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History of Allahabad

Allahabad finds reference in ancient Hindu scriptures including the Vedas, Puranas and the epic Ramayana as Prayag, the confluence of the three holy rivers of Yamuna, Ganga and Saraswati. The latter is a subterranean river believed to emerge at the sangam or confluence to join with the other two rivers. Known as ‘tirtha raj’ or the king of all pilgrimages, Allahabad was believed to have been chosen by Lord Brahma for the sacred confluence. According to legend, this is the spot where the sage Bharadwaj had his ashram, where thousands of students lived and studied under him. Lord Rama, the hero of the epic Ramayana also visited the ashram.

Historical evidence of a very ancient settlement has been found at archaeological sites in Allahabad. At the Draupadi Ghat evidence of habitation and artefacts dating from 1100 till 800 BC were recovered. Remains from the Kushana era (1st century AD) have been found around the site of the Bharadwaj Ashram. Little remains of this ancient epoch in the history of this town. The Muslims annexed Allahabad in 1194, but the foundations of the modern city were laid by Mughal Emperor Akbar in 1575. Named Illahabas, the city acquired its grand fort overlooking the sangam in 1583. It is in this fort that Khusrau, the son of Emperor Jahangir fought to gain control of the throne and was first imprisoned and then killed in 1615 by his brother Shah Jahan.

In 1801, the British annexed the city and its fort, establishing colonial rule for the next 150 years. After the Mutiny of 1857, the British shifted the headquarters of the Northwestern provinces to Allahabad. Lord Canning announced the transfer of power to the crown in 1858 in this city. In the subsequent years Allahabad witnessed some important events in the freedom struggle. Home to Pandit Motilal Nehru, one of the most important leaders of the movement, Allahabad hosted the first Indian National Congress in 1885. Mahatma Gandhi’s call for a mass movement against imperialist rule was launched as the Quit India Movement from Allahabad in 1920. In subsequent years Motilal Nehru’s son Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru spearheaded the struggle to its conclusion from Anand Bhavan; the residence that has now been converted into a museum.

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