The ancient city of Allahabad lies at the confluence of the Ganga (Ganges) and the Yamuna, two sacred rivers that have been cradles of the Indian civilisation. The city is mentioned in the oldest Indian literature such as the Vedas, Ramayana, Mahabharata and the Puranas. According to Hindu mythology Lord Brahma, the creator chose a place where three of the holiest rivers on earth could meet in harmony. The city is also referred to as `Tirth Raj' or the `king of pilgrimage centres'.
The Aryans had settled here and the city was then known as Prayag. It later became the capital of the Gupta Empire and was subsequently ruled by the Mughals, at which time it was renamed as Allahabad by Emperor Akbar. It was also part of the Maratha kingdom. The British acquired it from the Nawab of Avadh in 1801 and converted it to an administrative district. During the first struggle for Independence in 1857 the Cantonment was destroyed and was rebuilt later. The city became a focal point for the independence movement and has been very important politically. Allahabad has provided India with four Prime Ministers - Jawaharlal Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Indira Gandhi and V.P. Singh.
More on Uttar Pradesh
Agra: City of Taj Mahal
Varanasi: Eternal City
What to see:
The Sangam (or confluence):
This is the most sacred spot in Allahabad at the confluence of three rivers, Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati. Devout Hindus from all over come to this 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.
The largest congregation of humans in the world assembles here every year during Magh Mela. The Ardh Kumbh is celebrated here every six years.
The Maha Kumbh is celebrated every 12 years and an estimated 45 million people converge to bathe in the sacred waters of the Ganges as part of a purification ritual. The first Maha Kumbha Mela of the new Millenium is in January of 2001. This will be the largest gathering of humanity on Earth. Here you will see a vast array of religious ascetics - sadhus and mahants - who will come down from their abodes in forests, mountains and caves
The Ashoka Pillar is of polished sandstone and has inscriptions put there by Emperor Ashoka in 232 BC. Other inscriptions from the 4th century AD refer to the victories of Samundra Gupta. Apart from several edicts there is a Persian inscription commemorating Emperor Jehangirs accession to the throne.
The Saraswati Kup is believed to be the source of the mythical Saraswati River, the river of Enlightenment
Patalpuri temple is extremely ancient and legend has it that Lord Rama visited it during his travels. The famous Chinese traveller and writer Hiuen Tsang also visited it. Within this underground temple lies the Akshaya Vat - or the immortal tree. This Banyan tree finds mention in many ancient manuscripts. The tree stands in a deep niche above an underground shaft, which is believed to lead to the Sangam.
Other sites in Allahabad include:
Hanuman Mandir: This particular temple has an idol of Lord Hanumana in a reclining posture. It is situated close to the Sangam and is considered unusual because of the supine image. When the Ganga is in spate, the temple often gets submerged.
Shankar Viman Mandapam: The 130 feet high structure has idols of Kumaril Bhatt, Jagatguru Shankaracharya, Kamakshi Devi and a Yogsahastra Sahastrayoga Linga.
Mankameshwar Temple: This Shiva temple is situated at Saraswati Ghat on the banks of the Yamuna.
Swaraj Bhawan: Formerly Anand Bhawan, the building was donated to the nation in 1930 by Moti Lal Nehru, for use as the headquarters of the Congress Committee. Indira Gandhi, late Prime Minister of India was born here.
Anand Bhawan: This is the ancestral home of the Nehru family and is now a museum. It had become a focal point for the Indian National Congress during the freedom struggle.
Allahabad University: The University was, in the early 20th century, regarded as the highest citadel of learning in the country. It has a large campus and many fine buildings representative of colonial architecture.
Allababad Museum: This museum has a large collection of sculptures from the Gupta era on display.
Muir College: Dating back to 1874 this imposing campus has its architecture in a mix of Gothic and Indian traditions. The quadrangle is designed with a 200 feet minaret in the centre.
Chandra Shekar Azad Park: Next to the museum, this splendid park was earlier known as Alfred Park. It is locally referred to as Company Bagh (from the East India Company). The park has some colonial style buildings and a public library. The library was shifted to the present premises in 1879. It has a collection of 75,000 books, and many valuable manuscripts and journals.
All Saints Cathedral: This is architecturally one of the finest cathedrals in India. It was designed by Sir William Emerson in 1870 and is built in white stone with a marble altar with intricate inlay and mosaic work.
Khusro Bagh: Khusro, the son of emperor Jehangir and Shah Begam is buried here The garden has three mausoleums including that of Jehangir's first wife-Shah Begum.
Kaushambi: 48 kms away on the Yamuna river one can visit the ruins of this ancient capital of the Vatsa kingdom and a once important Buddhist centre. The Buddha is believed to have given sermons here on two occasions. The ruins of an ancient fort and a monastery bear witness to the antiquity of the place.
Jhusi or Pratihisthanpuri: On the banks of the Ganges this is the ancient city of Pratisthanpur, capital of the King Purarava of the Chandravanshi (lunar) dynasty. People come in search for spiritual peace and there are many small ashrams and temples located here.
Kara: About 60 km away is the old fort of Jayachand. Situated on the banks of the Ganges this was once a provincial capital of the Mughals. The Sheetla Mata Mandir and Kaleshwar Mahadevji temple are visited by many.
Bhita: This archaeological site is located 20 km away and the excavations date back to 300 BC. Tons River Aqueduct (43 km) is a picturesque picnic spot, ideal for a daytime excursion, as is Upardaha Lake (44 km).
How to get there:
Air: The nearest airport Varanasi (135 kms) has flights to Agra, Bhubaneshwar, Bombay, Delhi, Khajuraho and Lucknow.
Information: Courtesy Government of India
Editor: Romola Butalia   (c) India Travelogue. All rights reserved.