Agrawals (Hindi अग्रवाल or अगरवाल) are a community in India. Traditionally, the Agrawals have been a trading community, though in modern times, the Agrawals follow other professions as well. According to the legend, the Agrawal community became Vaishya due to their occupation.
The Agrawals claim descent from the semi-legendary king Agrasena of Agroha. Various legends about Agroha and Agrasena are found among the Agrawals. Noted Indian 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 leader, born during the last stages of Dwapar Yuga. He was the eldest son of the King Ballabh of Pratapnagar. Agrasena fathered 18 children, from which the Agrawal gotras came into being. According to a legend, the Hindu goddess Mahalakshmi urged Agrasena to give up the Kshatriya tradition, and 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 and wealth. Agrasena traveled all over India with his queen to select a place for a new kingdom, and finally established a kingdom at Agroha. According to Vachanakosha of Bulakhichand (1680AD), Agar Rishi married a naga-kanya (nagavanshi girl) and had 18 children. A similar account is given in 1885 Bombay Presidency Gazetteer, Rishi Agrasen married 17 naga-kanyas.
Agrasena divided his kingdom among his 18 children, resulting in eighteen Agrawal gotras. Often, the number of gotras is stated to be seventeen and a half. The half-gotra is attributed to the illegitimate offspring. Another version suggests that Agrasena proceeded to conduct 18 mahayajnas ("Great yajnas"). When he was in the process of performing his eighteenth yajna, he was filled with compassion for the animal to be sacrificed. 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. According to the legend, Agroha was a prosperous city and a hundred thousand traders lived in the city during its heydays. An insolvent community man as well as an immigrant wishing to settle in the city would be given a rupee and a brick by each inhabitant 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. 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.
In Pradumna Charita of samvat 1411, the Agrawal poet Sadharu writes "अगरवाल की मेरी जात, पुर आगरोए महि उतपात" ("My jāti is Agarwal, and I trace my roots the city of Agroha). In a Sanskrit inscription, the Agrawals are referred to as Agrotaka ("from Agroha"): "सं १३२९ चैत्र वुदी दशम्यां बुधवासरे अद्येह योगिनिपुरे समस्त राजावलि-समलन्कृत ग्यासदीन राज्ये अत्रस्थित अग्रोतक परम श्रावक जिनचरणकमल".
The Agrawals are said to have initially migrated from Agroha to Delhi and Hisar. Later many of them migrated to the domains of Hindu kings at Gwalior and Rajasthan. They emerged as a notable trader community in medieval India.
The Agrawal merchant Nattal Sahu, and the Agrawal poet Vibudh Shridhar lived during the rule of Tomara Anangapal of Yoginipur (now Mahrauli, near Delhi). Vibudh Shridhar wrote Pasanahacariu in 1132 AD, which includes a historical account of Yoginipur (early Delhi near Mehrauli) then.
In 1354, Firuz Shah Tughluq started the construction of a new city near Agroha, called Hisar-e-Feroza ("the fort of Firuz"). Most of the raw material for building the town was brought from Agroha. The town later came to be called Hisar. Hisar became a major center of the Agrawal community. Some Agrawals are also said to have moved to a the Kotla Firoz Shah fort in Delhi, built by Firuz Shah Tughlaq.
Migration to Other Places
In the early 15th century, Agrawals flourished as a trader community, under the Tomaras of Gwalior. According to a Sanskrit inscription at Gopachal in Gwalior District, an trader belonging to Agrotavansha (Agrawal clan) supported the sculptures and carving of idols at the place. Later, during the Mughal rule, and during the British East India Company administration, some Agrawals migrated to Bihar and Calcutta, who became the major component of the Marwaris.
The Agarwal population was 2,718,390, according to the 1911 census of India. In 1936, Chowdhary Chhotu Ram, a minister in the Punjab Government made a law which cancelled all the debts of the villagers. Many Agrawal traders were ruined and migrated to Delhi in search of a living. They settled in colonies like Kamla Nagar, Shakti Nagar and Model Basti. Their trade took place around the walled city areas of Chandni Chowk, Khari Baoli, Dariba Kalan, Nai Sarak, Naya Bazaar, Sadar Bazaar and Chowri Bazaar.
During modern times, many Agrawals were involved in the Indian Independence struggle like Lala Lajpat Rai. They also established major business houses like Dalmia-Sahu Jain, Bajaj, Singhania, Goenkas of RPG group, Delhi Cloth Mills of Lala Sri Ram etc. Bharatendu Harishchandra, a major literary figure, was also an Agrawal.
Many of the notable modern Indian businesspeople belong to the Agrawal community. For example, Lakshmi Mittal of Arcelor Mittal steel, Subhash Chandra Goel of Zee TV, Sunil Mittal of Bharti Telecom, Naresh Goyal of Jet Airways and Sajjan Jindal (Jindal Iron & Steel Company Ltd), Anil Aggarwal (Vedanta/Sterilite), Kishore Biyani(Big Bazaar/Pantaloons) etc. are Agarwals.
The Agarwal community is divided into eighteen gotras, which are exogamous in nature. Sometimes, the number of gotras is stated as seventeen and a half (see the legend section). The eighteen Agrawal gotras are: Gotra ↓ Original Gotra ↓ Lord ↓ Saint (Guru) ↓ Veda ↓ Branch ↓ Sutra ↓ Airan/Aeron Aurva Indramal Atri/Aaurva Yajurveda Madhyadini/Madhuri Kaatyayni Bansal Vatsya Virbhan Vishist/Vatsa Samaveda Kouthmi/Kauttham Gobhil Bindal/Vindal Vishist Vrinddev Yavasya/Vashista Yajurveda Madhuri Kaatyayni Bhandal Dhoumya Vasudev Bhardwaj Yajurveda Madhyadini/Madhuri Kaatyayni Dharan/Deran Dhanyas Dhavandev Bhekaar/Ghaumya Yajurveda Madhuri Kaatyayni Garg/Gargeya Gargasya Pushpadev Gargacharya or Garg Yajurveda Madhuri Kaatyayni Goyal/Goel Gomil Gendumal Gautam/Gobhil Yajurveda Madhuri Kaatyayni Goyan/Goin/Goyanor/Gangal Gautan Godhar Purohit/Gautam Yajurveda Madhyadini/Madhuri Kaatyayni Jindal Gemino Jaitrasangh Bruhaspati/Jaimini Yajurveda Madhyadini/Madhuri Kaatyayni Kansal Kaushik Manipal Kaushik Yajurveda Madhyadini/Madhuri Kaatyayni Kuchhal/Kachal/Kuchchal Kashyap Karanchand Kush/Kashyap Samaveda Kosami/Kauttham Komaal Madhukul/Mudgal Mudgal Madhavsen Aashvalayan/Mudgal Rigveda/Yajurveda Saalaya/Sakalya Aslayin Mangal Maandav Amritsen Mudragal/Mandavya Rigveda/Yajurveda Sakalya Asusai Mittal Maitreya Mantrapati Vishwamitra/Maitreya Yajurveda Madhyadini/Madhuri Kaatyayni Naagil/Nangal/Nagal Naagend Narsev Kaudalya/Nagendra Samaveda Kouthmi/Kauttham Aslayin Singhal/Singla Shandalya Sindhupati Shringi/Shandilya Samaveda Koyumi/Kauttham Gobhil Tayal Taitireya Tarachand Saakal/Taitireya Yajurveda/Kri Madhyadini/Aausthambh Kaatyayni Tingal/Tunghal Taandav Tambolkarna Shandilya/Tandya Yajurveda Madhyadini/Madhuri Kaatyayni
Many Agrawals have adopted their gotra name as their surname. Many others use surnames linked with the place of their origin. Eg: Jhunjhunwala, Kediya, Gindodiya etc.
According to the legend, the Agrawal community developed twenty rules of conduct. Those who followed all the twenty rules were called Bisa Agrawal, those who followed only ten rules were called Dassa Aggarwals, those who followed only five were called Punja Agarwals and so on.According to some sources, the daisa Agrawals are said to be the descendants of Agrawals through their concubines. In earlier days, the Agrawals were an endogamous community (although the gotras were exogamous), but the tradition permitted them to keep a dasi (concubine).
In his book Agarwalon ki Utpatti, Bhartendu Harishchandra categorized Agrawals in four branches according to their places or inhablitation: 1. Marwaris 2. Deswal 3. Purabiye (Easterners) 4. Pachihiye (Westerners)
The Agrawal community generally speaks Hindi or its dialects. Many Agrawals have been notable Hindi authors. Some of the popular Hindi newspapers and publishing houses are run by Agrawals. These include The Times of India, Indian Express, Dainik Bhaskar etc. Older generations of Agrawals living in Haryana, Delhi and western UP often speak Hindi with a Haryana accent. Agrawals from Rajasthan traditionally speak Rajasthani or Marwari, those in Punjab, speak Punjabi.
Agrawals have traditionally been strictly vegetarian and non-alcoholic, though some have changed in the modern times.