Prayagraj (Allahabad) Knowledge Guide
The city was earlier known as Prayāga, a name still commonly used. The earliest mention of Prayag and associated pilgrimage is found in Rigveda Pariśiṣṭa (supplement to the Rigveda, c. 1200–1000 BCE). It is also mentioned in the Pali canons of Buddhism, such as in section 1.7 of Majjhima Nikaya (c. 500 BCE), wherein the Buddha states that bathing in Payaga (Skt: Prayaga) cannot wash away cruel and evil deeds, rather the virtuous one should be pure in heart and fair in action.
The Mahabharata (c. 400 BCE–300 CE) mentions a bathing pilgrimage at Prayag as a means of prāyaścitta (atonement, penance) for past mistakes and guilt.
In Tirthayatra Parva, before the great war, the epic states "the one who observes firm [ethical] vows, having bathed at Prayaga during Magha, O best of the Bharatas, becomes spotless and reaches heaven." In Anushasana parva, after the war, the epic elaborates this bathing pilgrimage as "geographical tirtha" that must be combined with manasa-tirtha (tirtha of the heart) whereby one lives by values such as truth, charity, self-control, patience and others.
Prayāga is mentioned in the Agni Purana and other Puranas with various legends, including being one of the places where Brahma attended a yajna (homa), and the confluence of river Ganga, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati site as the king of pilgrimage sites (Tirtha Raj).
Other early accounts of the significance of Prayag to Hinduism is found in the various versions of the Prayaga Mahatmya, dated to the late 1st-millennium CE. These Purana-genre Sanskrit texts describe Prayag as a place "bustling with pilgrims, priests, vendors, beggars, guides" and local citizens busy along the confluence of the rivers (sangam).
Prayaga is also mentioned in the Hindu epic Ramayana, a place with the legendary Ashram of sage Bharadwaj.
Early medieval period
The 7th-century Buddhist Chinese traveller Xuanzang (Hiuen Tsang) mentions king Harsha and his capital of Prayag, which he states to be a sacred Hindu city with hundreds of "deva temples" and two Buddhist institutions. His 644 CE memoir also mentions the Hindu bathing rituals at the junction of the rivers.
Kama MacLean – an Indologist who has published articles on the Kumbh Mela predominantly based on the colonial archives and English-language media, states based on emails from other scholars and a more recent interpretation of the 7th-century Xuanzang memoir, that Prayag was an important site in 7th-century India, but that it might have been a Buddhist festival site then.
She states that the alternative interpretation of Xuanzang suggests that the pilgrimage at Prayag featured a Buddha statue and involved alms giving, consistent with Buddhist practices.Xuanzang mentions a tree, near which lay human bones of people who had committed suicide by jumping from it in the belief of going to heaven.
Alexander Cunningham believed the tree described by Xuanzang was the Akshayavat tree and probably still existed at the time of Al-Biruni who called it the "tree of Allahabad". According to Ariel Glucklich – a scholar of Hinduism and Anthropology of Religion, the Xuanzang memoir mentions both the superstitious devotional suicide and how a Brahmin of a more ancient era successfully put an end to this practice.
The historic literature of Hinduism and Buddhism before the Mughal emperor Akbar use the term Prayag, and never use the term Allahabad or its variants. Its history before the Mughal Emperor Akbar is unclear. In contrast to the account of Xuanzang, the Muslim historians place the tree at the confluence of the rivers.
The historian Dr. D. B. Dubey states that it appears that between this period, the sandy plain was washed away by the Ganga, to an extent that the temple and tree seen by the Chinese traveller too was washed away, with the river later changing its course to the east and the confluence shifting to the place where Akbar laid the foundations of his fort.Henry Miers Elliot believed that a town existed before Allahabad was founded.
He adds that after Mahmud of Ghazni captured Asní near Fatehpur, he couldn't have crossed into Bundelkhand without visiting Allahabad had there been a city worth plundering. He further adds that its capture should have been heard when Muhammad of Ghor captured Benares. however, Ghori's historians never noticed it.
Akbarnama mentions that the Mughal emperor Akbar founded a great city in Allahabad. `Abd al-Qadir Bada'uni and Nizamuddin Ahmad mention that Akbar laid the foundations of an Imperial City there which he called Ilahabas.
Abul Fazal in his Ain-i-Akbari states, "For a long time his (Akbar's) desire was to found a great city in the town of Piyag (Allahabad) where the rivers Ganges and Jamuna join. On 13th November 1583 (1st Azar 991 H.) he (Akbar) reached the wished spot and laid the foundations of the city and planned four forts." Abul Fazal adds, "Ilahabad anciently called Prayag was distinguished by His Imperial Majesty [Akbar] by the former name". The role of Akbar in founding the Ilahabad – later called Allahabad – fort and city is mentioned by `Abd al-Qadir Bada'uni as well.Nizamuddin Ahmad gives two different dates for Allahabad's foundation, in different sections of Tabaqat-i-Akbari.
He states that Akbar laid the foundation of the city at a place of the confluence of Ganges and Jumna which was a very sacred site of Hindus, then gives 1574 and 1584 as the year of its founding, and that it was named Ilahabas.Akbar was impressed by its strategic location for a fort.
According to William Pinch, Akbar's motive may have been twofold. One, the armed fort secured the control of fertile Doab region. Second, it greatly increased his visibility and power to the non-Muslims who gathered here for pilgrimage from distant places and who constituted the majority of his subjects. Later, he declared Ilahabas as a capital of one of the twelve divisions (subahs). According to Richard Burn, the suffix "–bas" was deemed to "savouring too much of Hinduism" and therefore the name was changed to Ilahabad by Shah Jahan.
This evolved into the two variant colonial-era spellings of Ilahabad (Hindi: इलाहाबाद) and Allahabad. According to Maclean, these variant spellings have a political basis, as "Ilaha–" means "the gods" for Hindus, while Allah is the term for God to Muslims.After Prince Salim's coup against Akbar and a failed attempt to seize Agra's treasury, he came to Allahabad and seized its treasury while setting himself up as a virtually independent ruler. In May 1602, he had his name read in Friday prayers and his name minted on coins in Allahabad.
After reconciliation with Akbar, Salim returned to Allahabad, where he stayed before returning in 1604. After capturing Jaunpur in 1624, Shah Jahan ordered the siege of Allahabad. T
he siege was however, lifted after Parviz and Mahabat Khan came to assist the garrison. During the Mughal war of succession, the commandant of the fort who had joined Shah Shuja made an agreement with Aurangzeb's officers and surrendered it to Khan Dauran on 12 January 1659.
Nawabs of Awadh
The fort was coveted by the East India Company for the same reasons Akbar built it. British troops were first stationed at Allahabad fort in 1765 as part of the Treaty of Allahabad signed by Lord Robert Clive, Mughal emperor Shah Alam II, and Awadh's Nawab Shuja-ud-Daula.
The combined forces of Bengal's Nawab Mir Qasim, Shuja and Shah Alam were defeated by the English at Buxar in October 1764 and at Kora in May 1765. Alam, who was abandoned by Shuja after the defeats, surrendered to the English and was lodged at the fort, as they captured Allahabad, Benares and Chunar in his name.
The territories of Allahabad and Kora were given to the emperor after the treaty was signed in 1765. He spent six years there and after the takeover of Delhi by the Marathas, left for his capital in 1771.
Upon realising the Maratha intent of territorial encroachment, however, Shah Alam ordered his general Najaf Khan to drive them out. Tukoji Rao Holkar and Visaji Krushna Biniwale in return attacked Delhi and defeated his forces in 1772.
The Marathas were granted an imperial sanad for Kora and Allahabad. They turned their attention to Oudh to gain these two territories. Shuja was however, unwilling to give them up and made appeals to the English and the Marathas did not fare well at the battle of Ramghat.
In August and September 1773, Warren Hastings met Shuja and concluded a treaty, under which Kora and Allahabad were ceded to the Nawab for a payment of 50 lakh rupees.Saadat Ali Khan II, after being made the Nawab by John Shore, entered into a treaty with the Company and gave the fort to the British in 1798.
Lord Wellesley after threatening to annexe the entire Awadh, concluded a treaty with Saadat on abolishing the independent Awadhi army, imposing a larger subsidiary force and annexing Rohilkhand, Gorakhpur and the Doab in 1801.
Acquired in 1801, Allahabad, aside from its importance as a pilgrimage centre, was a stepping stone to the agrarian track upcountry and the Grand Trunk Road. It also potentially offered sizeable revenues to the Company. Initial revenue settlements began in 1803.
Allahabad was a participant in the 1857 Indian Mutiny, when Maulvi Liaquat Ali unfurled the banner of revolt. During the rebellion, Allahabad, with a number of European troops, was the scene of a massacre.After the mutiny, the British established a high court, a police headquarters and a public-service commission in Allahabad, making the city an administrative centre.
They truncated the Delhi region of the state, merging it with Punjab and moving the capital of the North-Western Provinces to Allahabad (where it remained for 20 years).
In January 1858, Earl Canning departed Calcutta for Allahabad. That year he read Queen Victoria's proclamation, transferring control of India from the East India Company to the British Crown (beginning the British Raj), in Minto Park. In 1877 the provinces of Agra and Awadh were merged to form the United Provinces, with Allahabad its capital until 1920.
The 1888 session of the Indian National Congress was held in the city, and by the turn of the 20th century, Allahabad was a revolutionary centre. Nityanand Chatterji became a household name when he hurled a bomb at a European club. In Alfred Park in 1931, Chandrashekhar Azad died when surrounded by British police.
The Nehru family homes, Anand Bhavan and Swaraj Bhavan, were centres of Indian National Congress activity. During the years before independence, Allahabad was home to thousands of satyagrahis led by Purushottam Das Tandon, Bishambhar Nath Pande, Narayan Dutt Tiwari and others.
The first seeds of the Pakistani nation were sown in Allahabad: on 29 December 1930, Allama Muhammad Iqbal's presidential address to the All-India Muslim League proposed a separate Muslim state for the Muslim-majority regions of India.
Allahabad is known as the City of Prime Ministers because seven out of 15 prime ministers of India since independence have connections to Allahabad (Jawaharlal Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Gulzarilal Nanda, Vishwanath Pratap Singh and Chandra Shekhar).
All seven leaders were either born in Allahabad, were alumni of Allahabad University or were elected from an Allahabad constituency.
Culture & Literature
Allahabad has a literary and artistic heritage; the former capital of the United Provinces, it was known as Prayag in the Vedas, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Allahabad has been called the "literary capital of Uttar Pradesh", attracting visitors from East Asia; the Chinese travellers Faxian and Xuanzang found a flourishing city in the fifth and seventh centuries, respectively.
The number of foreign tourists, which mostly consisted of Asians, visiting the city was 98,167 in 2010 which subsequently increased to 1,07,141 in 2014. The city has a tradition of political graffiti which includes limericks and caricatures.
In 1900, Saraswati, the first Hindi-language monthly magazine in India, was started by Chintamani Ghosh. Mahavir Prasad Dwivedi, the doyen of modern Hindi literature, remained its editors from 1903 to 1920.
The Anand Bhavan, built during the 1930s as a new home for the Nehru family when the Swaraj Bhavan became the local Indian National Congress headquarters, has memorabilia from the Gandhi-Nehru family. During the 19th and 20th centuries, Hindi literature was modernised by authors such as Mahadevi Varma, Sumitranandan Pant, Suryakant Tripathi 'Nirala' and Harivansh Rai Bachchan.
A noted poet was Raghupati Sahay, better known as Firaq Gorakhpuri. Gorakhpuri and Varma have received Jnanpith Awards. Allahabad is a publication centre for Hindi literature, including the Lok Bharti, Rajkamal and Neelabh.
Persian and Urdu literature are also studied in the city. Akbar Allahabadi is a noted modern Urdu poet, and Nooh Narwi, Tegh Allahabadi, Shabnam Naqvi and Rashid Allahabadi hail from Allahabad. English author and 1907 Nobel laureate Rudyard Kipling was an assistant editor and overseas correspondent for The Pioneer.
Entertainment and recreation
Allahabad is noted for historic, cultural and religious tourism. Historic sites include Alfred Park, the Victoria and Thornhill Mayne Memorials, Minto Park, Allahabad Fort, the Ashoka Pillar and Khusro Bagh. Religious attractions include the Kumbh Mela, the Triveni Sangam and All Saints Cathedral.
The city hosts the Maha Kumbh Mela, the largest religious gathering in the world, every twelve years and the Ardh (half) Kumbh Mela every six years. Cultural attractions include the Allahabad Museum, the Jawahar Planetarium and the University of Allahabad. North Central Zone Culture Centre, under the Ministry of Culture and Prayag Sangeet Samiti are nationally renowned centres of Arts, Dance, Music, local Folk Dance and Music, Plays/Theatre etc. and nurture upcoming artists.
The city has also hosted the International Film Festival of Prayag.
The Leader and The Pioneer are two major English-language newspapers that are produced and published from the city;All India Radio, the national, state-owned radio broadcaster, has AM radio stations in the city. Allahabad has seven FM stations, including two AIR stations: Gyan Vani and Vividh Bharti, four private FM channels: BIG FM 92.7, Red FM 93.5, Fever 104 FM and Radio Tadka and one educational FM radio channel Radio Adan 90.4 run by Allahabad Agricultural Institute.
There is a Doordarshan Kendra in the city. Regional TV channels are accessible via cable subscription, direct-broadcast satellite service or Internet-based television.
Cricket and field hockey are the most popular sports in Allahabad, with kabaddi, kho-kho, gilli danda and pehlwani are played in rural areas near the city. Gully cricket, also known as street cricket, is popular among city youth.
The famous cricket club Allahabad Cricketers has produced many national and international cricket players. Several sports complexes are used by amateur and professional athletes; these include the Madan Mohan Malviya Stadium, the Amitabh Bachchan Sports Complex and the Boys' High School and College Gymnasium.
There is an international-level swimming complex in Georgetown. The National Sports Academy in Jhalwa trains gymnasts for the Commonwealth Games. The Indira Marathon honours the late prime minister Indira Gandhi.