Maharaja Agrasen was a legendary Indian king of Agroha in India, a city of traders, from whom the Agrawal (not to be confused with Grewal) and Agrahari community are descent. He is credited with the establishment of a kingdom of traders in North India named Agroha, and is known for his compassion in refusing to slaughter animals in yajnas. The Government of India issued a postage stamp in honour of Maharaja Agresen in 1976 on occasion of his 5100th jayanti.
Legends and beliefs
Agrasen was a vysya king of the Solar Dynasty who adopted Vanika dharma for the benefit of his people. Literally, Agrawal means the "children of Agrasena" or the "people of Ag", a city in ancient Kuru Panchala, near Hisar in Haryana region said to be founded by Agrasena. Noted Hindi author Bharatendu Harishchandra (himself an Agrawal) wrote Agarwalon ki Utpatti (The origin of Agrawals) in 1871, based on an account in the Mahalaksmi Vrat Katha manuscript. According to this account, Maharaja Agrasena was a Suryavanshi Kshatriya king, born during the last stages of Dwapar Yuga in the Mahabharat epic era, he was contemporaneous to Lord Krishna. He was a descendant of Suryavanshi King Mandhata. Mandhata had two sons, Gunadhi and Mohan. Agrasena was the eldest son of the King Vallabh, descendant of Mohan, of Pratapnagar. Agrasena fathered 18 children, from whom the Agrawal gotras came into being.
Agrasena attended the swayamvara of Madhavi, the daughter of the King Nagaraj Kumud. However, Indra, the God of Heaven and also the Lord of storms and rainfall, wanted to marry Madhavi, but she choose Agrasena as her husband. A furious Indra decided to take revenge by making sure that Pratapnagar did not receive any rain. As a result, a famine struck Agrasen's kingdom, who then decided to wage a war against Indra. Sage Narada was approached by Indra, who mediated peace between Agrasena and Indra. As per the advice of Rishi Mahrishi Garg, he also married Sundaravati to increase his wealth and health.
According to Vachanakosha of Bulakhichand (1680 AD), Agar Rishi married a naga-kanya and had 18 children. A similar account is given in 1885 Bombay Presidency Gazetteer, Rishi Agrasena married 17 naga-kanyas.
Another belief states King Agrasen to be the elder brother of Shoorsen Vrishni and elder grand father of Balarama and Krishna Vrishni of Mahabharata, descendant of King Yayati of Khandavprastha. It was built after several attacks faced from Jarasandh of Magadh in Mahabharata period. Agrohawas called as Agreya in its original period. King Agrasen made it capital of his state, a city in ancient Kuru Panchala, while his younger bother Shoorsen including Balarama and Shri Krishna decided to stay at Dwaraka.
Agraseana started a severe tapasya (penance) to propitiate God Shiva in the city of Kashi. Shiva pleased with the penance and advised him to propitiate Goddess Mahalakshmi. Agrasena again started meditating on Mahalakshmi, who appeared before him and blessed him. She urged Agrasena (who was a Kshatriya) to take up the Vaishya tradition of business for the sake of the prosperity of his people. She asked him to establish a new kingdom, and promised that she would bless his descendants with prosperity. She also told that there will not be any lack of wealth in his kingdom.
Agrasena then traveled all over India with his queen to select a place for a new kingdom. At one point during his travels, he found a few tiger cubs and wolfs cubs playing together. To King Agrasena and Queen Madhavi, this was an auspicious indication that the area was veerabhoomi (land of the brave) and they decided to found their new kingdom at that location. The place was named Agroha. Agroha is situated near present day Hisar in Haryana. Presently Agroha is developing as agrawal's holy station, having a Big Temple of Agrasen & Vaishnav Devi.
Under the leadership of Agrasena, Agroha became very prosperous. Legend has it that a hundred thousand traders lived in the city at its heyday. An immigrant wishing to settle in the city would be given a rupee and a brick by each of the inhabitants of the city. Thus, he would have a hundred thousand bricks to build a house for himself, and a hundred thousand rupees to start a new business.
Agrasena divided his kingdom among his 18 children, resulting in eighteen Agrawal gotras. Often, the number of gotras is stated to be seventeen. Some sources attributed the half gotra to the illegitimate offspring of rani from a 'Jat', which is baseless given that Jats didn't come to India until 800AD. Another version suggests that Agrasena proceeded to conduct 18 mahayajnas ("Great yajnas"). During one such yajna, Agrasena noticed that a horse that had been brought to be sacrificed was trying hard to get away from the sacrificial altar. Seeing this Maharaj Agrasena was filled with compassion for the animal. The idea of ahimsa (non-violence) grabbed his mind. Therefore, he put a brake to his eighteenth yajna, announcing that no sacrifices will be made in his kingdom in name of yajnas. Thus, the eighteenth yajna wasn't completed and Agrasena had performed seventeen and a half yajnas. The gods appeared before him and blessed him with seventeen and a half gotras.
In the later part of his life, Agrasena nominated his eldest son Vibhu to the throne and took up the Vanaprastha ashram. Gradually, the city of Agroha declined and was finally destroyed in a huge fire. The residents of Agroha i.e. the Agrawals moved out of Agroha and spread in other parts of India.
It is believed that King Agrasen married Madhavi, daughter of King Kumud of Nagaloka (Snake Kingdom). Thus Agrawals are the progeny of Madhavi and that is why they worship Nagas (snakes) and consider them to be their maternal uncles.
Following are the seventeen and a half gotras of Agrawals: Garg, Bansal, Bindal, Bhandal, Dharan, Airan, Goyal, Goyan (considered as half gotra), Jindal, Kansal, Kuchhal, Madhukul, Mangal, Mittal, Nangal, Singhal, Tayal, Tingle.
The kingdom of Agrasen flourished and extended from the Himalayas, Punjab, the valley of Yamuna, and the Mewar region. Agra continued to be a prominent place being the capital of the southern part of the kingdom. The other important regions were Gurgaon (ancient Gaudagrama), the goddess mother of this place is revered by Agrawals; Meerut, Rohtak, Hansi, Panipat, Karnal, and Kotkangra. The famous temple of Mahamaya, the Kuladevi of Agrawals is located at Kotknagra. Mandi, Vilaspur, Garhwal, Narnaul were all the parts of the kingdom. Agroha was the capital of the kingdom.
Agrawals are basically a commercial community or Vaishyas. They are one of the most respectable and enterprising of mercantile tribes. Two of Emperor Akbar’s famous ministers are said to have been Agrawals, viz, Todarmal, who introduced an assessment of land, and Madhushah, who introduced ‘Madhushahi’ pice.
- Mittal, J.P. (2006), History of Ancient India (4250 BC to 637 AD) page 675, ISBN 978-81-269-0616-1 (This author considers King Agrasen an actual historical figure)
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- The text from the manuscript is given in Satyaketu Vidyalankar, Agrwal Jati Ka Prachin Itihas, Masuri, Shri Sarasvati Sada, 1976
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- Maharaja Agrasen at agrasen.com
- Introduction at agroha.com
- Detailed information at maharajaagrasen.com
- About Maharaja Agrasen, Agroha, Agroha Dham, Aggarwal Gotra at vaishsamaj.com