Prayagraj / Allahabad
The city’s original name Prayag (place of offering) transpired from the term, ‘Sangam’ – the confluence of the three holy rivers: Ganges, Yamuna, and the mythical Saraswati. Allahabad was the name later during the Mughal era which was recently reverted to the original name ‘Prayagraj’. It happens to be the second most ancient city in India and plays a central role in the Hindu mythology.
The city ostentatiously celebrates the world’s largest religious gathering known as Kumbh Mela held at every 12 years (Purna Kumbh Mela) and 144 years (Maha Kumbh Mela)
According to Hindu Mythology it is believed that lord Vishnu dropped drops of amrit (the nectar of immortality) at four places, while transporting it in a kumbha (pot). These four places, including Prayag, are identified as the present-day sites of the Kumbh Mela.
‘Vedas’ have portrayed it as the place where Lord Brahma (the Hindu God – creator of the universe) attended a ritualistic sacrifice.
The Great Mughal Emperor, Akbar in order To commemorate Din-i-Ilahi (“Religion of God,”- a syncretic religion propounded by Akbar himself in 1582 AD) changed the name of Prayag to Allahabad (vernacular pronounced as ‘Ilahabaad’). Later Allahabad was the provincial capital in the Moghul Empire under the reign of Emperor Jahangir.
In 1858 Allahabad became the capital of the North-Western Provinces and then the capital of the United Provinces from 1902 to 1920. It was in 1858 when Earl Canning read out Queen Victoria’s proclamation of transferring the control of India from the East India Company to the British Crown at the Minto Park. Thus it marks the most important landmark in the British History, where the days of company ended in India and the days of Raj began.
Later the city was became a center of national importance during the struggle for Indian independence. Not only because many freedom fighters were born here, but also that Allahabad played host to many freedom movements and suppression of many freedom fighters by putting them in the most celebrated British jail in Naini.
Allahabad is the birthplace of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru – the first Prime Minister of India and is also known as the ‘city of prime ministers’ as 7 out of 15 Indian Prime Ministers have had connections with Allahabad.
It is home to the University that was established in 1887 and was once termed as the ‘Oxford of East’. University of Allahabad happens to be the fourth oldest University in India and unarguably one of the best in India.
Another high point is the Allahabad High Court that was established in 1869 and is one of the first high courts to be established in British India.
The essence of this city lies within its composite Culture, checkered History and Diverse Communities. At present, the city pompously exhibits its individuality through its education centers, judicial establishments, colonial architecture and urban settings.
Places to visit in Allahabad
Also see : Colonial Tour of Allahabad
The term ‘Triveni Sangam’ means ‘confluence of three rivers’ where Sangam is the Sanskrit word for confluence and is considered to be sacrosanct for the Hindus. This is the auspicious point where the three rivers meet, the Ganges and the Yamuna and Hinduism’s mythical rivers, Saraswati. The three rivers maintain their distinctiveness and at least two are visibly different as they merge, while the Yamuna is deep, calm, and green in color the Ganges is shallow, forceful, and clear. During the monsoons, when the rivers are full, the confluence is seen clearly due to the force of the water. Kumbh Mela (fair) is held at every six and twelve years interval at this divine union of rivers called, ‘Sangam’, Kumbh is regarded as the world’s largest congregation of religious pilgrims. Denoting how the Gods and Demons fought over the pot (kumbha) of amrita (holy nectar or the elixir of immortality) produced by the churning of the milky ocean. During the struggle, drops of the elixir fell on the Mela’s four earthly sites and devout Hindus from all over the world come to this sacred pilgrimage point to offer prayers and take a holy dip in the holy water of river Ganges. A dip here is said to free one of all sins committed on Earth and librates from the cycle of rebirth.
All Saints Cathedral
Built in the memory of Bishop Clifford is also referred to as ‘Patthar Girja Ghar’, inspired by the 13th-century Gothic style churches, this beautiful Anglican Cathedral was consecrated in 1887 and is amongst the finest in Asia. The ‘Duomo’ was designed by the famous architect Sir William Emerson – the same person who designed Kolkata’s Victoria Memorial and Crawford Market in Mumbai (Bombay).
Surrounded by a lush green garden, this Cathedral houses many plaques which depict various British rulers, marble altar with intricate inlay and mosaic work look so attractive even after more than 125 years of its being. The building stands out by its serenity and relaxing ambience making it an imposing cathedral.
Khusrobagh is a large manicured garden, home to the tombs of Prince Khusro Mirza, the eldest son of Emperor Jahangir, Sultan and Nithar Begum (d. 1624), Khusro Mirza’s Hindu mother (Jahangir’s wife) and sister (Jahangir’s daughter) respectively. However Nithar’s mausoleum is a vacant tomb though architecturally it is the most elaborate among the three. It lies on a raised platform adorned with the panels depicting the scalloped arch motif at its utmost beauty that could ever be imagined.
Within the plinth are rooms with elaborate ceilings painted with stars in concentric circles. The central room has on its walls, floral decoration manifesting Persian cypresses, wine vessels, flowers and plants.
Khusro’s tomb is the last of the three tombs in Khusro Bagh. Prince Khauso was first imprisoned within the garden after he rebelled against his father, Jahangir, in 1606. Following an attempt to escape, he was blinded on Jahangir’s order and was later murdered, in 1622, on the orders Jehangir’s third son Prince Khurram, who later became the emperor, Shah Jahan. The grandeur of the structure is well reflected in its fine and elaborative design as it stands in unison with the eclectic history of the Mughal Empire. During the Revolt of 1857 Khusro Bagh became the headquarters of the sepoys under Maulvi Liaquat Ali who took control as the Governor of librated Allahabad.
Mayo Memorial Hall and Town Hall (Mayo Hall)
This attractive red building was designed by the Professor Gamble, The designer of the South Kensington Museum, London and Richard Roskell Bayne in the late nineteenth century. This was built in the fond memory of the assassinated Viceroy Mayo of the then British rule. The interiors are in line with the gothic architecture. The palatial hall clearly defines the excellence of the British workmanship and was regarded as the symbol of the invincible British Raj.
The building was used for receptions, balls and public meetings. 180 feet high tower stands adjacent to the structure and is visible from quite a distance grabbing the attention of the visitors. During its heydays, as many as 17 legislative council meetings were held at this very place.
Presently, the premise is used as a sports complex for both indoor and outdoor sports where national level sports competitions are organized.
The Allahabad Museum
The museum is situated at the central business district of the city ‘Civil Lines’ located in the lush green Chandrashekhar Azad Park and is popularly known as Company Bagh.
The museum was originally established under the aegis of Allahabad Municipality in 1931 with a small collection of model of birds and animals. Later the foundation stone of this museum was laid by the first prime minister of India Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru and it was opened to the public in 1954.
The collection has been displayed in the sixteen galleries in the museums where it offers great insight into art, history, archaeology, architecture, environment and literature, beginning from the historic era of Harappan civilization, medieval period artifacts, the carvings from the Gupta and Khajuraho to the independence struggle of India against the British.
The central hall of the Allahabad Museum is called introductory gallery as it contains a representative collection of paintings of A.K. Haldar, sculptures, Pistol of Chandra Shekhar Azad (freedom fighter) and an Ivory chariot gifted to Pt. Nehru by the state of Karnataka. It also houses a large collection of Bengal School of Art and Modern Painting of Anagarika Govind, Nicholas and Svetoslav Roerich. (The Russian born Indian painter and a recipient one of the highest civilian awards of India, Padma Bhushan)
The Gandhi Gallery in the museum contains the photographs of Mahatma Gandhi from his days in South Africa to his involvement in the freedom struggle of India. It also has on display the original salt made by Gandhi at Dandi. The pocket watch of Mahatma Gandhi, the brass casket in which his ashes were taken to Sangam for immersion and also the Ford car that carried the ashes can be seen here.
The Nehru Gallery contains Nehru’s personal memorabilia right from his childhood to his last days.
Allahabad Fort (Akbar’s Fort)
Akbar Fort was built by the Mughal Emperor Akbar in 1583 situated on the banks of the river Yamuna near the confluence of the rivers. The regal fort has three gateways and enormous walls where the outer wall has withstood the test of time and can be seen if one takes a boat ride.
Inside the fort there is the Zenana Palace of Mariam-uz-Zamani and the 3rd century B.C. Ashoka pillar that stands almost at 35 ft tall and a major attraction for archaeologists and historians. The Saraswati Koop located inside the Fort is a sacred spot which is considered to be the source of the mythical Saraswati river. Unfortunately the Fort cannot be entered as it is under Indian Military’s control.
The Patalpuri temple at the fort is an underground temple regarded as one of the oldest temples in India. It is believed that the temple has been visited by Lord Rama himself. This temple was also seen by the famous Chinese traveller and writer Hiuen Tsang during his visit to this place. The Akshaya Vat tree (the tree which never dies) is also located within this fort. This indestructible banyan tree is considered sacred by the Hindus, however civilians are not allowed to see this tree as it fall within the restricted area. In the fort one railway track too comes from Allahabad Railway Station. This railway track was made by the East India Company to be used during the war and is no more operational now.
At present the fort is used by the army and only a limited area is open to the visitors.
This palatial house is the former residence of Nehru family which has now been transformed into a residential museum; the double-storied mansion was designed by Motilal Nehru himself.
The building is beautifully adorned with the wooden furniture imported from China and Europe and artifacts from all around the world. The museum showcases the memorabilia of the Nehru family and life of the Nehru family. One can find variety of books and historical record that were written and used by the Nehru during the independence movement of India In the year, 1970, Anand Bhavan was donated to Indian government by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, to convert it into a National museum to keep intact the legacy of Nehru family.
This beautiful place was the ancestral home of the Nehru-Gandhi family.The house was bought by Motilal Nehru in 1900, and went on to become a cradle to the Indian Freedom Struggle. The former Prime Minister of India, Mrs. Indira Gandhi, was born in this mansion. It is definitely one of the best kept museums in India. The mansion is beautiful with its huge pillared verandas and rooms with high ceilings which have witnessed many trysts with destiny. There are specific galleries as they are displayed in different rooms. There is a room which displays the photos of the Nehru family. This museum has an underground room which was used as a secret meeting place for the leaders during the freedom movement.