Allahabad or Prayag, famous for hosting the biggest Hindu festival, Kumbh Mela, is one of the pilgrimage cities in India. It has rich history and has always been a center of political and cultural influences. A quick list of names of most popular tourist destinations – Allahabad fort (built under Mughal rulers), Allahabad University (established under British Raj) and Anand Bhavan (home to Motilal Nehru, Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi) gives us a quick glimpse into the diverse heritage it holds. It is even called the city of Prime Ministers!
The biggest highlight of the city, Sangam, is famous for being one of the places where according to the Hindu mythology, nectar fell out of the pitcher from the hands of the Gods (Reference: story of Amrit Manthan). The myth goes that a bath in Sangam washes away one’s sins and where one finds way to heaven, after death (attaining moksha).
I had the good fortune of visiting Kumbh Mela this year, the last time I did was in childhood. While it’s definitely a unique experience, I also discovered what an interesting history the city has. I happened to see only one half of the popular places in a span of a day, and I’m already intrigued to know more. If you’re intrigued too, read ahead-
Is a visit to Allahabad even complete without a visit to Sangam? It is the confluence of rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati. The yellow water of Ganga, merging with greenish water of Yamuna is clearly visible – and is a spectacular sight. The third river, Saraswati is said to be flowing beneath the ground level, and meets the other two rivers at the base. Post this point, river Yamuna flows as Ganga. It is a sacred place for Hindus and holds Kumbh Mela every 12 years. A boat ride in the sangam is a very peaceful experience; my childhood memory is that of elders worshipping the rivers from the boat and showing us their different colors.
(In picture: Sangam)
Akshayvat and Allahabad fort
Allahabad fort or Akbar Killa was constructed by Ashoka and later by Akbar in 1583. It was one of the largest and most beautiful forts built in Akbar’s reign, and is located at the confluence of two rivers. It comes under Archeological Survey Of India and taken over by Indian Army. The entry to the fort unfortunately isn’t open to civilians, except during Kumbh Mela. So, the other way to experience the fort is from outside through a boat ride at Sangam.
The interior of the fort encloses the famous Akshayavat, Saraswati Kund, Rani Mahal and Ashoka Pillar. Akshayvat (meaning ‘immortal banyan tree’) is associated with divine power and mythological tales – story goes that once Lord Narayana was asked by a sage to show divine power, he flooded the whole world and only the top of Akshayavat was visible, hence it is considered immortal and is believed to grant immortality.
(In pictures: Allahabad fort (source: Internet), Akshayvat temple)
I’m yet to see university buildings as breathtakingly beautiful as these ones, and they completed 131 years in September last year.
Established on 23rd September 1887, it is the fourth oldest university of India after Calcutta, Bombay and Madras University. Sir William Muir was responsible for conceiving a large Central College at Allahabad, and eventually into a University – as a result Muir Central College (Department of Science) is named after him.
I got to see the Department of Literature and Department of Psychology, as Mom is an alumni of the university. She was pleasantly surprised to see the classes and library furniture hadn’t changed at all. We strolled in the campus, and she said it looks the same way it did back then.
(In pictures: Allahabad university – Department of Literature and Senate Hall)
Anand Bhavan and Swaraj Bhavan
A pair of beautiful mansions, Anand Bhavan and Swaraj Bhavan, were homes to one of the oldest families in Indian politics.
Anand Bhavan was Motilal Nehru’s residence, before it was converted into a museum showing many aspects of Independence Movement and memorabilia related to Nehru family. It was donated by Indira Gandhi to Indian government in 1970. A really good experience was getting a chance to see Motilal Nehru’s library and Jawaharlal Nehru’s office. Indira Gandhi was wed in this mansion.
Swaraj Bhavan was the original residence of the family, and later became the headquarters of Indian National Congress. Hence the new residence was constructed. Currently, it is a museum that depicts the life of Indira Gandhi.
(In pictures: Anand Bhavan, Swaraj Bhavan, Motilal Nehru’s library, Jawaharlal Nehru’s office)
Alfred park/ Chandrashekhar Azad Park/ Company garden
Alfred park (from British era) or Company garden (informally and locally), was built in 1831, to commemorate Prince Alfred’s visit to Allahabad. It was renamed after freedom fighter Chandrashekhar Azad, who shot himself dead here before British could capture him, during the freedom struggle in 1931. The gun used by him is exhibited in the Allahabad museum, and the park has a memorial in his name at the very spot.
Tourism in Uttar Pradesh is highlighted majorly in Varanasi, Agra and Lucknow, and Allahabad/Prayag is solely associated with Kumbh Mela. If offbeat but rich heritage travel is something you’d like, definitely give this place a try, it does a good job in keeping one engaged with its versatility. If I ever visit the city again, I’ll definitely go for the rest of the tourist places.
If you’ve read this far, thank you very much for your time. Have a great week!
All pictures are taken by yours truly.
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