Friday, 15 March 2013

An Afternoon in Allahabad

Kumbh Mela in Allahabad has just ended. We could not go there due to some pressing commitments in Bangalore. But reading about Allahabad and Kumbh also brought back fond memories of our visit to the city in 2011 as part of Great Central India Road trip in 2011. 

We passed through Allahabad while driving from Khajuraho to Varanasi. We reached Allahabad by 3.30 PM. Crossing Naini Bridge over Yamuna brings us into the city. The only place I remember from my first visit to Allahabad in early eighties – I was selected in the Services Selection Board for Army here – is the Civil lines where we used to hang out when we were waiting to complete our medicals. 

The agenda in Allahabad was to visit Prayag, Anand Bhavan and the famous All Saints Cathedral. As we enter, we could foresee what was in store as far as traffic is concerned. Narrow roads with all types of vehicles jostling for space with no discipline whatsoever seems to be the norm. You are in Uttar Pradesh. I had to reconcile myself. Now, I have to ask someone for direction and i am not prepared to take the Scorpio on a road which is not wide enough.

Since we hadn't eaten anything since morning, we wanted to have a good lunch and i knew that Civil lines would be the best place. I pull the vehicle onto the side on seeing someone who can answer my question. I get down from the car and go near him. He looks a pucca “Allahabadi”. Here is how the conversation goes – my first experience with eastern Uttar Pradesh.

“Bhai Saab, civil line kaisa jana hai” (brother, can you please tell me direction to civil lines?)
“Seedha jaake dhaine mudiye” (Go straight and turn right)
“Shukriya, Anand Bhavan ka rasta kaunsi hai” (Thank you. Can you also tell me how to go to Anand Bhavan?)
“Kya hum ko gayide smajthye hai kya?” (Do you think i am your guide??)
“Aisa nahi bhai saab, hum log naye hai….is liye” ( It is not like that, bro. We are new to city....)
“jaayiye jaayiye, ek gayide rakhlijiye!!” (Get last and get hold of a guide)

Encounters of Eastern UP kind!!

Looking at the traffic and the chaos on the roads, we drop the idea of going anywhere except Prayag and Anand Bhavan. We have some biscuits and cup of tea and head to Prayag.

Prayag or Triveni sangam - confluence of three holy rivers - is one of the holiest places for Hindus. This is the place where Hindus come to immerse the ashes of the dead and perform “Shradh” (rituals) or simply to take holy dips. The sacred Kumbh mela is held every 12 years on the banks of the Sangam.

The Kumbh mela grounds are vast. Due to rains, we could see puddles of water at different places. As we drive towards the ghats we see dirt all around. This place just stinks with no one caring for the its cleanliness. This does not stop the devout coming in hordes for conducting rituals or to take holy dip. We could see bus loads of people from nearby or faraway villages getting down and moving towards the river.  

We park the car and walk to the ghat. There are no steps or ghats here like in Banaras or possibly they are submerged. The ghats are nothing but a mess of mud.

The river is wide and we could actually see confluence of two rivers due to colour difference – Yamuna is gray and Ganga is lighter. The boat boys come running to us asking us whether we want to go for boating in the river and see “Sangam”. We book a boat and hop on to see what happens at sangam. We take a boat ride and You can join us on are some pictures.

And quiet flows the Ganges.....
A fake sadhu posing for pictures for few rupees!! Notice the filth all around.
The Ghat with Naini bridge in the background
Boats waiting for its customers. In the background is the fort built by Mughal Emperor Akbar .
Sangam - The confluence of three holy rivers - The place where rituals take place.
Families busy in performing rituals for the dead
Devotees taking holy dip in the Sangam after completion of rituals
Another family going in the boat towards Sangam
We finish Prayag and now move towards Anand Bhavan. This is an imposing building. We do not go around to explore in details as it is already 5 PM and we do not want to get stuck in the traffic.

Anand Bhavan - Birth place of first Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru
We say bye to Allahabad and continue our drive to Banaras through the narrow roads of the city till we reach the highway.

Recommended - Allahabad is a place which needs to be experienced by staying there at least for a day. Apart from the Sangam, the place was the cradle of India's freedom struggle  Allahabad is also known for its famous university and well maintained Mughal monuments known as Khusro Bagh. 

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