Introduction / History
The Agris are an ethnic community native to Mumbai. They had migrated to Mumbai during the 13th century during the reign of Raja Bhimdev. The name Agri (pronounced "agari") comes from Agar, a salt-pan. The original name seems to be Agle. The tradition common among them is that they originally dwelt at Mungi Paithan and were transported to the Konkan by Bimbaraja and it is alleged that there are in existence sanads given by him to certain persons of the caste.
Where Are they Located?
A legend states that two sons, Agla and Mangla, were born to the sage Agasti. The former become the ancestor of the Agris, the latter of the Mangelas (fishermen). The first was told to support himself by the manufacture of salt from the sea, the latter by fishing. The god Parashuram, intending to throw back the sea, was prevented by the intervention of the Agri and Mangela women. At their request he consented to throw it back only 27 miles and the strip thus formed become the Konkan.
There is another legend to the effect that they are the musicians of Ravan, the demon-king of South India, who in reward for good services settled them in the Konkan. Agris claim to be Kahatriyas of Khatris. The late or Aryan element which they claim and which appears in some of their surnames, according to their story, was introduced into the Konkan from Paithan in the Deccan, when the Deccan was conquered by the Muslims at the close of the thirteenth century.
The famous Chirner Andolan made by Agris in 1930 served as force to invoking "Kul Kaida" by the government. It means that the one who cultivates the land will be the real owner of the land and the system of Jamindari was abolished. It benefited every Kul of Maharashtra. On the other hand, it states that Kunbi are subdivision of the Agri and subgroup of the Koli.
At present they are distributed in Rajasthan, Delhi, Dadra and Nagar Haveli (Amli, Agriwad, Vaghchhipa), Gujarat (Karajgam, Barai, Goima) and Maharashtra. The Agri of Maharashtra are also known as Agle and Kharpatil. They are distributed in the Raigad and Thane Districts and in the suburban area of Bombay city. The population of Agri in Bombay Province, according to the 1931 census, was 265,285. They speak the Indo-Aryan language Marathi at home as well as outside and use the Devanagri script.
What Are Their Lives Like?
Three major districts of Maharashtra, namely Thane, Raigad and Mumbai, are shelters of Agri Samaj. Salt making, fishery at the sea coast and farming of rice are the major occupations of this community. Rice bread, steamed rice with meat and fish is their daily diet. Not just men but women also help in earning the daily bread. Women take care of their house as well as manage the professional transactions. This is the major reason why there is no dowry systems experience in this community.
They celebrate Ganesh Utsav, Navratri, Hanuman Jayanti and Ram Navmi and fairs with lots of fun and devotion. This community is gifted with lovely and traditional customs along with their adventurous and prosperous occupation of fishing.
These people celebrate marriage with lots of fun and enjoyment. The Haldi ceremony is held before the day of marriage. On this day men and women gather and dance freely with all means of freedom. All young and elder women are provided freedom to dance and they are nowhere bounded with any specific fencing. This shows what a free atmosphere the men and women experience here.
A major change or turning point in an individual's life is the time he marries someone. No role of dowry system is observed strictly in this community. Giving of dowry as well as acceptance of dowry both are considered to be taboo. If we go through India's history we find many cases of dominating and suppressing women for dowry. But women in this community are pretty safe.
Now-a-days, Agri people are more business oriented. People have extensive real estate property which was earlier used for farming. They are fond of Gold and Agri women wear heavy gold ornaments.
* Scripture Prayers for the Agri in India.