Agrasen was a legendary Indian king of Agroha, a city of traders. 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.
Origin of the legend
The Agrasen legend can be traced to Agarwalon ki Utpatti ("Origin of the Agrawals"), an 1871 essay written by Bharatendu Harishchandra (1850-1885), a noted Agrawal author and poet. He claimed to have compiled the legend from "tradition" and "ancient writings", especially a text called Sri Mahalakshmi Vrat Ki Katha. He stated that Sri Mahalakshmi Vrat Ki Katha was contained in the Bhavishya Purana, which exists in several recensions. However, independent researchers have been unable to find the legend in any version of Bhavishya Purana.
In 1976, the Agrawal historian Satyaketu Vidyalankar published a copy of the Mahalakshmi Vrat Ki Katha in his Agrwal Jati Ka Prachin Itihas ("Ancient History of the Agrawal caste"). He stated that he had found this copy in the personal library of Bharatendu Harishchandra. However, the text does not contain any clue about its origin.
Legends and beliefs
Agrasen was a kshatriya king of the Solar Dynasty who adopted Vanika dharma for the benefit of his people. Literally, Agrawal means the "children of Agrasen" or the "people of Agroha", a city in ancient Kuru Panchala, near Hisar in Haryana region said to be founded by Agrasen.
He is said to have married 17 naga-kanyas. According to Bharatendu Harishchandra's account, Maharaja Agrasen 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 Son of King Vallabha dev who was Descendant of kush(Lord Rama's Son). He was also descendant of Suryavanshi King Mandhata. King Mandhata had two sons, Gunadhi and Mohan. Agrasen was the eldest son of the King Vallabh, descendant of Mohan, of Pratapnagar. Agrasen fathered 18 children, from whom the Agrawal gotras came into being. Agrasen 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 chose Agrasen as her husband. Because of this, Indra became furious and decided to take revenge by making sure that Pratapnagar do 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 Agrasen and Indra. As per the advice of Maharishi Garg, he also married Sundaravati to increase his wealth and health.
Another belief states King Agrasen to be the elder brother of Shoorsen Vrishni and elder grandfather of Balarama and Krishna Vrishni of Mahabharata, descendant of King Yayati of Khandavprastha. It was built after several attacks faced from Jarasandha of Magadha Kingdom in Mahabharata period. Agroha was called as Agreya in its original period. Agroha was the birthplace of Maharaj Agrasen, and Agra was his kingdom.King Agrasen made it capital of his state, a city in ancient Kuru Panchala, while his younger brother Shoorsen, including Balarama and Shri Krishna decided to stay at Dvārakā.
He is well renowned due to his famous policy of one brick and one coin. It is said that one who came to his kingdom, to be a citizen, was given 1 brick and 1 coin by every other resident. The coins he would end up with, would provide money to set up a new business(thus ensuring his income) and the bricks would help him build his house.
According to Bharatendu Harishchandra's narrative, the Agrawals are divided into seventeen and a half gotras (exogamous clans), which came into being from seventeen and a half sacrifices performed by Agrasen. The last sacrifice is considered "half" because it was abandoned after Agrasen expressed remorse for the violent animal sacrifices. Bharatendu also mentions that Agrasen had 17 queens and a junior queen, but does not mention any connection between these queens and the formation of the gotras. Neither does he explain how sacrifices led to the formation of the gotras. Another popular legend claims that a boy and girl from the Goyal gotra married each other by mistake, which led to the formation of a new "half" gotra.
Historically, there has been no unanimity regarding number and names of these seventeen and a half gotras, and there are regional differences between the list of gotras. The Akhil Bhartiya Agrawal Sammelan, a major organization of Agrawals, has created with a standardized list of gotras, which was adopted as an official list by a vote at the organization's 1983 convention. Because the classification of any particular gotra as "half" is considered insulting, the Sammelan provides a list of following 18 gotras:
The existence of all the gotras mentioned in the list is controversial, and the list does not include several existing clans such as Kotrivala, Pasari, Mudgal, Tibreval, and Singhla.
- "Maharaja Agrasen Dak Ticket Samaroh ki kuchh Yaden, Omprakash Agrawal, Agradhara, Sept 2016, p. 32" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 February 2017. Retrieved 22 October 2018.
- "KCR Praises Vaisyas to Skies, Says The Community Knows Art of Life".
- "Agrasen Ki Baoli". AgrasenKiBaoli.com. Retrieved 4 August 2015.
- 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)
- Lawrence A. Babb 2004, p. 199.
- Singh, Kumar Suresh; B. V. Bhanu (2004). People of India. Popular Prakashan (Mumbai), Anthropological Survey of India (Kolkata). p. 46. ISBN 81-7991-100-4. OCLC 58037479. Retrieved 19 April 2007.
- History of Ancient India - By J.P. Mittal
- Speeches and Writings by Har Bilas Sarda
- Bombay Presidency Gazetteer, 1885, pages 262–263
- Lawrence A. Babb 2004, pp. 201-202.
- M. S. Gore 1990, p. 69.
- Lawrence A. Babb 2004, pp. 193-194.
- Lawrence A. Babb 2004, p. 192.
- Lawrence A. Babb 2004, p. 193.
- Maharaja Agrasen at agrasen.com