Allahabad - Home of the sacred Sangam
Allahabad is a major city that's located about 240km (150 miles) southeast of the state capital, Lucknow and 130km (80 miles) northwest of Varanasi. Allahabad isn't a major tourist destination as tourists simply pass through the city on their way to Varanasi. That doesn't mean there's nothing to see here, there is, but not quite as much as in other city's. I liked Allahabad as it has an air of sophistication, which I hadn't felt in other places, that is mainly due to its renowned university which has educated many famous Indians such as former Indian presidents, prime ministers and deputy prime ministers. The sights are spread out so you will need to take cycle or auto rickshaws in order to visit them.
Despite the relatively modern feel to the city, Allahabad has a deep history that's mainly due to its location at the confluence of three of India's most sacred rivers - the Ganges, the Yamuna and the mythical underground river of enlightenment, the Saraswati. The land area where these river's meet is called the 'Sangam'. Bathing at the Sangam is believed to be auspicious throughout the year especially for 15 days in the month of Magh (mid-January to Mid-February) during 'Magh Mela' and longer during 'Maha Kumbh Mela' which is held every 12 years. Astrologers calculate the holiest time to enter the water and draw up a 'Holy Dip Schedule'. Maha Kumbh Mela attracts millions of devout Hindus and a holy dip then is believed to cleanse the soul. An enormous temporary township springs up on the vacant land on the Allahabad side of the river. Allahabad's other claim-to-fame is that it was the ancestral home of the Nehru's. Motilal Nehru, (India's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru's father), bought the Swaraj Bhavan in 1900 and is where another one of India's prime minister's, Indira Gandhi, was born. The house next door to this, the Anand Bhavan, was owned by Jawaharlal Nehru and it was here that he and Gandhi planned to overthrow the British Raj.