During one of my recent visit to the Northern India, (Faridabad to be precise), I saw a temple which was called “Maharaja Agrasen ka Mandir”, the temple of Maharaja Agrasen. Curiosity got the better of me and I decided to visit the temple. It wasn’t a very typical temple and there weren’t too many people, besides the fact the temple was closed at that time. I saw some people and enquired about Maharaja Agrasen and also asked some people from the nearby area. From the bits and pieces and a few fragments here and there, this is what I got to know about this ‘god’ who has a temple to himself.
Maharaja Agrasen was a Suryavanshi King (of the solar lineage), who ruled during the Dwapar Yuga, which according to the current times would be approximately more than 5000 years ago. He was the first born of King Ballabha of Pratapnagar. He was supposed to have been married to Princess Madhavi who was a Nagvanshi (the Naaga clan), which brought two very powerful clans of the times together. Madhavi had selected Agrasen in a swayamvar.
Here, there is a myth associated with this aspect of Agarsen. It is said that in the swayamvar, Lord Indra too was present and was infatuated by Madhavi’s beauty. But Madhavi’s selection of Agrasen, angered Indra and he was so jealous about it that he decided to not to send any rains to Pratapnagar which soon had a famine like situation. King Agrasen then waged a war against Lord Indra and since he was on the right side of Dharma, Indra and his mighty forces were soon vanquished. Indra then sought the help of Narada to mediate and settle the matter amicably. This proclaimed Agrasen as a righteous and a religious ruler who would wage a war against even gods for the welfare of his subjects.
After this, Agrasen decided to propitiate Lord Shiva who was soon pleased by his penance. Lord Shiva then advised him to propitiate Mahalakshmi, who too was pleased with the penance. She appeared and blessed Agrasen and suggested that he give up the role of a King and change his caste to Vaishya, the business community and found a new kingdom and she would bless all his people. King Agrasen, then gave up his Kshatriya-hood and became a Vaishya.
Agrasen was a very compassionate person and the happiness of his subjects was his prime concern. He conducted many yagna’s for the well-being of his people and once during the well-known 18 maha-yagna’s, during an Ashwamedha Yagna, he saw a horse being pulled to the sacrificial altar and the horse resisting it. He felt very sad seeing the pathetic plight of the animal and decreed that there would be no more animal sacrifices. He became a champion of Ahmisa and was of the opinion that prosperity could not be brought at the cost of death of animals.
He later divided his kingdom amongst his 18 children, and named the 18 gotra’s after the gurus of each of his sons. Some of these are Mittal, Bansal, Goyal, Jindal, Tayal, Bindal, amongst others.
Finally the most important aspect of this legendary king, is that the present day Agarwal community trace their origins from Agrasen. N modern day Delhi, one can see Agrasen ki Baoli, which is supposed to have been built during the Mahabharat epic times and later rebuilt by the Agrawal community in memory of their ancestor, Maharaja Agrasen.
This is a classic case of deification of a human being. Here is a person who has a historic reference and modern day people can trace their lineage to him. To lend credence to his importance in the process of deification, there is the classic reference to Lord Indra, which gives him an edge in being worshipped as a god. It is also quite logical to involve Lord Indra, who is a much maligned Puranic deity, but to be on the right side of the dharmic-diplomacy, is also a worshipper of Lord Shiva and Goddess Lakshmi. Also change of the caste is shown as God’s desire; otherwise changing of caste is a relatively unknown phenomenon in any of the texts.
All in all an interesting piece of mythology – just goes on to prove the theory that every mythical hero probably was a part of history, once the finery of fantasy is removed from the bare facts of the reality of times.