The Triveni Sangam; Allahabad
To travel is to discover yourself. A journey was long overdue and this time it was to the site of the famous Kumba Mela at Prayag, also known as the Triveni Sangam.
Hundreds of thousands of people come, as their forebears had come for thousands of years from all over India, to bathe at the confluence of Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical river, Saraswathi. Having visited in the winter season, I was fortunate enough to see migratory birds from Siberia playing and feeding in the Yamuna. A dip at the Triveni Sangam is believed to break the cycle of rebirth and save one’s soul. References to these ceremonial baths can be found in the accounts of Chinese Pilgrims who visited India some thirteen hundred years ago and even then these Melas were ancient and lost in an unknown antiquity.
When you approach the Sangam from land, what welcomes you is a massive fort built by the great emperor Akbar.
This fort sits on the banks of the river Yamuna. Akbar named the fort Illahabas (“blessed by God”), which later became “Allahabad”. Did it surprise you that the Great city of Allahabad was named after this fort? You won’t be much surprised when you see the size of this massive fort but sadly only a little portion of it is open to the public. The fort is now an army cantonment.
According to a local legend, Akbar was a Hindu ascetic in his previous birth. Once, by mistake, he consumed a cow’s hair while drinking milk. Horrified at this sin (cow being a holy animal), he committed suicide. He was born a non-Hindu as a result of this sin and was driven to build a fort at the holy Sangam.
The local Prayagwal Brahmins claim that Akbar repeatedly failed to construct the fort because its foundation would sink in the sand each time. The emperor was told that a human sacrifice was required to proceed. A local Brahmin voluntarily sacrificed himself, and in return, Akbar granted his descendants; the Prayagwals the exclusive rights of servicing the pilgrims at the Sangam.
The famous Kumba Mela is held here in every twelve years and over the years it has also been the site of immersion of ashes of several national leaders, including Mahatma Gandhi in 1948. According to the local guides, at the exact point of the confluence, the water of Yamuna is green and that of Ganga is white.
This place has attracted hundreds of thousands of people over the ages. I do not know what attracted them to this great river of India but there is something magical and mystical about the Triveni Sangam at Prayag, Allahabad. I will be visiting this place again.