Allahabad - The Destination
Allahabad, the sacred city
of Hinduism was formerly called Prayag
in memory of a sacrifice done by Lord Brahma.
It is best known as host to the mind-boggling
number of Kumbh pilgrims who visit this endearing
city every 12 years. According to Hindu mythology
for the Prakrishta Yagna Lord Brahma chose a
piece of land on the earth on the confluence
of the three rivers - the Ganga, the Yamuna,
and the mythical Sarswati. The land being surrounded
by these 3 rivers would serve as the prime and
central altar and came to be known as Prayag,
today known as Allahabad.
The most sacred spot
in Allahabad is
, the confluence of three of
the holiest rivers where devout Hindus from
all over India come to the sacred pilgrimage
point to offer prayers and take a dip in the
holy waters. It is believed that a holy dip
taken at the Sangam washes away all sins.
Allahabad is among the largest cities in Uttar
Pradesh. Emperor Akbar founded this city in
1575 and called it by the name of `Illahabas
which has now become modern Allahabad. The monarch
realized its strategic importance as a waterway
landmark in North India and also built a magnificent
fort on the banks of the holy Sangam.
Over the centuries that followed, Allahabad
remained on the forefront of national importance
- more so, during the days of the Indian independence
struggle. The vibrant history of Allahabad
with its religious, cultural and historical
ethos also gave rise to several renowned scholars,
poets, writers, thinkers, statesmen and leaders.
Two million pilgrims meet here
for the Mahakumbh Mela
- the world’s
largest religious event and by far the most magnificent.
A makeshift township springs up, with sadhus, bards,
magicians, pilgrims, snake charmers, astrologers…
all jostling for space on the sandy banks. There are
processions of naked ascetics with knotted dreadlocks
and ash-smeared bodies, flourishing tridents and spears.
Hordes of devotees surge into the river for a holy-dip.
To bathe at the Kumbh means assurance of salvation.
The evening hour is magical. Thousands of glowing
diyas (earthen oil-lamps) are floated upon the water
in offering to the river goddess. The air is filled
with the chanting of prayers and the sound of temple
bells. It is hard not be affected by the religious
greatness of the moment.
At times, the Mahakumbh seems to distort the distinction
between pilgrimage and tourism. It features plush
Maharaja tents equipped with cell-phones, laptops
and hot water. Ayurvedic massages, turmeric baths,
sitar and conch-blowing lessons will be thrown in
for good measure! One can hope to bump into Indophile
The story of the Kumbh is interesting. It is said
that the gods and the demons joined hands to churn
the ocean to procure amrit
, the nectar of
immortality. When the ocean yielded its treasure,
Vishnu the Preserver, first served the gods, and then,
instead of giving the demons their share, made off
with the kumbh
(pitcher). His duty as Preserver
of the Universe, got the better of his sense of fair
play, for surely it would have been unwise to make
the demons indestructible! In the chase that followed,
four drops of the elixir spilt on earth - at Allahabad,
Haridwar, Nasik and Ujjain. The festival moves every
3 years, returning to Allahabad, the holiest of the
sites, for the Mahakumbh
(Great Kumbh) every
at a Glance
||63.07 sq km
||26.6 C –
41.1 C (Summer)
9.1 C – 29 C (Winter)
History of Allahabad
Built on a very ancient site, Allahabad was
known as Prayag in Aryan times. Legends have
it that Lord Brahma, the creator of the Universe,
performed a sacrifice here. The Chinese pilgrim
Hiuen Tsang described visiting the city in 634
AD, and it acquired its present name in 1584,
under the rule of Emperor Akbar.
Emperor Akbar founded this city in 1575 and
called it by name of Illahabas, which today
stands as modern Allahabad. The monarch realized
its strategic importance as a waterway landmark
in North India and built a magnificent fort
on the banks of the holy Sangam also well known
as the Triveni Sangam. Later Allahabad
was conquered by the Marathas, sacked by the
Pathans and finally ceded to the British in
1801 by the Nawab of Avadh.
It was in Allahabad that the East India Company
officially handed over the control of India
to the British government in 1858, following
the Mutiny. It houses some beautiful remnants
of their colonial architecture. Over the centuries
that followed, Allahabad remained on the forefront
of national importance - more so, during the
days of the India’s struggle for independence.
The history of Allahabad with its religious,
cultural and historical ethos also gave rise
to several renowned scholars, poets, writers,
thinkers, statesmen and leaders.
In the early 20th century, Allahabad University
was the foremost center of learning in the country.
Today, it is an important city where history,
culture and religion create a confluence, much
like the sacred rivers that caress this God-graced
land. The city was also a centre of the Indian
National Congress and at the conference here
in 1920, Mahatma Gandhi proposed his programme
of nonviolent resistance to achieve independance.