Agrasen appears in mythology as the hero of ‘Mahalakshani Vrat Katha’ which is a part of ‘Bhavishya Purana, and Bhavishyottar Purana. Another ancient work which tells about Agrasen is ‘Uru charitam’.

Oral traditions in Agrawal families coming down from hoary past furnish vivacious accounts of the personality and deeds of Agrasen when figures in some dynastic charts of ancient rulers also.

 
ABOUT

Agrawals form an important segment of population in India. They are about seventeen to eighteen million in their numerical strength which constitute almost two and a half per cent of total population in the country. Yet they emerge proportionately much more prominent mainly on account of their predominance in the fields of trade, commerce and industry. They are known as the born businessman and have bulk of trading activities in the country in their hands. No wonder that they belong to an opulent class of people. Agrawals are strewn everywhere in metropolis, cities, towns and villages across the country with sizeable concentrations at a good number of places. And spilling from their lot has now settled in other countries as well. Though, the word Agrawal is the common surname which can be used by any member of the creed, several of them prefer to use their respective gotras as their surnames. However, irrespective of this variation in their surnames, they all trace their origin to the legendary king Agrasen, an illustrious figure in the galaxy of mythological personages of India held in high esteem by the people at large till to-date.

Legends present Agrasen as a democratic ruler of a large state spread over the territories of modern Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan. He had founded a new capital called Agroha, Located at a distance of just twenty kilometres from Hisser, a prominent trading town of Haryana now a-days and the seat of Haryana Agriculture university.

Mythology:

Agrasen is a familiar figure in folk-lore, but his inclusion amongst the authentic historical personalities as well as his period, both have remained a subject of debate in academic circles. A section of historians that rely only on archaeological evidences treats Agrasen no more than a pure mythic whereas those who recognize mythological narrations as one of the sources of history, express hardly any doubt in the popular belief that Maharaja Agrasen did exist at a time which lives on in mythology, Legends and folklore. It is not easy to fathom the truth standing somewhere in between these divergent poles.

Agrasen appears in mythology as the hero of ‘Mahalakshami Vrat Katha’ which is a part of ‘Bhavishya Purana, and Bhavishyottar Purana. Another ancient work which tells about Agrasen is ‘Uru charitam’. Oral traditions in Agrawal families coming down from hoary past furnish vivacious accounts of the personality and deeds of Agrasen when figures in some dynastic charts of ancient rulers also. All these accounts establish him as an ideal benevolent ruler of a democratic state responded to policies which could be the most cherished dream of even a socialist thinker of our times. At the same time he comes up as a great champion of non-violence.
War with Indra:

Mahalakshmi Vrat Katha is associated with Mahalakshmi Vrat which is observed throughout north India by women of all castes and creeds. It is virtually a prelude to month long autumn festivities culminating in Diwali. Mahalakshmi is a Vrat for the invocation of Lakshmi, the goddess of plenty and prosperity. The Vrat begins on eighth day of bright fortnight in the month of Bhadrapada and continues for sixteen days. During the Vrat, Katha, the story is repeated every day.

Mahalakshmi Vrat Katha tells that Agrasen was the son of a King named Vallabh and Shursen was his brother. Once there occurred a severe famine in the Kingdom of Agrasen due to failure of rains which was caused by Indra, the god of rains, who envied the prosperity of the Kingdom of Agrasen. The famine brought about plight of the people who began to cry in agony. Agrasen then invoked his family goddess Lakshmi and asked her to redeem his people. Lakshmi advised Agrasen to marry the princess of Naga King of Kolpur. Agrasen went to Kolpur where King Mahirath had convened a Swayamvara for his daughter Sunderavati. The princess chose Agrasen as her husband and their marriage was performed with a lot of fanfare. Matrimonial alliance with Naga King increased power of Agrasen and Indra came to make a compromise with him. As a gesture of goodwill Indra presented to Agrasen a nymph called Madhushalini.

New capital:

Sometime later Agrasen went to dense forest along the bank of river Yamuna and engaged himself in penance in order to please Lakshmi who granted him several boons. Thereafter Agrasen founded his new capital city Agroha.

Agroha was a city full of prosperity. It had cavalcades of palatial buildings along the roads and large tanks of fresh water. It had resplendent parks vivacious with animals and birds of various types. An imposing Mahalakshmi temple was constructed at the centre of the city.

Agrasen then performed seventeen yajna in order to proclaim his supremacy on earth. However when he was performing eighteenth yajna, the flesh of horse, the sacrificial animal, spoke out about the futility of such sacrificial killings. Agrasen was moved. He took a vow to abjure Violence and became an apostle of non-violence.

The Patriarch:

The story tells that Agrasen had seventeen and half queens. This number appears to have been adopted from the number of yajna that he performed. As the eighteenth yajna was left over incomplete, he was supposed to have performed seventeen and half yajnas. However, tradition mentions names of his sixteen queens as Mitra, Chitra, Subha, Sheela, Shiva, Shanta, Raja, Chara, Shira, Shachi, Sakhi , Rambha, Bhawani , Sarsa, Sama and madhavi. Curiously enough the name of Sunderavati, the Naga princess of Kolpur does not find a place in this list. Each of the queens gave birth to three sons and one daughter. Sons were Vibhu, Vi-rochan, Vani, Pavak, Anil, Keshav, Vishal, Rakta, Dhanvi, Dhama, Pama, Payonidhi, Kumar, Pawan, MaIi, Mandokan, Kundal, Kush, Vikas, Viran, Vinod, vapun, Va1i, Veer, Har, Rav, Danti, Dadimeedant, Sundar, Kar, Khar, Gur, Shubh, Palash, Anil, Sundar, Dhar, Prakhar, Mallinath, Nand, Kund, Kulumbak, Kanti, Shanti, Kshamashali, Payyamali, Vilasad and two others. It is interesting to note that names like Anil and Sundar appear more than once in the list.

The names of daughters appear as Daya, Shanti, Kala, Kranti, Titiksha, Adhara, Anla, Shikha, Mahi, Rama, Raama, Yamini, Jalada, Shiva, Amrita and Ambika.
The number of sons and daughters is really fabulous. It appears that some of the attributes of King Agrasen have been anthropomorphised in the imagination of his followers and included as the name of his sons and daughters.

The story tells that when Agrasen had completed one hundred and eight years of, his benevolent rule, he was ordained by Mahalakshmi to abdicate which he did in favour of his eldest son Vibhu and went to forest for penance. Vibhu ruled for a hundred years. Thereafter the story tells about the lineage of successive rulers.

Miracles:

As the story contains many miraculous happenings, it creates doubts in the minds of serious historians about the very existence of Agrasen. But one must not forget that the period when this story came into being, attached great importance to miracles and almost aIl characters in our Puranas as well as the two epics have been credited with miracles of various sorts. It was a popular way to glorify a personage. Legends of a number of miraculous happenings have been associated even with Ashoka the great, the Maurya emperor who left deep impress on our history.

The incident of war with Indra, the rain god, has a symbolic inference. It alludes to measures adopted for combating the severe drought and famine conditions. And the compromise with Indra to optimum rains afterward.

Naga Alliances:

As far as matrimonial alliance with Nagas is concerned, there is nothing unusual in it. Several- Kings in the ancient period are known to have made such alliances with Nagas who belonged to Austroloid stock of people and inhabited the country even before the days of Indus Valley civilization, the earliest known civilization in the history of India. These Nagas continued to wield powerful influence over the land right up to the period of imperial Guptas when Chandragupta II Vikramaditya finally subjugated them and they could not regain their eminence thereafter. Many of our Pauranic heroes have been ascribed as having married some or the other Naga princess. Even Chandragupta II Vikramaditya himself had married Kubernaga, daughter of a Naga chief.

Antiquity:

Another point of debate amongst the scholars relates to the period of Agrasen. Dates furnished in the whole gamut of references to Agrasen comprising Pauranic literature. Traditions, folk-lore and bardic poetry etc. reckon the time in terms of ancient Hindu system of measuring time and eons, which has a tradition of dividing the entire period of human existence into four periods known as Satyug, Treta, Dwapar and Kaliyug. The three earlier periods comprised of several lakhs of years passed into the past successive1y and the fourth viz Kaliyug ushered in some five thousand years ago. Figures in ancient Hindu systems of time reckoning are hyperbolic and so sound imaginary to modern scientific mind which has sophisticated fin de sickle tools of dating like radio-carbon content. However, all Pauranic accounts may not be set aside or dismissed only on the plea that the dates and periods they are alluded to do not corroborate with the modern reckoning of time.

So far as Agrasen is concerned, sources vary widely about his period. Some place his rule anterior to Mahabharat war, sometime in the last lap of Treta yug others place him in centuries immediately posterior to Mahabharat war. Most of the sources, however, tell that Agrasen lived and rules some five thousand years ago. Founder of Kingdom whatever accounts we have till date, lead us to a conclusion that Agrasen was a historical figure who was born a few generations after the Mahabharat war. The Great War had brought about the destruction of imperial power in the country and its absence prompted regional chieftains to establish their own independent kingdoms and proclaim supremacy. Agrasen also established his Kingdom in the territory called ‘Agra’ in Mahabharat and other pauranic sources. He was not one of those who inherit a kingdom. Rather he carved it with his own prowess and the help of his brother Shurasen. In doing so, he made departure fron the tradition which allowed the right to rule only to the people belonging to Kshatriya clan. Mahalakshmi vrat Kaatha tel1s that Agrasen belonged to the clan of Vaishyas, who used to be the traders. Thus, Agrasen marks a revolutionary step in the social order rigidly adhered to before his times .
Democratic ruler Agrasen adopted the democratic pattern of government and organised it in a federal form.
The eighteen gotras of Agrawals are allusive of the fact that there were eighteen guilds of people in Agroha, the capital city of Agrasena. Each guild represented the people engaged in a particular line of trade or branch of craft. These guilds confederated themselves under the leadership of Agrasen in order to form a central authority.

Likewise, the large number of wives, sons and daughters of Agrasen has a logical explanation in the maxim that a just ruler treats everyone of his subject as his own son or daughter. Sources tell that Agrasen ruled in consultation with his sons sitting on the throne alongside him. So, it is not difficult to surmise that the sons were in fact his courtiers or members of his assembly whom he treated like his own son.

Foresightedness:

The most notable achievement of Agrasen was, perhaps, the founding of a new capital of Agroha. The place belongs to north-east corner of the Great Indian Desert which has formidable expanse in north Rajasthan. Agroha before Agrasen was an area of sand dunes dotted with thorny bushes and had practically no source of drinking water near about. Nonetheless it was away from the approach of alien invaders who were making repeated incursions over the fertile plains of Punjab. As freedom from invasions was a necessary perquisite for all round progress and development, it was foresightedness of Agrasen that he planted his capital at Agroha. Agrasen laid out his capital in a meticulous way. A number of tanks were constructed for water supply. The entire city was enriched with a massive boundary wall or rampant. Inside, the city, there were four principal roads which divided it into different quarters clustered with palaces and high-rise buildings. It was made into a green city with abundance of parks. The centre of the city had a large and lofty temple of Mahalakshroi, the family goddess of Agrawals. This temple was open for all and worshipping and other rituals as well as recitals from holy scriptures went on there round the clock.

Expanse of Kingdom:

Agroha came to attain the status of an imperial city during the times of Agrasen, having its sway over an enormous expanse of land which included modern Hissar, Hansi, Tosham, Sirsa, Narnaul, Rohtak, Panipat, Delhi-, Jind, Kaithal, Meerut, Saharanpur, Jagadhare, Vidhinagar, Nabh, Amritsar, Alerar and Udaipur etc. Agrasen was, perhaps, the first ruler who introduced the system of Panchayati Raj in his Kingdom. He was also, perhaps, the first to materialise the concept of cooperation. Legends tell about an unique system followed in his kingdom. It is said that if someone belonging to the clan turned up in the capital with a view to settle there, every family residing in the capital used to endow him with a brick and a gold win. There were about one lakh families living in the capital. So, a newcomer used to get one lakh bricks for constructing his own house and a brisk capital- of one lakh coins for launching his venture.
Thus, anyone wishing to settle in the capital had no appreciable difficulty in doing so.

Champion of Equality:

Agrasen was the first ruler who showed the practical way of applying the principle of equality. He married all his sons with the daughters of Naga chieftains and introduced a system of collective celebration of marriages that saved a tot of avoidable expenses. It is really a matter of rouch satisfaction that the system of organising collective marriages is again fast picking up in Agrawal community providing welcome relief to parents of marriageable daughters from the onslaughts of dowry system, and heavy expenditure in a series of rituals and functions connected with marriage. Agrasen was, indeed, a towering figure of his time and a great man of Indian history who unified the scattered nationalist powers.

The Great Unifier:

He worked all his life with a spirit of absolute dedication for the unity and prosperity of our nation and made a matchless contribution in the fields of peace and non-violence. Besides being the progenitor of the clans of all Agrawals, he was the godfather of many practices aimed at welfare of the people. It was he who established the philosophy of action on a high pedestal. His character is a fountain head of inspiration for humanly virtues and even those who do not believe in his historical existence draw inspiration from his noble characterisation.

Ideals of adherence honourable There can of Agrasen begin and Agrasen still serve as a beacon light for the Agrawals and their to those ideals is the secret of their progress, prosperity and status in the society.
There can be no doubt that if our modern rulers try to follow the ideal in the earnest, a new era of plenty, peace and prosperity would entire mankind would reap its benefits.

Compiled by : Dr . V. Agrawal , Alok Agrawal & T.L. Gupta from The Indian Express