Prayag also known by the name Allahabad is one of the largest cities of the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. The city is surrounded by the rivers Ganga and Yamuna on three sides. Lord Brahma is said to have performed a yagya here to purify the atmosphere when he created the universe. Hence the name Prayag, ‘the place of purification’. Located at the junction of the holy rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati, it was visited by Lord Ram when he was in exile.
Places of Interest
The Triveni Sangam is the confluence of the river triad – Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati. The river Saraswati disappeared from the surface of the earth at the onset of kaliyug and is said to join its counterparts from below the earth. That the river is not mythical is proven by the recent archaeological finds which indicate the course of the ancient river. Kalidasa, described the confluence of the white waters of the Ganga with the blue waters of the Yamuna as if they were a string of pearls and sapphires combined, or a garland of white and blue lotuses intertwined. The waters have soiled since the times of Kalidasa in the wake of human activities, nevertheless, the place retains it magical quality, Ganga being the tirtha of kaliyug.
Every twelve years, the Prayag becomes host to the legendary Kumbh Mela which is held alternately at four different venues every three years. History narrates the episode of devas being directed by Lord Vishnu to churn the ocean of milk to restore their lost strength. The task required them to make a temporary agreement with the asuras, to work together with a promise of sharing the wealth equally thereafter. However, when the Kumbha (urn) containing the amrita appeared, a fight ensued. For twelve days and twelve nights (equivalent to twelve human years) the devas and asuras fought for the pot of amrita. In this battle, Lord Vishnu (incarnated as Mohini) took the Kumbha of elixir spilling drops of amrita at four places: Allahabad, Haridwar, Ujjain and Nasik; which became the holy sites for the Kumbh Mela.
Once sage Markandeya asked Lord Narayana to show him a specimen of the divine power. Narayana flooded the entire world for a moment, during which only the Akshayavata could be seen above the water level. A sacred fig tree located within the Patalpuri Temple at the Allahabad Fort is worshipped as the Akshayavata. As of 2011, permission from the Commandant of Allahabad Fort’s Ordnance Depot is needed to visit this tree. On one day during the Kumbh Mela, the site is open to all the pilgrims. According to locals, sage Shukdeva narrated Srimad Bhagavad Gita to king Parikshit under this tree.
Hanuman Mandir, located in proximity to the Allahabad Fort is one of the unique temples in the city. The complex is home to a 20-by-8 feet idol of Lord Hanuman. This idol is in a reclining position and is a few feet below the ground. The temple gets submerged when the river Ganges is in full spate. It is said that the Ganga rises to touch the feet of Lord Hanuman. The British government once tried to dig out the idol and move the temple to another place, it is said that the idol instead of coming out started sinking in the ground at its original place.
Situated in Alopi Bagh in Prayag, this temple is peculiar in the sense that there is no idol of any deity in this temple, rather there is a wooden carriage or ‘doli’ which is worshipped. The name, Alopi (disappeared) Bagh stems from the story of Lord Shiv and Devi Sati. At the death of Devi Sati, grieving Lord Shiv travelled through skies with her dead body. Lord Vishnu, to relieve him from this agony, with the help of Sudarshan chakra caused the body to dissociate into various parts which fell at various places and went on to become important vortexes of energy. The last part fell at this location in Prayag, hence the name ‘Alopi’ (where disappearance was concluded).