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The name, meaning "City of Allah", was given to the city by the Mughal Emperor Akbar in 1583. In Indian alphabets it is spelt "Ilāhābād": "ilāh" is Arabic for "god", and "-ābād" is Persian for "place of".

The modern city is on the site of the ancient holy city of Prayāga (Sanskrit - "Place of Sacrifice" and is the spot where Brahma offered his first sacrifice after creating the world). It is one of four sites of the Kumbha Mela, the others being Haridwar, Ujjain and Nasik. It has a position of importance in the Hindu religion and mythology since it is situated at the confluence of the rivers Ganga, Yamuna, and the mythical Saraswati.

Because solar events in Allahabad occur exactly 5 hours and 30 minutes ahead of Greenwich, the city is the reference point for Indian Standard Time, maintained by the city's observatory.

The city has Motilal Nehru National Institute of technology one of the excellent technical institutes in India.


When the Aryans first settled into what they termed the Aryavarta, or Madhydesha, their territory extended till Prayag. The Vatsa (a branch of the early Indo-Aryans) were rulers of Hastinapur, and they established the town of Kaushambi near present day Allahabad.

In the times of the Ramayana, the site of Allahabad was made up of a few Rishi's huts at the confluence of the three rivers. Lord Rama, the main protagonist in the Ramayana, spent some time here, at the Ashram of Sage Bharadwaj, before proceeding to nearby Chitrakoot.

The city was known earlier as Prayaga - a name that is still commonly used. Akbar realized the strategic importance of the city, built a magnificent fort on the banks of the holy Sangam and re-christened it as Illahabad in 1575.

In 1801 Nawab of Awadh ceded it to East India Company. In 1857, the city was a crucible of activity in the Indian Mutiny. The company officially handed over India to British Government in 1858 at Minto Park. Under the British rule, Allahabad was the capital of the United Provinces till the 1920s. It was a well-known centre of education (dating from the time of the Buddha), and in the first few decades of the 20th century, the Allahabad University had earned for itself the epithet of 'Oxford of the East'. It is also a major literary centre for Hindi, with many literateurs being connected to it in some way or the other. It holds the world record for the world's first letter delivered by airmail (from Allahabad to Naini, just a few km. across the river Yamuna) (1911).

Allahabad was the birthplace of Jawaharlal Nehru, and the Nehru family estate, called the Anand Bhavan, is now a museum. It was also the birthplace of his daughter Indira Gandhi, and the home of Lal Bahadur Shastri, both later Prime Ministers of India. In addition Vishwanath Pratap Singh and Chandra Shekhar were also associated with Allahabad. Thus Allahabad has the distinction of being the home of several Prime Ministers in India's post-independence history.

During the movement for independence, Allahabad was at the forefront of all political activities. Alfred Park in Allahabad was the site where, in 1931, the revolutionary Chandrashekhar Azad killed himself when surrounded by the British Police. Anand Bhavan, and an adjacent Nehru family home, Swaraj Bhavan, were the center of the political activities of the Indian National Congress, and a magnet for revolutionaries and student activists.

The first seeds of the idea of Pakistan were also sown in Allahabad. In 1930, Allama Muhammad Iqbal (1877-1938) in his presidential address to the All-India Muslim League proposed a separate Muslim state for the Muslim majority regions of India.

Kumbha Mela and Magh Mela

The word 'Mela' is fair in Hindi. Except the years of the Kumbha Mela and the Ardha Kumbha Mela (Ardha is half in Hindi, hence the Ardha Kumbha Mela is held every 6th year), the Magh Mela takes place every year in the month of Magh (Jan - Feb) of the Hindu calendar. Kumbh Mela (the Urn Festival) occurs four times every twelve years and rotates between four locations: Prayag (Allahabad), Haridwar, Ujjain and Nashik.

In Allahabad, these fairs take place at the Sangam (confluence) of the Yamuna and the Ganges River which is holy in Hinduism. In the Kumbha Mela of 2001, which was called the Maha (great) Kumbha Mela because of an alignment of the Sun, Moon, and Jupiter that occurred only every 144 years, almost 75 million people visited the banks of the river to take part in the festivals. During the Melas, an entire township is built on the river's banks, with functioning hospitals, fire stations, police stations, restaurants and other facilities.

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