The city of Allahabad is among the largest cities of Uttar Pradesh and is situated at the confluence of three rivers - Ganga, Yamuna and the invisible Saraswati. The meeting point is known as 'Triveni' and is especially sacred to Hindus. The earlier settlements of the Aryans were established in this city, then known as Prayag. Its sanctity is manifest by references to it in Purans, the Ramayan and the Mahabharata. According to Hindu mythology, Lord Brahma, the creator God of the Trinity, chose a land on earth (i.e. Prayag) to perform 'Prakrista Yag', at the beginning of the creation and he also referred to it as 'Tirth Raj' or the 'King of all pilgrimage centres'. As per writing of 'Padam Puran' - "As the sun is amongst the moon and the moon amongst the stars, likewise 'Prayag' is best amongst all places of pilgrimage".
Emperor Akbar founded this city in 1575 AD 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 holi 'Yamuna'. Allahabad today is an important city where history, culture and religion create a magical confluence, much like the sacred rivers that caress this blessed land. Due to its religious importance, many pilgrims come to Allahabad in the bathing season, the Hindu month of Magh (mid January to mid-february), to purify themselves. During this month, a great gathering and fair called Magh Mela takes place on the sands. Every 12th year when the waters are felt to be especially purifying, Allahabad holds a much greater festival called Kumbh Mela. Many millions of pilgrims attend this festival, coming from all over India. It is believed that bathing during Kumbh cures the bather of all sins and evils and grants the bather salvation.
In 1885, Mark Twain wrote about Allahabad Kumbh -"Pilgrims plodded for months in heat to get here, worn, poor and hungry, but sustained by unwavering faith".
What to see in Allahabad
Allahabad Fort: Built by Emperor Akbar in 1583 AD, the Allahabad Fort is a fine example of Mughal design and craftsmanship that is unrivalled, to say the least. Situated at the banks of the river Yamuna, the fort is presently used by the army and a limited area is opened for visitors.
Patalpuri Temple: Located inside the Allahabad Fort is the underground temple called Patalpuri. The temple is famous for housing an immortal banyan tree known as Akshaya Vat, which is much revered by the devotees as it is believed to be visited by Lord Rama himself. The tree has been mentioned in several ancient scriptures and writings of historians.
Asoka Pillar: Asoka Pillar, a 10.6 meters (35 feet) high figure, is also located in the front of the entrance to the Allahabad Fort. Made of polished sandstone, the pillar contains several Asokan edicts and a Persian inscription of the great Mughal Emperor, Jehangir.
Hanuman Mandir: Located near Sangam, the confluence of three holy rivers of India - Ganga, Yamuna, and Saraswati, is a famous temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman. The temple houses one big idol of Lord Hanuman in a slightly reclined posture. When the water of Ganga overflows, the temple gets submerged.
Swaraj Bhawan & Anand Bhawan: Anand Bhawan is the ancestral home of the Nehru family where many decisions and events related to the freedom struggle have been known to take place. Today it is a museum which houses the memorabilia of the Nehru family. Swaraj Bhawan, on the other hand, used to be the headquarters of the Congress Committee. Both the Bhawans together served as the Parliament during the British Raj era.
Chandra Shekhar Azad Park: Also known as Alfred Park or Company Bagh, Chandra Shekhar Azad Park is dedicated to the great freedom fighter and a martyr - Chandra Shekhar Azad. Allahabad Museum, Victoria Memorial, and the Public Library (75,000 books, manuscripts, and journals) are also bordered alongside the park. History makes itself visible at every nook and corner of the park.
All Saints Cathedral: Clad in white stone with red sandstone dressings, All Saints Cathedral is the finest example of Anglican architecture in Asia. Designed by Sir William Emerson in 1870 and consecrated in 1887, it is one of the oldest churches in India and is popularly known as Patthar Girjaghar among the local people. The fantabulous inlay and mosaic work is sure to mesmerize you with its elaborate designs.
Khusro Bagh: Khusro Bagh was completed in 1622 AD and houses the tombs of Khusrau Mirza (eldest son of Emperor Jahangir), his mother Shah Begum, and his sister Sultan Nithar Begum. Adorned with birds, flowers, and Persian inscriptions, it is another fine example of Mughal architecture.