A Day in Prayagraj - More than Just a Spiritual ExperienceAs a five-year-old the only vivid memory about visiting this holy city, Allahabad, was, my brother dipping me in the 'Triveni Sangam' and I found myself gasping for breath... rest of the experience seem to have diminished with the growing years. I had always wanted to revisit this place, I made enough plans and set course. I wanted to visit this place to know what it has to offer at this juncture of my life as a fairly mature individual and let the residual effect sink in.
Allahabad one of the ancient historic cities of Uttar Pradesh – is picturesquely situated at the watersmeet, the Ganges, Yamuna and the invisible mythical Saraswati. Originally known as Prayaga – was renamed ‘Illahabad’ during the Mughal rule, which eventually during the British reign was anglicised and came to be known as 'Allahabad'.
The association of Allahabad to that of Kumbh Mela is inseparable. The riot of colours, saffron-clad Sadhus, moksha are semantics deeply connected to this holy city. Tourists throng the city for a number of reasons, some for pious reasons to end the eternal cycle of birth and death of their ancestors, some in need of answers to the existence of their very soul, some for sheer experience of the place. Well, I travelled for the latter... I was amused by the sadhus, and couldn’t tell a fake from a real one.
Apart from enduring the surge of millions of devotees annually, this place is a constant reminder of a source of energy – renewing day after day, preparing itself continually – like the sacred rivers that flow along.
Allahabad seemed to have weathered and reflected every regime it had faced, be it the forts, gardens, temples, tombs or the churches. Every brick had a fair share of story to narrate.
Our first stop was the Sangam which means “coming together” - this place is the confluence of rivers - “Ganga, Yamuna and long dried Saraswati”. The merging of both the rivers were so distinct owing to the difference in colour. It is believed that a holy dip in this communion point flushes away all the sins. A simple and inexpensive boat ride (my bargaining skills to its utmost throttle) took us to this place. I took the plunge, there seemed to be some kind of serenity and calmness cloud from within, in contrast to the chaos that surrounded.
After the holy dip at the Sangam - we headed to the Hanuman Mandir which is just a 4-5 mts walk. The uniqueness about this temple is the reclining posture of Hanuman which is not a common sight elsewhere. It is one of the oldest temples in the city, we enjoyed the walk along the ghat.
We could get a great view of the fort walls towering from the Sangam. This magnificent fort was built by Akbar. This fort was only partially accessible or open to the public, we were no different and, hence, ventured in to see what was in store. The rest has been taken over by the Indian Army. The Patalpuri Temple is a multi-levelled underground temple located inside fort. The much famed - “Immortal tree” or the “Akshaya Vat”, is rooted here. There is so much of intrigue and semblance attached to this tree because this Banyan tree has stood for centuries now. Since the leaves of the Akshaya Vat is supposed to bring in good luck, both me and my daughter collected as many.
The ancestral home of Jawaharlal Nehru, turned into a museum, was worth the visit. The house is surrounded by a serene and beautiful garden. The museum showcases photographs, hand-written letters, household articles and much more. The very thought that we were walking down the corridors which were once taken by our freedom fighters gave goose bumps.
The Company Bagh is an exhaustive and sprawling green cover extended over acres, also known as "Chandrashekhar Azad Park". Situated at the heart of the city, it is frequented by tourists, nature lovers, fitness workers and many more. This place is of highest historical importance – for it is here that Chandrashekar Azad was gunned down by the British troops. It had a museum, a magnificent library and homed unique species of trees and birds. The trunk of the trees were so huge and I could quite imagine the British soldiers having easily taken cover behind them then. A stroll in this ambience is rejuvenating to the truest sense.
The Allahabad Museum remains the pride of the city and harbours the best of Indian heritage. The stone sculptures, terracotta mural – hall, miniature paintings, scriptures in Sanskrit, seals, pre-historic archaeological findings. Visiting this place was time well spent in all. It was extremely informative for my daughter, and gave her a better perspective on miniature paintings.
Khusro Bagh,this Mughal-Rajput architecture is a true marvel but not of the utmost upkeep. This place houses three tombs, Jehangir's eldest son Khusro, his mother Shah Begum, his sister Nisar Begum. The work inside the tombs are intricate and beautiful.
The All Saint's Cathedral, an imposing Church made of stones in a Victorian style, is an architectural delight, which was built during the British regime. Located at end of the Civil Lines locality was a visual treat in itself, with paved paths and lush garden all around.
This city is known for its bout of clashes, yet it fights back and comes to term with peace. A message to imbibe... “Inner peace amidst chaos”. In all, this journey did have a purpose in itself, life seemed to have taken a full circle... from a child who gasped for breath at the very plunge then... to an individual at peace with the plunge now!!! This city will never cease to amaze you with its renewed spirit.
-- as shared by Writer Gayathri Iyer
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