Allahabad Sacred location at the confluence (sangam of three rivers - the Ganges, the Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati - has given it a cultural, political and religious impOltance for nearly 3,000 years. Hiuen Tsang, the Buddhist monk and scholar , visited the town, then known as Prayag, in AD 643, and wrote in great detail of its prosperity and fame. In the 16th century it was captured by the Mughals who renamed it Allahabad. Later, the British maintained a large militalY presence in the city and established the law courts and the university. Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first prime minister, was born here in 1889, and the city later became a major centre of the Independence Movement. Today Allahabad is a quietly prosperous provincial centre, the broad, tree-lined avenues of the Civil Lines area con trasting with the congested bustle of the old city.
Allahabad Fort was built in 1583 by Akbar, who had a 3rd century BC Ashokan pillar brought here from Kausambi. The pillar, unfommately, is in a palt of the fort that is not open to tlle public. On the fort's eastern side, is a temple complex with an undying banyan tree, tlle Akshaivata. Legend has it that anyone who leapt from its branches would achieve salvation from the endless cycle of rebirths. After too many such attempts, the tree was fenced off, and a spe cial permit is required from the local tourist office to view it.
Khusrau Bakh, a tranquil Mughal garden on the western edge of town, is named after Emperor Jahangir's eldest son who led an unsuccessful rebellion against his father and was later murdered during the battle over succession with his brotller, Shah Jahan in 1615. His tomb lies next to tllose of his sister and his mother. The latter, a Rajput princess from Jaipur, distraught by the war between her husband and her son, took an overdose of opium. The chhatris on her tomb show Rajput influence.
Anand Bhavan, ancestral home of India's premier political dynasty, tlle Nehru Gandhi family, now houses a museum of Nehru memorabilia and chronicles the high points of the Independence Movement. Close by, in the Civil Lines area, is the fantastically arched and turreted Muir College built in 1870, and regarded a fine example of Indo-Saracenic architecture.
Across the road is the Allahabad Museum which has an interesting collection of terracottas from Kausambi and some 10th- to 13th century sculpture from the Chandela era. Across Civil Lines to the west stands me All Saints Cathedral. Constwcted in 1877 and designed by William Emmerson, architect of the Victoria Memorial in Kolkata, it is lined with Jaipur marble inside.
63 km (39 miles) and about an hour's drive from Allahabad on the eastern bank of the Yamuna
Excavated ruins of a stupa, a palace and extensiye rampal1s lie within a 2-km (1.3-mile) radius. While local legend holds that the city was built by the Pandavas. heroe of the Mahabharata (see p26), excavations reveal that a Buddhist community flour ished here between 600 BC and AD 600. The Buddha himself came here to preach. The site contains the remains of a paved brick road. small houses, each with a ceramic drain, and the stump of an Ashokan pillar dating to the 3rd centUlY BC (a second pillar was moved to the Allahabad Fort). Some terra cotta artifacts and seals from 200 BC which were found here are now in the Allahabad Museum. Surrounded by fields and villages, with the river in the background, Kausambi has an aura of great serenity.
Hindu legend has it that during a war over the urn (kumbh) of immortal nectar (amrit) between the gods and demons, Vishnu gave the urn to Garuda, his winged mount. During his flight, four drops of the nectar fell on four places, Nasik, Ujjain, Haridwar and Allahabad. A Kumbh Mela is thus held at each spot in turn, every three years, when certain planetary configurations, transform the waters of the Ganges into nectar. Pilgrims from all over India, converge at the Kumbh Mela to wash away their sins, making it the world's largest religious gathering. Specially built tent-cities and stalls spring up to cater to the influx. At Allahabacrs Kumbh Mela (Jan-Feb 2001) almost 30 million devotees took a bath on Mauni Amavasya (24 ]an). the most sacred of the six main bathing days. The next Kumbh Melas will be held in Ujjain in 2001, Nasik in 2007 and Haridwar in 2010.