History of Allahabad

History of Allahabad

Allahabad is one of the largest cities of the State of Uttar Pradesh in India. It encompasses a large area and is an inland peninsula surrounded by the rivers Ganga and Yamuna from three sides with only one side connected to the mainland. Along with a large number of areas within Allahabad City, there are several satellite cities on the other side of the rivers Ganga and Yamuna, and are considered as satellite cities of Allahabad. There are also a large number of Townships and Villages near Allahabad City within Allahabad District.

History of Allahabad

Allahabad or Prayagraj is a historian's paradise. History lies embedded everywhere, in its fields, forests and settlements. Forty-eight kilometres, towards the southwest, on the placid banks of the Jamuna, the ruins of Kaushambi, capital of the Vatsa kingdom and a thriving center of Buddhism, bear silent testimony to a forgotten and bygone era. On the eastern side, across the river Ganga and connected to the city by the Shastri Bridge is Jhunsi, identified with the ancient city of Pratisthanpur, capital of the Chandra dynasty. About 58 kilometres northwest is the medieval site of Kara with its impressive wreckage of Jayachand's fort. Sringverpur, another ancient site discovered relatively recently, has become a major attraction for tourists and antiquarians alike.

Prayag is an extremely important and integral part of the Ganga Yamuna Doab, and its history is inherently tied with that of the Doab region, right from the inception of the town.

The city was known earlier as Prayāga - a name that is still commonly used. That it is an ancient town, is illustrated by supposed references in the Vedas to Prayag, where Brahma, the Hindu Creator of the Universe, is believed to have attended a sacrificial ritual. Excavations have revealed Northern Black Polished ware objects in Prayag, further corroborating the conjecture that Prayag existed as a town as early as 600 B.C.

The Puranas record that Yayati left Prayag and conquered the region of Saptha Sindhu. [Talageri 1993, 2000; Elst 1999] His five sons Yadu, Druhyu, Puru, Anu and Turvashu became the main tribes of the Rigveda.

When the Aryans first settled in what they termed the "Aryavarta", or Madhyadesha, Prayag or Kaushambi was an important part of their territory. The Vatsa (a branch of the early Indo-Aryans) were rulers of Hastinapur (near present day Delhi), and they established the town of Kaushambi near present day Prayag. They shifted their capital to Kaushambi when Hastinapur was destroyed by floods.

In the times of the Ramayana, Prayag was made up of a few rishis' huts at the confluence of the sacred rivers, and much of the vats country was continuous jungle. Lord Rama, the main protagonist in the Ramayana, spent some time here, at the Ashram of Sage Bharadwaj, before proceeding to nearby Chitrakoot.

The Doaba region, including Prayag was controlled by several empires and dynasties in the ages to come. It became a part of the Mauryan and Gupta empires of the east and the Kushan empire of the west before becoming part of the local Kannauj empire which became very powerful.

Objects unearthed in Prayag indicate that it was part of the Kushana empire in the 1st century AD. In his memoirs on India, Huien Tsang, the Chinese chronicler who travelled through India during Harshavardhana's reign (A.D. 607-647), writes that he visited Prayag in A.D. 643.

When the Muslim rule came, Prayag became a part of the Delhi Sultanate when the town was annexed by Mhd Ghori in A.D. 1193. Then the Mughals took over from the slave rulers of Delhi and under them Prayag rose to prominence once again.

Acknowledging the strategic position of Prayag in the Doaba or the "Hindostan" region, at the confluence of its defining rivers which had immense navigational potentials, Akbar built a magnificent fort – one of his largest – on the banks of the holy Sangam and re-christened the town as Illahabad in 1575. The Akbar fort has an Ashokan pillar and some temples, and is largely a military barracks. On the southwestern extremity of Allahabad lies Khusrobagh; it has three mausoleums, including that of Jehangir's first wife – Shah Begum.

It was from Allahabad that Prince Salim, later to become emperor Jehangir, revolted against his father, the Mughal emperor Akbar. In 1602, prince Salim held a parallel imperial court in Akbar's fort here, ignoring the royal summons to leave Allahabad and proceed to Agra. However, before his death in 1605, Akbar named Salim his successor.

Before colonial rule was imposed over Allahabad, the city was rocked by Maratha incursions. But the Marathas also left behind two beautiful eighteenth century temples with intricate architecture.

In 1765, the combined forces of the Nawab of Awadh and the Mughal emperor Shah Alam II lost the Battle of Buxar to the British. Although, the British did not take over their states, they established a garrison at the Prayag fort - realising its strategic position as the gateway to the north west. Governor General Warren Hastings later took Allahabad from Shah Alam and gave it to Awadh alleging that he had placed himself in the power of the Marathas.

In 1801 the Nawab of Awadh ceded the city to the British East India Company. Gradually the other parts of Doaba and adjoining region in its west (including Delhi and Ajmer-Mewara regions) were won by the British. When these north western areas were made into a new Presidency called the "North Western Provinces of Agra", its capital was Agra. Allahabad remained an important part of this state.

In 1834, Allahabad became the seat of the Government of the Agra Province and a High Court was established. But a year later both were relocated to Agra.

In 1857,Allahabad was active in the Indian Mutiny. After the mutiny, the British truncated the Delhi region of the state, merging it with Punjab and transferred the capital of North west Provinces to Allahabad, which remained so for the next 20 years.

In 1877 the two provinces of Agra (NWPA) and Awadh were merged to form a new state which was called the United Provinces. Allahabad was the capital of this new state till the 1920s.

An ancient seat of learning

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.Allahabad University was established on 23 September 1887. it is the fourth oldest university of India after Calcutta, Bombay and Madras University. In the 19th century, the Allahabad University earned the epithet of 'Oxford of the East'. Its jurisdiction at the time extended over a large part of north and north west India (today's U.P, Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan and M.P.). Between 1887 and 1927 at least thirty-eight different institutions and colleges of this area were affiliated to Allahabad University. Allahabad University is also a major literary centre for Hindi.

It also holds the world record for the world's first letter delivered by airmail (from Prayag to Naini, just a few km. across the river Yamuna) (1911).

Allahabad, the freedom struggle, and Indian politics

During the Mutiny of 1857, Allahabad had an insignificant presence of European troops. Taking advantage of this, the rebels brought Allahabad under their control. It was around this time that Maulvi Liaquat Ali unfurled the banner of revolt. Maulvi Liaqat Ali was the forerunner amongst the freedom fighters of 1857.

After the Mutiny was quelled, the British established the High Court, the Police Headquarters and the Public Service Commission in the city. This transformed Allahabad into an administrative center, a status that it enjoys even today.

The fourth session of the Indian National Congress was held in the city in 1888. At the turn of the century, Allahabad also became a nodal point for the revolutionaries. The Karmyogi office of Sundar Lal in Chowk sparked patriotism in the hearts of many young men. Nityanand Chatterji became a household name when he hurled the first bomb at the European club. It was at Alfred Park in Allahabad where, in 1931, the revolutionary Chandrashekhar Azad killed himself when surrounded by the British Police. The Nehru family homes Anand Bhavan and Swaraj Bhavan were at the center of the political activities of the Indian National Congress. In the years of the freedom struggle, thousands of satyagrahis, led, inter alia, by Purshottam Das Tandon, Bishambhar Nath Pande and Narayan Dutt Tiwari, went to jail. And when freedom was finally won, the first Prime Minister of free India, Jawahar Lal Nehru, and several Union ministers such as Mangla Prasad, Muzaffar Hasan, K. N. Katju, Lal Bahadur Shastri, were from Allahabad.

Allahabad is the birthplace of Jawaharlal Nehru, and the Nehru family estate, called the Anand Bhavan, is now a museum. It is also the birthplace of Indira Gandhi, and the home of Lal Bahadur Shastri, both later Prime Ministers of India. Besides, 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.

The first seeds of the idea of Pakistan were sown in Allahabad. On 29 December 1930, Allama Muhammad Iqbal's presidential address to the All-India Muslim League proposed a separate Muslim state for the Muslim majority regions of India.

Literary past

Allahabad is famous for the literary geniuses it has produced. Many famous writers of Hindi literature had a connection with the city. Notable amongst them are Mahadevi Varma, Sumitranandan Pant, Suryakant Tripathi 'Nirala', Upendra Nath 'Ashk' and Harivansh Rai Bachchan. Another noteworthy poet is Raghupati Sahay better known under the name of Firaq Gorakhpuri. Firaq was a major Urdu poet of the last century and an outstanding literary critic as well. Both Firaq and Harivansh Bachchan were professors of English at Allahabad University. Firaq Gorakhpuri and Mahadevi Varma were awarded the Jnanpith Award, the highest literary honour conferred in the Republic of India in 1969 and 1982 respectively. Rajendra Yadav, Mamta and Ravindra Kalia, Kamaleshwar, Doodhnath Singh and many other new age literary writers and critics like Namwar Singh began their literary careers from Allahabad. The city is still home to many young and upcoming literary figures. It has also been one of the biggest centres of publication of Hindi literature, examples are Lok Bharti, Rajkamal and Neelabh. Allahabad has also produced a great Lyricst Virag Mishra who most recently won the Stardust award [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stardust_Awards] for Standout Performance by a Lyricist - Virag Mishra (Zinda Hoon Main)

Allahabad holds a place in Urdu literature as well. Akbar Allahabadi, for example, is the most well-read poets of modern Urdu Literature. Apart from him, poets like Nooh Narwi,Tegh Allahabadi.Raaz Allahabadi, Firaq Gorakhpuri, Asghar Gondvi, and numerous others have brightened the name of Allahabad all over the world. Short story writers, Azam Kuraivi, Ibn e Safi,Adil Rasheed all are from Allahabad. Critics like Dr.Aijaz Husain,Dr.Aqeel Rizwi, Hakeem Asrar Kuraivi also hail from the Allahabad. In today's context one of the biggest in Urdu writing is Shamsur Rahman Faruqi who edits Shabkhoon from Allahabad which is known all over the Urdu world as a pioneer in Post Modernist literature.

The famous English author and Nobel Laureate (1907) Rudyard Kipling also spent time at Allahabad working for "The Pioneer" as an assistant editor and overseas correspondent.

Eminent Sanskrit scholars like Sir Ganganath Jha, Dr Baburam Saxena, Pandit Raghuvar Mitthulal Shastri and Professor Suresh Chandra Srivastava, Dr Manjushree Srivastava were both the student and the teacher in University of Allahabad. The most prominent Arabic and Persian scholars that Allahabad ever had were Dr. Abdul Sattar Siddiqui, his colleague Muhammad Naeemur Rehman and his student Professor Hindi. Professor Naeemur Rehman was known for his extremely well organized personal library of tens of thousands of books which was open for all to benefit from.

Another major landmark of the literary past of Allahabad were the publishers "Kitabistan" owned by the Rehman brothers -- Kaleemur Rehman and Obaidur Rehman. They published thousands of books including those by Nehru and others. They became the first ever publishers from India to open a branch in London in 1936.


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