Allahabad, one of the holiest cities in India, is in Uttar Pradesh. About 80 million people are expected to visit the Kumbh Mela – a Hindu pilgrimage in Allahabad. In Oct 2018, the city was renamed “Prayag” by the Uttar Pradesh state government.
Allahabad is among the largest cities in Uttar Pradesh. Hindu mythology has it that for the Prakrishta Yajna, Lord Brahma, the creator God of the Hindu Trinity, chose a land on earth, on which the three rivers would flow in to a quiet confluence. Brahma also referred to it as Tirth Raj or the King of all pilgrimage centres. Recorded evidence also exists in the Hindu scriptures (the Vedas and the grand epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, as also in the Puranas) of this holy place formerly called Prayag. Allahabad stands at the confluence of two of India’s holiest rivers, the Ganges and the Yamuna. Sangam, as the confluence is called, is the venue of many sacred fairs and rituals, and attracts thousands of pilgrims throughout the year. This number swells to millions during the Kumbh Mela. An annual Magh Mela is also held in Allahabad around the Sangam areas in the month of January (Magh is the name of month in Hindu calendar). A third mythical Saraswati river, believed to flow underground towards the Sangam, gives the confluence its other name, Triveni.
Emperor Akbar renamed this city in 1575 and called it 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 the holy Sangam.
Over the centuries that followed, Allahabad remained on the forefront of national importance, especially 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 (M. N. Saha, Harishchandra, Ravindra Khattree, Amar Nath Jha), poets (Suryakant Tripathi Nirala, Mahadevi Verma, Harivansh Rai Bachchan, Sumitra Nandan Panth), writers (Mahadevi Verma, Ramkumar Verma, Jagdish Gupta), thinkers (Purusottam Das Tandon), statesmen and leaders (Motilal Nehru, Jawaharlala Nehru, Murli Manohar Joshi) and the actor Amitabh Bachchan.
The city, an important cantonment during the British Raj, has some beautiful remnants of colonial architecture. In the early 20th century, University of Allahabad was the foremost center of learning in the country. Allahabad today is an important city where history, culture and religion create a confluence, much like the sacred rivers that caress it.
Allahabad used to have a thriving industrial suburb (Naini) till the 1980s, but then those public sector units started closing down one by one, forcing entire generations of young educated Allahabadis to migrate out of the city in search of work. Today, Allahabad is slowly inching along in its dream to be an IT hub. And the government administrative offices remain alive and kicking.
In Allahabad, you can enjoy
- The politeness of “Aap” and “Hum” (literally, “us” and “we” in Hindi, used as a form of respect instead of the singular).
- The subtle sense of humour of the person on the street
- The fun of walking and travelling on rickshaws
The best way to reach Allahabad, if you are coming from outside India, is to take a direct flight to Delhi and then take one of the numerous connecting trains from Delhi to Allahabad. The Kolkata Rajdhani express, though a better train, lands at a very odd hour in Allahabad (23:43) from Delhi which can be inconvenient for Allahabad being a really quiet place at night. Best train from Delhi to Allahabad is the PrayagRaj Express (Train No. 2418) which leaves from New Delhi Railway Station at 21:30 and arrives in Allahabad at 06:00 next day. The train runs every day. Newly launched is Duranto Express leaving Allahabad for New Delhi on Tuesdays, Thursdays & Saturdays at 22:40 hours and reaches New Delhi at 06:05 the next day with number 2275. This is a non-stop service with AC1, AC2, AC3 and non-AC 3 Tier composition. Down service from New Delhi leaves on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays at 23:00 and reaches Allahabad at 06:20 the next day with number 2276. Fares are marginally higher than other superfast and express trains.