Formerly known as Prayag (meaning the place of sacrifice!), the legend and Hindu mythology refer to Allahabad as the ‘King of all pilgrimages.’ Emperor Akbar renamed the city in 1575 as llahabas (meaning settled by God!) which is now modern day Allahabad.
Photo from Flickr
The history of Allahabad is interspersed with religious, cultural, political and social ethos. It has to its credit a number of renowned scholars, writers, poets, musicians, artists, and politicians inclusive of seven out of fourteen Indian Prime ministers.
Don’t forget to be a part of these five things while in Allahabad!
Visit the Epitome of Faith!
Sangam, the confluence of three rivers can be best described as a wonder of nature, but the mind has led to the discovery of spirituality, divinity and God in this confluence. It is the framed confluence of three rivers; Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati giving Sangam it’s another name Triveni.
Saraswati, the symbol and Goddess of harmony and knowledge is the invisible river in the trio. Sri Aurobindo describes Saraswati as “the one which makes us conscious by the ray of intuition.” It runs deep and cannot be seen symbolizing the knowledge which can only be realized and not visualized.
Yamuna symbolizes Karma yoga or the path of action. Mythologically, she is the daughter of sun and has direct knowledge of message of yoga from her father.
Ganga symbolizes the path of devotion. It is said that when you immerse yourself in the waters of Ganga, you immerse yourself in the God himself and obtain Moksha or liberty!
As a pilgrim or a tourist, you can take a boat ride to the confluence. The water here is more or less shallow and if devotion calls, you can take a dip in the water here. There are priests all around perched on small makeshift platforms to assist you in performing your Puja.
Visit Sangam in the evening at the Saraswati ghat or Nehru ghat to visit Evening prayer when dozens of diyas are set afloat in the waters creating a transient but memorable magic!
Revisit India’s Political History!
Allahabad has always been on the national forefront for a plethora of writers, poets, national leaders and Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan. It has played an integral role in India’s struggle for freedom.
Visit Anand Bhawan, the home to heroes of freedom fighters and two Indian Prime ministers, Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi which is now turned into a museum. Anand Bhawan stands tall as a surviving witness to the intricacies of India’s fight for freedom and a number of important political decisions and events during early 20th century.
The picturesque two- story Anand Bhawan showcases books, personal belongings, and photos of those stirring times. It is an enthralling journey to the past where stalwarts like Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and others strategized the overthrow of British Rule.
Next to Anand Bhawan is the Swaraj Bhawan which is the ancestral place of Nehrus.
It can be visited on all days of the week except Mondays at a minimal entry fee of INR 5.00/-
Take a Trip to Mughal Era!
An example of Mughal architecture and decades of hard work, Allahabad Fort stands on the northern banks of Yamuna River. It is an impressive structure built by Emperor Akbar. The fort has massive walls flanked by three gateways, but most of the fort is occupied by Indian Army and cannot be visited. There are two temples right at the foot of the fort, Patalpuri temple (has an undying Banyan tree from which pilgrims used to leap to their deaths believing that it would liberate them from cycle of rebirth) and Bade Hanuman Ji Mandir (has an interesting supine statue of Lord Hanuman) which can be visited.
Photo from Flickr
Khusru Bagh is an intriguing park surrounded by a high wall and contains three large, ornate but contrasting Mughal tombs of Prince Khusru (son of Jahangir), Shah Begum (wife of Jahangir) and Nesa Begum (sister of Prince Khusru).
The curator can show you the inside of the tombs; Nesa Begum’s tomb has wonderfully and intricately decorated interiors while Khusru’s tomb has some high quality ornamental and carved fretwork windows.
Experience the MahaKumbh!
Out of the four destinations where Maha Kumbh is held, Allahabad is considered the most auspicious. It is the biggest festival of Hinduism, where you can get glimpses of devotion, religion and faith interspersed among the people from all walks of life.
Legend has it that Gods and Demons churned the cosmic ocean in their quest for the celestial nectar or the Amrit. When the pot of nectar emerged a fight broke between them over the possession of the nectar. One of the gods then, Jayanta (Indra’s son) ran away with the nectar while being chased by the demons. He dropped the nectar in four places, sanctifying them forever. These places were Prayag (Allahabad), Ujjain, Nasik and Haridwar. Kumbh is celebrated at these four sites in turn, roughly after every three years.
It is held every 12 years in Allahabad and is considered to be the largest gathering of humanity for religious reasons. A temporary city comes up in and around the Sangam area inhabited by pilgrims of various cultures, societies, beliefs and from all over the world. Festivals of Makar Sankranti, Mauni Amavasya and Basant Panchami are the most important days during Kumbh Fair and thousands of pilgrims take a dip in the holy river Ganga to absolve them of their sins.
An Ardh Kumbh (or half Kumbh) is also held every 6 years. For those who cannot make it to Allahabad in the year when the Kumbh is held, every year a Magh fair is held at a smaller scale but in the same area and period as of the Kumbh.
Treat Yourself With the Culinary Delicacies!
Allahabad is a paradise for foodies. Loknath Gali is situated in Chowk where once stood the Neem tree from which numerous freedom fighters during India’s first independence struggle were hanged. Loknath Gali is the heart and the stomach of Allahabad rolled into one. Starting from the city end and walking till the end of the lane where there is an old Baba Loknath Temple, you can indulge yourself in a number of food delicacies;
- An assortment of chaat at Nirala’s Chaat followed by dahi jalebi or kulfi-faluda
- Samosas, dal moth and khatta chana at Hari Ram & sons
- Rabri, Lassi, barfi, kulfi at Raja Ram Lassi wala