Vedic era pilgrimage center & Kumbh Mela venue
Allahabad lies 135 km west of Varanasi in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh and is at the confluence of the Ganga (also Ganges), Yamuna, and the mythical Saraswati River, the point of their mingling known as Sangam. Also known by its old name of Prayag, the city is an educational hub and a great pilgrimage center, especially the world-famous Kumbh Mela.
Best time to visit: The climate of Allahabad is one of extremes with annual range of temperature differing by around 12°C. The temperature varies from a maximum of 45.6°C to a minimum of 1.1°C. The weather is one of the finest in the month of January and February. Annual rainfall is 1935.5 mm and the maximum being 914.7 mm (August) and minimum 68.3 mm (December). Monsoon touches Allahabad by 15th of June.
History: Allahabad finds mention in the holy scriptures – the Vedas and the grand epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, and in the Puranas – as Prayag. Hindu mythology has it that Lord Brahma, the creator, chose a piece of land on earth, on which the Ganga, Yamuna, and Saraswati would flow into a quiet confluence. He referred to it as ‘Tirtharaj’ or the ‘king of all pilgrimage centers.’
Allahabad’s antiquity attracted curious itinerants from even the Far East. Huen Tsang and Fa Hien, the Chinese travelers, who visited it in the fifth and the seventh centuries respectively, found it a flourishing state.
As time wore on, Allahabad found playing itself host to the royalty, including the illustrious Harsha, Akbar, Dara Shikoh, Khusro, and Queen Victoria. In 1575, the Mughal Emperor Akbar named it ‘Illahabas.’ Akbar realized its strategic importance and 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 chequered history of Allahabad with its religious, cultural and historical ethos also gave rise to several renowned scholars, poets, writers, thinkers, and political leaders.
Allahabad today is an important city where history, culture, and religion create a confluence-much like the sacred rivers that caress this God-graced land.
Tourist attractions: The meeting point of the Ganga, Yamuna, and the mythical Saraswati rivers, Sangam is around 7 km from Civil Lines. This is one of the most sacred places of Hindu religion. It hosts the Maha Kumbh Mela (the largest gathering of Hindus) and Ardh Kumbh. At the point at which the brown Ganges meets the Greenish Yamuna, pandas (priests) perch on small platforms to perform puja and assist the devout in their ritual ablutions in the shallow waters. Boats are available for visitors.
Near the Sangam is situated the Allahabad Fort built by Akbar in the AD 1583. Unrivalled for its design and craftsmanship in its heydays, the fort is now used by the army and only a part of it is open to the visitors. This huge, majestic fort has three magnificent galleries flanked by high towers. The visitors are allowed to see the Ashoka Pillar, Saraswati Kup (a well said to be the source of the river Saraswati), and Jodhabai Palace. The Patalpur temple and the much-revered Akshaya Vat (immortal Banyan tree) are also here.
Swaraj Bhawan, the historical building built by Motilal Nehru, was donated to the nation in 1930 to be used as the headquarters of the Congress Committee. The former prime minister of India Mrs. Indira Gandhi was born here.
A fine museum today, Anand Bhawan was once home to one of the most powerful families of Indian politics, the Nehrus. Today, it houses memorabilia of the Gandhi-Nehru family.
Khusro Bagh is a large garden where tombs of Khusro, son of Emperor Jahangir, and Shah Begum are located.
Hanuman Mandir is a unique temple famous for the supine image of Hanuman. This is the only temple to have Hanuman in a reclining posture.
Mayo Memorial Hall is situated near the Thornhill and Myne Memorial. This large hall has a 180-feet high tower. Professor Gamble of the South Kensington Museum, London, ornamented the interior of this memorial hall with designs. Completed in 1879, this hall was meant for public meetings, balls and receptions in commemoration of the assassinated Viceroy.
Other place to visit are Shankar Viman Mandapam, Mankameshwar Temple, All Saints Cathedral (Patthar Girjaghar), Minto Park, Allahabad University, Allahabad museum, Minto park, Muir College, Jawahar Planetarium, Chandra Shekhar Azad Park, and public library.
Situated 9 km from Allahabad, Jhusi (Pratisthanpuri) is a place for people wanting peace of mind and soul. It has many ashrams and temples and can be reached from Allahabad by taxis, buses, and boats, etc.
Kaushambi (62 km) is a place traditionally associated with the Mahabharata. The city was once a great Buddhist center. Lord Buddha is believed to have visited Kaushambi twice to deliver discourses. The ruins of an ancient fort bear witness to the antiquity of the place. There are also remains of a monastery.
Bhita (20 km) is an archeological site with remains dating back to 300 BC.
Shringverpur (40 km) was once the capital city of the kingdom of Nishadraj (King of Boatmen). Legend has it that Lord Rama stayed here overnight while going to the forest. Before steering Rama across the Ganga in his boat, his feet were washed by Nishadraj.
Fairs and festivals: The Kumbh Mela is the greatest of north Indian festival-fairs and it has exerted a mesmeric influence over the mind and the imagination of the ordinary Indian from time immemorial. It is held once every three years by rotation, on the banks of holy rivers – the Godavari in Nasik, the Shipra in Ujjain, the Ganga in Haridwar and the Sangam in Allahabad. The Purna (complete) Kumbh, the biggest and the most auspicious fair, which falls once every twelve years, is always at Allahabad. When the particular configuration of the Kumbh at Allahabad falls on a Monday, it is called the Somvati Amavasya and the spiritual benefits increase manifold. The Purna Kumbh is followed by the Ardh Kumbh in importance and this fair falls every six years when millions of devout congregate at Allahabad on the banks of the holy river, braving the hazards of cold, disease, hunger and a myriad other privations, to gain spiritual salvation and contentment.
Other fairs include the Magh Mela, which is celebrated in the month of February.
How to reach
Air – Allahabad does not have an airport of its own. The nearest airports are at Varanasi (147 km) and Lucknow (210 km).
Road & rail – Allahabad is situated on the Delhi-Calcutta route and can be reached from any part of India by rail or bus.