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Allahabad is a city that is
defined by the sangam (sacred confluence of two or more rivers), the
confluence of the rivers Ganga and Yamuna. According to legend, a third
river, the mythical Saraswati is also believed to join the two rivers here,
giving the confluence or sangam a holy dimension, replete with
soul-cleansing powers. Brahma is said to have called this spot Tirth Raj, or
'King of Pilgrimage sites'. The holy confluence draws pilgrims at all times,
but especially at the time of the Maha Kumbh Mela, a jaw-dropping spectacle
when millions of devotees bathe ritually in the waters to break the eternal
cycle of reincarnation. On a more earthly level, Allahabad was a British
colonial settlement and also the family home of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru,
whose daughter went on to found India's powerful Nehru- Gandhi political
History of Allahabad
Later the town was taken by the Marathas, sacked by the Pathans, and finally ceded to the British in 1801 by the Nawab of Avadh. After that, the town became a British military cantonment.
After the first war of Indian Independence first war of Indian Independence in 1857, the British moved the headquarters of the north-western province here from Agra. Allahabad also witnessed the formal transfer of power from the East India Company to the Crown in 1858, which was announced by the then Viceroy Lord Canning. The city also played an important role in the fight for national Independence. It witnessed the first meeting of the Indian National Congress in 1885. Allahabad is also where the non-violent freedom movement of Mahatma Gandhi was inaugurated.
However, the city's strongest connection with the Independence movement stems from the fact that it was the hometown of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first prime minister and his father Motilal Nehru, who also played a role in the freedom struggle. Nehru would go on to lay the foundations for the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, a family that would dominate India's political life after Independence.
Allahabad is situated in the state of Uttar Pradesh and is 125 km from Varanasi. It is situated at the confluence of the Ganga and Yamuna rivers. The city is divided by the railway line running through it. South of the tracks is the old Chowk area, while the British-built Civil Lines is situated to the north, with all its streets laid out in a grid.
The Yamuna river flows south of Allahabad until it reaches the confluence point at the south-eastern extremity of the city. The Ganga flows along its eastern edge. The Grand Trunk Road also goes through the city, through the heart of the Chowk. Triveni road leads from the Grand Trunk road to the sangam.
Places to visit
Around 7 km from Civil Lines, overlooked by the eastern ramparts of the Allahabad fort, wide flood plains and muddy banks protrude towards the sacred sangam. At the point at which the brown Ganga meets the greenish Yamuna, priests perch on small platforms to perform puja and assist the devout in their ritual ablutions in the shallow waters. Beaches and ghats are littered with the shorn hair of pilgrims who come to offer pind (offerings) for their deceased parents.
Boats to the sangam, used by pilgrims and tourists alike, can be rented at the ghat (steps leading to water) immediately east of the fort, for the recommended government rate of Rs 12 per head.
However, most pilgrims pay around Rs 36 and you can be charged as much as Rs 150. Official prices for a whole boat are between Rs 100 and Rs 120 but can soar to more than Rs 250 during peak seasons.
Visitors need permission to visit the fort, which can be obtained from the Commandant, Ordinance Depot, Fort, Allahabad. Tel: 6064738, Extension 213.
Once inside the fort, see the Ashoka Pillar that dates back to 232 BC. A small door in the fort's eastern wall leads to the underground Patalpuri temple which houses the Undying Banyan tree, also known as the Akshai Veta. This tree is mentioned by Xuan Zhang (Hieun Tsang), who describes pilgrims sacrificing their lives by leaping to their deaths from it in order to achieve salvation. There is not much of it left now, though.
Next to Anand Bhavan stands Swaraj Bhavan, which was where Motilal Nehru lived until 1930 and where his grand-daughter Indira Gandhi was born. Within the grounds is also a planetarium and a building that hosts a pictorial display of Jawaharlal Nehru's life.
A short distance to the
north-west is the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St Joseph's, built in 1879.
Accommodation in Allahabad
You will have the opportunity to choose from a huge array of Allahabad hotels that vary from five stars to economy; from luxury to budget hotels. The main transport depots, like the nearest railhead, airport and bus stand are located within easy reach from the hotels in Allahabad. Mainly located in the Civil Lines area of Allahabad, they are positioned at comfortably accessible distance from the tourist attractions in Allahabad.