With sincerely and relentless efforts by Sh. Vijayinder Singla (Hon'ble Cabinet Minister Punjab Govt.) Hon'ble Chief Minister of Punjab Captain Amrinder Singh has established Maharaja Agrasen Chair at Punjabi University, Patiala in Dec. 2017.
Maharaja Agrasen was a legendary king of the state of Agroha (presently near Hissar in Haryana region) in ancient India. He was the eldest son of King Vallabh of Pratapnagar. The kingdom of Maharaja Agrasen comprised of Fatehpur, Sikar, Jhunjhunu, Nawalgarh, a portion of Rajasthan in west; Mahendragarh in the south; Punjab in the north and the territory upto Agra in the east. Maharaja Agrasen established his capital at Agroha Nagri which is now ruined. He was a benevolent king and his main aim was to make his state prosperous. He was a sound administrator and based his principles of kingship on equality, nationalism, socialism and non-violence. He is said to have passed an order that any person coming to Agroha to settle down permanently would be given one rupee and one brick by each resident of Agroha. With this each person could build a house as well as set up his own business.
The present-day Aggarwal community including its 18 gotres claim descent from him. Though many different etymologies of the name 'Aggarwal' exist, yet the most popular one is the legend which traces its origin to Maharaja Agrasen. The Aggarwals are regarded as one of the most respectable and enterprising of the mercantile classes in the Punjab who have excelled in business, trade and industry. Until two or three decades before independence majority of them lived in the villages of undivided Punjab and performed functions of the 'most cardinal importance in the village economy' in the form of small shopkeepers and moneylenders with a reputation of having reasonable and honest dealings. They carried on flourishing business and exercised complete economic domination over the majority of other communities. Although vast majority of them restrict themselves to the mandis and business centres in cities and towns of Punjab and some nearby states like Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi, quite a few migrated to far-of places and are today found in varying numbers in almost every state of India especially Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Assam, West Bengal and Karnataka. An important observation concerning the community is that a Baniya Aggarwal businessman can be depended upon to stand by the transactions struck with him even orally; inspite of any adverse price fluctuations.
The Aggarwals have played an important role in different phases of history in varied ways. They have emerged as an important trading and mercantile community in the pre-modern and modern periods and contributed to the economic development of India. Not only this, they also participated in the freedom struggle of India, and here special mention may be made of Lala Lajpat Rai.
The standard of formal education is very high among the Aggarwals. Consequently, their literacy rate is quite high and there a number of engineers, doctors, administrators, scientists, top-rank Government officials and professionals among them today. Following the principles laid down by Maharaja Agrasen for the upliftment of society, his present day descendants have made a mark in this field and here special mention may be made of Laxmi Mittal (Chairman and CEO, Arcelor Mittal), Om Prakash Jindal (Founder, Jindal group of industries), Anil Agrawal (Chairman, Vedanta Resources).
Preferring not to sink too much of their capital in land, the Aggarwals have generally preferred to enter other profitable commercial/ industrial avenues which opened initially under British rule, and then after independence. Thus, their role in the development of industrial and commercial economy of Northern India with special reference to Punjab demands a detailed research. Further, it is imperative to objectively establish the historicity of the many legends which revolve around Maharaja Agrasen by sifting fact from fiction. He was a visionary king with administrative acumen and showed a keen interest in the economic well being of his subjects. The Government of India issued a postage stamp in honour of Maharaja Agrasen in 1976. The vessel Maharaja Agrasen is a Crude Oil Tanker that was built in 1995 and currently sailing under the flag of India. There is 'Agrasen ki Baoli' in Delhi which is said to have been constructed in the fourteenth century by the Aggarwal community, the original structure of which was said to have been built by Maharaja Agrasen himself. Maharaja Agrasen has emerged as the cultural hero, the symbol of Aggarwal identity and his anniversary is celebrated by this community with enthusiasm and gaiety. The contribution of the multi-faceted personality of Maharaja Agrasen demands a detailed academic research.
The establishment of the Maharaja Agrasen Chair in Punjabi University Patiala is a befitting tribute to the progenitor of the trading/commercial classes.