very confident, polite and witty personality of the palace. Tenali was then brought to the court where he agreed to the order of the Emperor,Krishnadevaraya, to face Pundit Shahane but only on one condition that everybody present in the courtyard should respect and honour him as the Chief Pundit of Vijaynagar just for one day.
Next day, the Emperor arrived and took up his place. He permitted the Mantriji to call the great scholar, Pundit Shahane and the greatest of great scholars in Vijaynagar, the Chief Pundit Tenali Raman. Tenali Raman then entered into the court in a palanquin in order to appear like a chief Pundit realistically. Two other Pundits followed him carrying a huge bundle in silken cloth. Placing his hand on the bundle next to him and twisting his moustache, Tenali began the debate by asking Pundit Shahane to discuss on the merits of ‘tila-kashta-mahisha-bandhana”.
This was really a difficult phrase for Pundit Shahane,who had already read thousands of scholarly works, but had never came across such a phrase. After evaluating his knowledge and intelligence for a long time, he finally gave up and accepted his defeat. In this way, Tenali Raman outwitted Pundit Shahane and was declared as the most intelligent Pundit of the court.
Tenali had actually pretended that the bundle contained scriptures called ’tila-kashta-mahisha- bandhana’. Tenali informed the emperor that the real meaning of til is sesame, kashta meant sticks of sesame plants, ’Mahisha’ meant a buffalo and ‘bandhana’ meant rope used to tie up buffaloes. The emperor then burst into a loud laughter as he could not believe that Tenali had just tricked the greatest scholar, Pundit Shahane, and had made him felt scared and accept his defeat.