Friday, November 19, 2010

Allahabad - Holy place of the confluence of River Ganges, Yamuna and Saraswati

Allahabad is synonymous to Sangam. 'Sangam' actually means confluence in Hindi. The city has been named so because it is situated on the confluence of Ganges, Yamuna and mythical river Saraswati. That is why Allahabad is counted among the holiest of cities in India. A holy fair called Kumbh marks the place. These are of three types. The one that takes place every year is called 'Minor Kumbh'. Whereas the ones celebrated every 6 years and 12 years are called Ardh-Kumbh and Maha Kumbh respectively.

The Maha Kumbh that takes place every 12 years is the largest religious or for that matter, largest congregation of humankind on the earth. In the 1988 edition of Maha Kumbh, 15 million people took dip in a single day. Guinness Book holds the figure as a world record. During the Mela, whole of the city turns in to a camp of a sort. Separate camps are pitched on the bank of confluence for different sects of hermits who are always at war. There are as many as 13 different camps dedicated to various sub-sects of Vaishnavite and Shaivite sects. There are dedicated days for these dips that are calculated by astrologers.

Nevertheless, Allahabad is much more than that. There are other attractions too. Some of them like Alfred Park and Minto Park have historical importance where as some others like Allahabad University and IIIT is the temple of learning. The city is also known for its numerous museums that includes among others, Anand Bhawan and Allahabad Museum.

INFORMATION ABOUT ALLAHABAD
Allahabad is situated about 137 kms west of Varanasi at an altitude of 98 meters above sea level. Allahabad was known as Prayag and renamed as Allahabad by Akbar in 1583. Allahabad is a quiet and peaceful city and the site of Allahabad University, one of the great Universities of India. This university was built on the site of an ancient Ashram where sage Bhardwaj taught 10,000 students. This city is very sacred to the Hindus and is situated at the junction of the Ganga and the Yamuna rivers and the mythical underground Saraswati River. Various devotees have a bath at the ‘Sagam’ which is situated at the confluence of the Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati River. Every year, thousands of people gather here for the pilgrimage. But, during the Kumbh Fair, about millions of people gather here and have a sacred bath at the Sangam. Today, Allahabad is a rapidly growing commercial and administrative city. The best season to visit Allahabad is from October to March.

HISTORY OF ALLAHABAD
Hiuen Tsang, the Chinese traveler visited Prayag in 643 AD. The Muslims first conquered Prayag in 1194 and was renamed as Allahabad by Akbar in 1583. After conquering Prayag, Akbar built a fort which stands majestically at the confluence on the Yamuna side. Khusrau, Jahangir’s eldest son, was also buried in the city. The Marathas took the town in 1739 but held it only until 1750 when it was sacked by the Pathans. Later, it was the headquarters of the British Government of the North-west provinces and Oudh and here the transfer of government from the East India Company to the crown was announced by Lord Canning in 1885 with one of its founders, Allan Octavian Hulme. The great Indian patriot, Motilal Nehru, father of Pandit Jawahar Nehru also lived in this city. Various excavations were also done in the city. Draupadi Ghat has revealed signs of extensive habitation and considerable quantities of Northern Black Pottery Ware of the type found across northern India to Taxila and beyond. It has been dated from between 1100 and 800 B.C. Two other sites in the city have revealed similar types of findings. On the present site of the Bharadwaj ashram, the remains of the Kushan period have also been found.

FESTIVALS IN ALLAHABAD
The Magh Mela is celebrated every year for 15 days in the moth of January in Allahabad and bathing in the river during this fair is considered very auspicious. The Kumbh Mela is the most important fair which is celebrated in Allahabad and moves every 3 years from Allahabad, to Haridwar, Ujjain and Nasik, returning Allahabad every twelth year. This fair was described by the Eric Newby as the greatest assemblage of people gathered together in a confined space for a single purpose anywhere on earth. The story behind the Kumbh Mela is that the Hindu gods and demons vied for the pot or kumbha that held the nectar of immortality or amrit. During the flight for possession, which lasted 12 days, Vishnu was running with the pot and four drops of amrit fell to earth, making four sacred places like Allahabad, Ujjain, Nasik and Haridwar.

TOURIST ATTRACTIONS IN ALLAHABAD
There are various temples and some monuments belonging to the Muslim period in Allahabad like Akbar's Fort and Khusrau Bagh. There are also some buildings which belong to the British period like the Alfred Park, Muir College or Allahabad University, St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Cathedral, the Holy Trinity Church, High Court and Minto Park. Sangam is another famous attraction in Allahabad.

Akbar's Fort: The Akbar's fort was built by Akbar in 1584 which stands majestically at the confluence on the Yamuna River. It was the largest of his forts and has three massive gateways and 7 meters high brick walls. This fort is most impressive when you view it from the river. Most of the fort is not accessible to tourists and has an Ashoka Pillar and the Zenana Palace. The Ashoka Pillar was re-erected in the Akbar’s Fort on the order of Akbar and belongs to 232 BC. It was found lying on the ground of the fort in 1837 and was set up at the present site. The Ashoka’s inscriptions are inscribed on its polished 10.6 meters high sandstone shaft. Some inscriptions were later added by Emperor Samudragupta (A.D. 326-375). This is the only historical record of the great monarch’s life. Later, Mughal Emperor Jahangir added his own inscription on the pillar. A small door in the east wall of the fort, near the river, leads to the undying banyan tree which is believed to have existed for thousands of years.

Khusrau Bagh: The Khusrau Bagh contains the tomb of Prince Khusro, who was murdered in 1615 by his own brother as he rebelled against his own father Jahangir. After staging an unsuccessful rebellion against his father Jahangir in 1607, Khusro spent the next year in chains. Two of his closest associates were less fortunate. They were sewn into the skins of a freshly slaughtered ox and ass, mounted the wrong way round on donkeys and paraded through the streets of Lahore. The hot sun dried the skins and one died from suffocation. Khusro was also forced to ride an elephant down a street lined with the heads of his supporters. When freed, Khusro undeterred encouraged a plot to assassinate his father but was discovered. Khusrau was blinded, though he did regain partial sight and spent the rest of his life as a captive. Later, he was murdered by his own brother in 1615. The garden is a typical Mughal garden enclosure, entered through an 18 m high archway and houses the large, handsome tomb of Khusro. The burial chamber is underground and the decoration is plasterwork painted with birds, flowers and Persian inscription. The tombs of his Rajput mother and sisters are located near by.

Sangam: Sangam is situated at the confluence of the Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical underground Saraswati River. The sangam is a narrow spit of land where the rivers gently mingle and is quite shallow and muddy. At any time of day or year you will find here people bathing. Every year, thousands of people gather here for the pilgrimage and to have the sacred bath in its waters. But, during the Kumbh Mela, about millions of people gather here to have the sacred bath at the Sangam.

Anand Bhawan: Anand Bhawan is the place where the Nehru family lived and is now converted into a national monument. This home was given to the state by Indira Gandhi in 1970. This house contains many items belonging to the Motilal Nehru, the father of Jawaharlal Nehru, Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Sanjay Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi.

EXCURSIONS
Kausambi: Kausambi is situated on NH2, about 45 kms from Allahabad. The enormous ruins of Kausambi are spread through several villages. Kosam-Inam and Kosam-khiraj are the villages that carry names that still suggest their links with the ruins of the city of Kausam. According to the epics, Kausam was founded by a descendant of the Pandavas who left Hastinapur when it was destroyed by the Udayana. It is also one of the earliest Historical cities of the region. According to Hiuen Tsang, the Buddha preached here and in commemoration of the event, there are two monasteries. Some excavations were also made here. Many coins and terracotta’s discovered here are now displayed in the Allahabad City museum and Kausambi Museum at the Allahabad University.

HOW TO GET HERE
By Air: Allahabad is directly connected by Indian Airlines flights with Delhi, Patna, Gorakhpur, Lucknow and Varanasi. Bamrauli airport is about 10 km from the city center.

By Rail: Allahabad is situated on the main broad gauge route from Delhi to Kolkata. It is also linked to other cities by broad and meter gauge lines like Agra, Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Jhansi, Kanpur, Varanasi and Lucknow.

By Road: Allahabad is located on the NH27 to Mangawan and NH2 from Delhi to Kolkata. It is also located near NH7 which runs from Varanasi to Kanyakumari. It is also connected with all major cities like Lucknow, Allahabad, Varanasi, Patna, Nagpur, Agra, Jhansi, Bhopal and Delhi.

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