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Weekly Pullouts » Himachal Tribune

Posted at: Oct 6, 2018, 12:30 AM; last updated: Oct 6, 2018, 12:30 AM (IST)VIGNETTES: MAHARAJA’S JAYANTI FALLS ON OCTOBER 10

Agrasen — Vaishya King of Solar dynasty

Bhartendu Harishchandra says that Agrasen was a Suryavanshi Kshatriya king born to King Ballabh of Pratapnagar during the last stages of Dwapar Yuga. He adopted Vanika Dharma and is known as an icon of messenger of peace, an embodiment of sacrifice
Agrasen — Vaishya King of Solar dynasty
Idol of Maharaja Agrasen at Nahan; and (right) Agrasen ki Baoli in Delhi.

Shriniwas Joshi

Many people confuse Maharaja Agrasen for Raja Ugrasen. Ugrasen was Lord Krishna’s maternal grandfather and Kamsa’s father while Agrasen was the legendary king of Agroha. Agrawal and some other Vaishya communities claim descent from him. 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’. His Jayanti falls on October 10 this year. Bhartendu Harischandra was a noted Agrawal author and a poet who had written in 1871 a book ‘Agarwalon ki Utpati’. In this book, he has categorised Agrawals in four branches according to their places of inhabitation: Marwaris, Deswal, Purabiye (Easterners) and Pachhive (Westerners).

Recently I was at Nahan where, at Gunnu Ghat, I saw an idol of Maharaja Agrasen in all his splendour. It was unveiled by Dr Rajeev Bindal in the year 2009 when he was the Health Minister of Himachal Pradesh. Finely sculpted by Anudeep Gupta of Kala Amb, Sirmaur, it carries the majestic aura of the Maharaja. The Vaishya Sabha of Nahan, whose present president is Prakash Jain, got it constructed and maintained it. The state government has given a grant of Rs 4 lakh while an equal amount in donation was received from the public for its sculpting, landscaping and maintaining the site. The Sabha also manages a Hindu Dharamshala here and is getting constructed a four-storey building for ‘dharmarth’ purpose near Mahima Library, a central place at Nahan. 

The statue stimulated me to know more about Maharaja Agrasen. Bhartendu Harishchandra says that Agrasen was a Suryavanshi Kshatriya king born to King Ballabh of Pratapnagar during the last stages of Dwapar Yuga.  He adopted Vanika Dharma and is known as an icon of messenger of peace, an embodiment of sacrifice, compassion, peace, prosperity, socialism and, of course, non-violence. He was married to the daughter of the king Nagraj Kumud, Madhavi, for whom Lord Indra had also fallen. She chose Agrasen as her husband. Indra, as the Lord of thunderstorm and rain, could not bear her loss and created drought at Pratapnagar. The famine in Agrasen’s kingdom forced him to go to war against Indra but Narad came in between and mediated peace.

Agrasen then travelled all over India with her queen to select a place for his new kingdom and they found a place suitable where cubs of tigers and wolves were playing together. The place was Agroha situated near present-day Hisar in Haryana. Agrasen announced the policy of one brick and one coin. Whosoever came to his kingdom was welcomed by each of the residents with one brick and one coin -bricks to make a house and coins to set up a business. Agroha became prosperous and flourishing under him. Agrasen divided his kingdom among his 18 children resulting in seventeen and a half Agrawal gotra. Why seventeen and a half? Because while he was performing the 18th ‘yajna’, he saw a horse running here and there to save his life from the Kshatriya warriors. It was to be killed to perform a ritual in the ‘yajna’. He stopped it and announced that, in future, no animal would be sacrificed for ‘yajna’. He got half boon for the 18th ‘yajna’ and so seventeen and a half gotra. Having distributed his kingdom among the children, he left for Vanprastha. The city of Agroha gradually lost its lustre and was ultimately destroyed in a fire. The residents of Agroha ie., Agrawals moved out of Agroha and spread in other parts of India divided into seventeen and a half gotras: Garg, Goyal, Bindal, Bhandal, Dharan, Airan, Bansal, Goyan (half Gotra), Jindal, Singhal, Kansal, Kuchhal, Madhukul, Mangal, Nangal, Tayal and Tingle.

Todarmal who introduced an assessment of land and Madhushah who introduced Madhushahi ‘pice’ are great Agrawals of Emperor Akbar’s times. There are several big shots among the Agrawals in India and Himachal Pradesh, Dr Rajeev Bindal, present Speaker of the Vidhan Sabha, Ajay Mittal, former Secretary to the Government of India, Somesh Goyal, present Director General of Police, BK Agarwal, the new Chief Secretary to the Government of Himachal Pradesh and Paras Agrawal, topper of HPAS-2018. These are a few of many names that are striking my mind at present.

Besides the idol of Agrasen at Gunnu Ghat, another nearest monument associated with Agrasen is ‘Agrasen ki Bawli’ about a kilometre and a half from Jantar Mantar, near Hailey Road, in New Delhi, which has four levels and 108 steps leading to where there was water once. The protected monument has come to limelight when Aamir Khan in “PK” and Salman Khan in “Sultan” picturised it.

Today, an Agrawal is seen as a member of a trading community although he is found in almost all professions but he is, basically, considered a member of the most respectable and enterprising mercantile tribes. The Government of India issued a postage stamp in honour of Maharaja Agrasen in 1976.

Tailpiece

“Instead of eating away a nightingale, I wish to hear it singing.” — Maharaja Agrasen

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