Travel Bucket List: India – Uttar Pradesh Part 6

Ayodhya
135 km east of Lucknow lies our next destination, the holy town of Ayodhya, the birthplace of Lord Rama. The city is identified by some with the legendary city of Ayodhya, and the birthplace of Lord Rama and the setting of the epic Ramayana. Modern scholars variously believe that the present-day Ayodhya is same as the legendary Ayodhya, or that the legendary city is a mythical place that came to be identified with the present-day Ayodhya only during the Gupta period around the 4th and 5th centuries. The present-day city is identified as the location of Saketa, an important city of the Kosala mahajanapada in the first millennium BC, and later served as its capital. Early Buddhist and Jain canonical texts mention that the religious leaders Gautama Buddha and Mahavira visited and lived in the city. Jain texts also describe it as the birthplace of five tirthankaras namely, Rishabhanatha, Ajitanatha, Abhinandananatha, Sumatinath and Anantnath, and associate it with the legendary chakravartins. From the Gupta period onwards, several sources mention Ayodhya and Saketa as the name of the same city.

Because it is believed as the birthplace of Lord Rama, Ayodhya has been regarded as one of the seven most important pilgrimage sites or Saptapuri for Hindus. It is believed that the birth spot of Rama was marked by a temple, which is said to have been demolished by the orders of the Mughal emperor Babur and a disputed mosque erected in its place. In 1992, it led to the demolition of the Babri mosque by Hindu mobs with the aim to replace it with a temple of Lord Rama. Ayodhya is a derivation of the Sanskrit verb yudh, which means to fight or to wage a war with yodhya meaning to be fought. The initial A is the negative prefix and so Ayodhya therefore means not to be fought or, more idiomatically in English, Invincible. In the Atharvaveda, it is used to mean the unconquerable city of gods.

Saketa is the older name for the city, attested in Sanskrit, Jain, Sanskrit, Buddhist, Greek and Chinese sources and the word is derived from the Sanskrit words Saha meaning with and Aketen which means houses or buildings. The older name in English was Oudh or Oude, and the princely state it was the capital of until 1856 is still known as Oudh State. Ayodhya was stated to be the capital of the ancient Kosala kingdom in the Ramayana and was also referred to as Kosala.

According to one theory, the legendary Ayodhya is the same as the historical city of Saketa and the present-day Ayodhya. According to another theory, the legendary Ayodhya is a mythical city, and the name Ayodhya came to be used for the Saketa which is present-day Ayodhya only around the fourth century, when a Gupta emperor, probably Skandagupta moved his capital to Saketa, and renamed it to Ayodhya after the legendary city. Alternative, but less likely, theories state that Saketa and Ayodhya were two adjoining cities, or that Ayodhya was a locality within the Saketa city.

In 2003, the Archaeological Survey of India or ASI carried out an excavation at the mosque site to determine if it was built over the ruins of a temple. The excavation uncovered pillar bases indicating a temple had been in existence under the mosque. Besides Hindus, the Buddhist and Jain representatives claimed that their temples existed at the excavated site.

Some South Koreans have identified the Ayuta mentioned in their ancient Samgungnyusa legend with Ayodhya. According to this legend, the ancient Korean princess Heo Hwang-ok came from Ayuta. In the 2000s, the local government of Ayodhya and South Korea acknowledged the connection and held a ceremony to raise a statue of the princess. The cities of Ayutthaya in Thailand, and Yogyakarta in Indonesia, are named after Ayodhya.

Translating to Ram’s Birthplace, the Ram Janmabhoomi is believed to have been the birthplace of Lord Ram. According to the Ramayana, Lord Ram, Lord Vishnu’s seventh manifestation, is said to have grown up along Ayodhya’s river Sarayu. After being a conflicted site for decades, the land was handed over to a trust by the Supreme Court of India to build the Ram Temple. The temple site is where the Babri Masjid once stood. It is believed that the Mughals demolished a Hindu shrine to build the mosque at the birthplace of Lord Ram. In 1992, a group of Hindu nationalists tore down the Babri Masjid which led to a series of violent riots across India. In October 2019, a bench of five judges of the Supreme Court ordered the land to be handed over to a trust to build the Ram Temple with an alternate piece of land of 5 acres given to the Sunni Waqf Board to build a mosque.

Hanuman Garhi is a 10th century temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman and is one of the most important temples in Ayodhya as it is customary to visit the Hanuman Garhi temple before visiting the Ram Temple. It is believed that Lord Hanuman lived at the site of the temple guarding Ayodhya. To reach the hilltop temple one needs to climb a staircase with 76 steps which is located at the entrance. Housed within is a 6-inch-tall idol of Hanuman. The main temple has an interior cave adorned with numerous statues of Lord Hanuman along with his mother, Maa Anjani. The festivals of Rama Navami and Hanuman Jayanti, which celebrate the birth of Lord Ram and Lord Hanuman respectively, attract thousands of devotees to the Hanuman Garhi. The temple is open between 5 am and 11 pm daily.

Established towards the northeastern corner of the Ram Janmabhoomi, Kanak Bhawan was constructed in 1891. Also known as Sone-ka-Ghar, the temple is dedicated to Lord Rama and his wife, Goddess Sita. Kanak Bhawan, which means a Golden Palace, has three golden-crowned idols of the Lord Rama and Goddess Sita under a silver roof in the sanctum sanctorum or the garbha griha. It is believed that this shrine was gifted to Rama and Sita by the former’s stepmother, Kaikeyi. Renovated during King Vikramaditya’s reign, the present site was further entirely revamped by Vrish Bhanu Kunwari. This Bundela-styled temple is currently managed by the Sri Vrishbhan Dharma Setu Trust and is open between 8 and 11 am and then again between 4:30 and 9 pm. Aarti timings in summer are between 8 and 9 am and between 7 and 8 pm and during winters from 8:30 to 9:30 am and 6:30 to 7:30 pm.

Established in the name of the local deity, Lord Nageshwarnath, the Nageshwarnath Temple is located adjacent to Theri Bazaar and is believed to have been set up by Kush or Kusha, Lord Rama’s son. In good condition since 750 AD, the current temple is said to have been reconstructed in 1750 by Safar Jung’s minister, Naval Rai. Legend has it that Kush came across a Shiva devotee called Naga Kanya when he happened to lose his arm ring in the local bath. Upon learning that the latter had fallen in love with him, he raised this Shiva temple for the Naga Kanya. The Nageshwarnath Temple attracts numerous devotees during Mahashivaratri and Trayodashi, also known as Pradosh Vrat. The Shiva Barat or the procession of Lord Shiva is a significant attraction here. The temple is open from 5 am to 8 pm and aartis take place between 5 and 6 am and 8 and 8:30 am.

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Situated along the Naya Ghat, the Treta Ke Thakur Temple houses numerous idols including that of Lord Ram, Goddess Sita, Lord Lakshman, Lord Hanuman, Bharat and Sugreev. These statues are said to have been sculpted out of a single black sandstone. The temple is believed to have been constructed 300 years ago by a local king named Kullu and is said is to stand where the famous Ashwamedha Yagna performed by Lord Rama took place. The temple was renovated in the 1700s by the Maratha queen, Ahilyabai Holkar. It is open to the public only once a year on a day marked as Prabodhini Ekadashi which is eleventh lunar day in the bright fornight of the month of Karthika and corresponds to roughly October/November. On this day colourful celebrations with traditional customs are carried out. On this day the temple is open for 24 hours.

Situated on the north-western side of the Ram Janmanhoomi, Sita ki Rasoi is believed to be an ancient kitchen used by Goddess Sita. Built quite close to the Ram Janmabhoomi, this site is now a temple housing some utensils. One among the two kitchens in Goddess Sita’s name, this is a basement kitchen. The other end of the temple has richly clothed and embellished idols of Lord Ram, Lord Lakshman, Bharat and Shatrughana and their wives Goddess Sita, Urmila, Mandavi and Srutakirti. Worshipped as the Goddess of Food, Sita is also known as Goddess Annapurna and so the temple follows this tradition by offering free food to all those who visit. Visitors can also donate any amount of money for charity here. The temple is open between 8 am and 6 pm daily.

Located on the banks of river Sarayu in Ayodhya’s twin city Faizabad, Raja Mandir has been associated with numerous mythological stories time and again. The temple houses stunningly carved idols of many Hindu Gods and Goddess, which are clad in silken fabrics and rich jewellery. Once known for its association with Lord Sri Rama, the shrine is now a regular temple. From the temple, the reflection of the shrine on the water is beautiful. The temple is open between sunrise and sunset.

Located in the heart of the town, Dashrath Bhavan is the residence of King Dashrath, father to Lord Sri Ram. Popularly known as Bada Asthan or Badi Jagah, Dashrath Mahal houses magnificent shrines of King Ram. Believed to have housed Lord Rama’s childhood and King Dasharath’s capital, this palace hosts a decorated and ornamented entrance with beautiful paintings. Within the palace, there are saffron-clad monks chanting mantras, singing and dancing. Although relatively smaller than what one would imagine a palace to be, Dashrath Bhavan is lit up during festivities like the Ram Vivah, Karthik Mela, Diwali, Ram Navami and Shravan Mela. It is open from 8 am to 12 noon and then between 4 to 10 pm.

Mani Parbat is a tiny hillock situated about 65 feet above sea level. Besides being a great viewpoint, the hillock also houses a stupa built by Emperor Ashoka and a Buddhist monastery. Housing a line of religious shrines, Mani Parbat is located quite close to another hilly mound called the Sugriv Parbat. There is also an Islamic mausoleum at the foothills of the hillock. Legend says that Mani Parbat is said to have fallen into Ayodhya when Lord Hanuman pulled out a mountain while searching for the herb Sanjeevani which was used to treat Lakshman’s fatal wound during the Lanka war. It is also said that this was where from which Lord Rama gave his grand speech of Dharma. Mani Parbat is open from sunrise to sunset.

Also known as Valmiki Bhawan or Maniramdas Chawni, Choti Chawni is a magnificent structure completely crafted out of white marble. There are 34 heritage caves here, with 12 to the south which are Buddhist, 17 in the centre are Hindu and 5 in the north are Jain along with the Kailasha Temple in the caves.

Situated on the banks of river Sarayu, also known as Ghaggar, Guptar Ghat is located in Faizabad near Ayodhya. With a flight of steps leading to the river, this ghat was once the neighbour of the colonial Company Gardens, which is now known as the Gupta Ghat Van. This place is said to be where Lord Rama meditated and undertook the Jal Samadhi in the river, after he attained Baikuntha and descended into heaven as an avatar of Lord Vishnu. Among the several temples situated here, the Sita-Ram temple, the Chakrahari shrine and the Narsingh temple are popular. Revamped in the 1800s and constantly improvised by the government, the Guptar Ghat is currently equipped with modern amenities as well.

Located in Faizabad, the Bahu Begum ka Makbara is popularly known as the Taj Mahal of the East. The mausoleum dedicated to the Queen Bride Begum Unmatuzzohra Bano, wife and queen of Nawab Shuja- ud- Daula and is the tallest monument in Faizabad and is famous for its non-Mughal architectural style. An example of Awadhi architecture, the Bahu Begum ka Makbara has three domes, intricately designed interiors and marvellously done walls and ceilings. Built in 1816, in the memory of the queen where she was buried after death, today the premises are a protected site under the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). The gardens in front of the complex have been beautifully done, and has a magnificent bird’s eye view of the entire city from the top of the tomb. It is open from 7 am 4 pm.

Also known as the Garden of Roses, the Gulab Bari is the tomb of the third Nawab of Awadh, Nawab Shuja-ud-Daula and his parents. The 18th century structure is constructed in the Nawab style architecture alongside a vast array of rose species in addition to fountains and lush greenery. Listed under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, Gulab Bari is currently preserved as a part of national heritage. The tomb of his wife, Bahu Begum and her house, popularly known as Moti Mahal are some of the remnants. Erected right at the centre of the Charbagh Garden, this two-storied tombstone is bracketed by endless lines of colourful roses. The garden is open between 4 am and 7 pm.

Popularly known as the Pearl Palace, Moti Mahal is located a few km from Ayodhya in Faizabad. Built in 1743, the palace was a residence of the Queen Begum Unmatuzzohra Banu, wife of the then Nawab Shuja-ud- Daulah and is a fine example of Mughal architecture. It is closed on Saturdays and on Mondays to Fridays, it is open between 12 noon to 11 pm and from 5:30 pm to 11 pm on Sundays.

Established in the memory of the 16th century saint-poet Goswami Tulsidas, the Tulsi Smarak Bhawan is believed to have been where Tulsidas composed the Ramcharita. Located on the eastern end of the National Highway at Rajgang near Ayodhya, the Smarak was built in 1969. In addition to the massive library, a storehouse of rich literature, the Smarak also houses a research centre called the Ayodhya Research Sansthan and exhibits Ramayana art and craft and has a daily recitation of the Ramkatha. In 1988, the Ram Katha Sanghralaya was added here which is a museum and a repository of facts, data and antiques related to the life and times of Lord Sri Ram. Besides the regular prayers, devotional songs and sermons, Tulsi Jayanti is celebrated with much pomp and show on every 7th of the Shravan month. The museum is open from 10 am to 9 pm with a Ramleela performance between 6 to 9 pm. The library is open between 10:30 am and 4:30 pm with the office open between 10 am and 5 pm. It is closed on Mondays and the second Sunday of every month and has no entrance fee.

Sravasti
About 100 km north of Ayodhya lies Shravasti, a city of ancient India and one of the six largest cities in India during Gautama Buddha’s lifetime. Located near the west Rapti river and closely associated with the life of Gautama Buddha passed the greater part of his monastic life here and is believed to have spent 24 Chaturmases or 24 monsoon seasons. There are age-old stupas, majestic viharas and several temples near the village of Sahet-Mahet which establish Buddha’s association with Shravasti. It is said that the Vedic period king, Shravasta, founded this town. Shravasti was the capital of the Kosala Kingdom during the 6th century BC to the 6th century AD. This prosperous trading centre was well known for its religious associations. The Sobhanath temple is believed to be the birthplace of the Tirthankara Sambhavanath in Jainism, making Shravasti an important center for Jains as well. According to Nagarjuna, the city had a population of 900,000 in the 5th century BC and it even overshadowed Magadha’s capital, Rajgir. It is also mentioned that a vast fort covered this city in which there were many temples with idols of Devkulikas. Today a great rampart of earth and brick surrounds this city. During excavation in Sahet-Mahet near Shravasti, many ancient idols and inscriptions were found, now kept in museums in Mathura and Lucknow. The Jetavana monastery was a famous monastery close to Shravasti, also known as the main temple of Gautama Buddha.

According to the Mahabharata, Shravasti is named after the legendary king Shrawasta. According to Buddhist tradition, the city was called Savatthi because the sage Savattha lived there. As per the Ramayana, the king of Kosala, Rama, installed his son Lava at Shrawasti and Kusha at Kushavati. The ruins at Saheth and Maheth on the boundaries of the Gonda and Bahraich districts are believed to be the site of ancient Shravasti. Maheth was the city-proper while the Jetavana monastery was at Saheth. Of the ancient Shravasti, the city walls are still standing. Within these, the remains of three ancient buildings can be visited: Angulimala’s stupa, Anathapindika’s stupa, and an old temple dedicated to a Jain Tirthankara Sambhavanatha.

Outside of Shravasti is located the stupa where the Twin Miracle took place. The site of Jetavana monastery is the main pilgrim destination, with meditation and chanting mainly done at the Gandhakuti or the Buddha’s hut and the Anandabodhi tree. Buddhist monasteries from the many countries have been constructed at here including Thailand, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Tibet, and China. Visitors should also plan a visit to Balrampur,at a distance of 17 km from Sravasti which is famous for its shrines and contemporary architectural styles. The Suhaildev Wildlife Sanctuary is spread over an area of 452 sq km and was established in 1988 close to the India-Nepal border. The sanctuary houses the rare Grey Francolin. Another unique feature of the sanctuary is the presence of the Tharu Tribe, who with mongoloid features have been residents of this area for centuries and are wholly dependent on the forest land for their survival and livelihood.

Prayagraj
277 km south of Shravasti and 168 km south of Ayodhya lies the city of Prayagraj. Previously known as Allahabad, Prayagraj is the most populous district in the state and the 13th most populous district in India. The city is the judicial capital of the state with the Allahabad High Court being the highest judicial body in the state. Lying close to the Triveni Sangam, the three-river confluence of the Ganges, Yamuna and Sarasvati rivers, the city plays a central role in Hindu scriptures and finds its earliest reference as one of the world’s oldest known cities in Hindu texts and has been venerated as the holy city of Prayaga in the ancient Vedas.

Prayagraj was also known as Kosambi in the late Vedic period, named by the Kuru rulers of Hastinapur, who developed it as their capital and was one of the greatest cities in India from the late Vedic period until the end of the Maurya Empire, with occupation continuing until the Gupta Empire. Since then, the city has been a political, cultural and administrative centre of the Doab region and was the provincial capital of the Mughal Empire in the early 17th century under the reign of Emperor Jahangir. In 1833 it became the seat of the Ceded and Conquered Provinces region before its capital was moved to Agra in 1835 and became the capital of the North-Western Provinces in 1858 and was even the capital of India for a day. The city was the capital of the United Provinces from 1902 to 1920 and remained at the forefront of national importance during the struggle for Indian independence.

The location at the confluence of Ganges and Yamuna rivers has been known in ancient times as Prayaga, which means a place of a sacrifice in Sanskrit as it was believed that Lord Brahma performed the very first sacrifice or yagna here. The word prayaga has traditionally used to mean a confluence of rivers and here it means the physical meeting point of the rivers Ganges and Yamuna while an ancient tradition has it that a third river, the invisible Sarasvati, also meets there with the two. Today, Triveni Sangam, or simply Sangam is a more frequently used name for the confluence. The city plays host to the one of the largest Hindu gathering on the banks of the Sangam, the Maha Kumbh Mela, which takes place once every 12 years to celebrate a revolution of the planet Jupiter or Brihaspati.

It is said that the Mughal emperor Akbar visited the region in 1575 and was so impressed by the strategic location of the site that he ordered a fort be constructed. The fort was constructed by 1584 and called Ilahabas or the Abode of God, which later changed to Allahabad under Emperor Shah Jahan. Speculations regarding its name however, exist with some believing that it was named by Emperor Jahangir after he failed to destroy the Akshayavat tree. After being called Allahabad for centuries, it was finally renamed Prayagraj in October 2018.

One of the holiest places in north India, the Triveni Sangam is located about 7 km Prayagraj and is the meeting point of three rivers, the Ganga, Yamuna, and the mythical underground river Saraswati, supposed to have dried up more than 4,000 years ago. It is also where the Kumbh Mela is held once every 12 years. According to Hindu mythology, taking a bath in the Triveni Sangam is supposed to remove all sins and free the person from the cycle of rebirth. The brownish Ganga meeting the slightly greenish Yamuna and a boat ride at this point will show the differences in the colours of the rivers. There are makeshift wooden banks which can be used for bathing. Triveni Sangam is mentioned in the sacred texts multiple times and it is said that during the battle between the Gods and the demons, drops of nectar, which can turn one immortal, fell here which makes Prayagraj Tirthraja or The King of Holy Places, which is why the Kumbh Mela is organised here. According to other legends, the Prakrista Yajna was also performed by Lord Brahma here and that Lord Rama visited the city when he was in exile. The confluence offers breath-taking views not only of the merging waters but also of Allahabad Fort constructed by Emperor Akbar, the New Yamuna Bridge and white birds floating on the water.

Colloquially known as the Bade Hanuman Mandir, the Lete Hue Hanuman Temple, the Hanuman Temple just outside Allahabad Fort and near the Triveni Sangam. It is constructed underground, with Lord Hanuman in a leaning posture which is 20-feet long and 8-feet wide, a one-of-a-kind temple. A popular temple in the city, the temple is especially busy on Tuesdays and Saturdays. One part of the temple is always submerged, with rising water levels coming only up to Hanuman’s feet. The temple would typically require a 10-stair pathway to reach the idol beneath ground level. The temple is open between 5 am and 2 pm and then between 5 to 8 pm.

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Located at Alopibagh, near the Triveni Sangam, the Alopi Devi Mandir is an unconventional temple which does not have any presiding deity but a wooden chariot called a dolie which is worshipped by the devotees of Lord Shiva. Housing the last of Goddess Sati’s body parts, the Alopi Devi Mandir is a Shakti Peetha with Tuesdays the busiest day and Navratri celebrated with much pomp. There are two famous myths behind the existence of the temple. One says that the temple houses the last part of Goddess Sati’s body that was shattered into pieces by Vishnu’s Sudarshan Chakra. The other story is that of a vanishing bride. It is said that some thieves and dacoits attacked a wedding procession that was passing through the woods. After robbing everyone and killing most of them, the thieves came to the bride’s chariot to take her away, only to see that she was missing which is unsolved till today. The place was thus called the Virgin Goddess Who Disappeared translating to Alopi Devi. The temple is open from 6 am to 8 pm.

Situated on the banks of the river Yamuna, near the Saraswati Ghat, the Mankameshwar Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva in the form of a shivalinga. The temple is crowded on Mondays as the Shiva Pooja is conducted on that day with the Pradusha Pooja carried out every Saturday. The temple is open from 6 am to 10 pm daily.

Located inside the Allahabad Fort complex in the Patalpuri Temple, the Akshaya Vat or Akshayvat is an ancient fig tree. After 2011, this tree can only be visited after the permission of the Commandant of Allahabad Fort’s Ordnance Depot. Only on a single day during the Kumbh Mela festival is this sacred site open to the public. The legend behind this tree is woven in Hindu mythology and it is believed that Lord Narayana submerged the entire earth for a brief moment when the sage Markandaya asked him to show his divine strength. Upon the flooding, it was only the Akshayavat Tree that stayed afloat and so it is believed to be immortal and holy. Some believe that Lord Rama, Lord Laksmana and Goddess Sita rested under this tree during their exile with another popular local story being that Emperor Akbar tried to burn down the tree during the construction of the fort, but was unsuccessful, which is why the tree is standing inside the fort. For a long time, people also used to commit suicide by jumping from this tree into the water, believing that they will attain salvation by doing this. It is said that the British hid certain parts the tree from the public, for security and so there is an underground temple found inside Allahabad Fort.

Organised every year in Prayagraj, the Magh Mela is the mini version of the famous Kumbh Mela and takes place at the confluence of the three rivers Ganga, Yamuna, and Saraswati at the Triveni Sangam. This festival is held in the Hindu month of Magh which comes in January/February and attracts a large number of tourists and pilgrims at the mela, spread over 45 days starting on Makar Sankranti. The Mela gets its name because it takes place in the Hindu month of Magh, the whole period which is called Kalpvas, and the pilgrims known as Kalpavis.

Built in the late 19th century, the All Saints Cathedral or Patthar Girja is a spectacular Anglican Christian Church and is also known as the Church of Stone. Founded in 1871 by Lady Muir Elizabeth Huntly Wemyss and was consecrated in 1887 and finished in 1891. Constructed in the Gothic style of architecture, the church has carved glass panels and marble-finished sanctuaries and is one of the significant remnants of colonial design in the country. This church also houses the iconic jaali work throughout its arched windows. The light sandalwood tinted walls of the church was built with Sandstone from Chunar. The church is open from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm

Allahabad Fort was built during the reign of the Mughal Emperor Akbar in 1583 and is located on the banks of the confluence of the Rivers Ganga and Yamuna and is the largest fort built by Akbar. However, access to the fort is generally closed to the public and tourists are allowed inside only during the Kumbh Mela, once every 12 years. The fort is managed by the Archaeological Survey of India and is well known for its Akshayavat Tree which can be seen using a small gate as the point of entry. Allahabad Fort is also home to the Patalpuri Temple, which is said to be home all the gates of hell. The best way to explore the fort from the outside on a boat ride in the river either during sunrise or sunset. The fort consists of massive walls, towers, a temple and a large palace. There are three gateways to enter and exit the fort. The interior of the palace has been decorated with Hindu and Muslim influences. The temple inside the fort premise is an underground temple that can be accessed by a small entry in the eastern wall of the fort with the Akshayavat tree near the Patalpuri Temple. There is also a 10-metre-tall Ashoka Pillar that was installed in 232 BC that has the inscription of Emperor Jahangir.

A significant remnant of the Gupta era, the Allahabad Pillar is one of the many pillars set up by the Mauryan emperor, Ashoka. This polished sandstone spire has inscriptions from the Samudragupta and Jahangir era; the 4th century BC and the 17th century respectively. The pillar was shifted from its original spot to Akbar’s Allahabad Fort and because the fort is now property of the Indian army, permission is needed to visit the pillar. Established during Emperor Ashoka’s rule during the 3rd century BC, the Allahabad Pillar is also known as an Ashoka Stambha and some historians saying that the pillar was originally located in Kaushambi, about 50 km from the present site, but some say it was never moved. Divided into three sections, the pillar has messages in stone from the Ashoka, Samudragupta and Jahangir eras with the inscriptions playing a crucial role in decoding the Brahmi Script. The last section of the pillar inscriptions are from the Mughal era and are inscribed by Mir Abdullah Mushkin Qalam.

A stunning remnant of Mughal architecture, Khusro Bagh houses three sandstone tombs of the Emperor Jehangir’s family, his wife Shah Begum, his oldest son, Khusrau Mirza and his daughter, Sultan Nithar Begum. Landscaped amid an elaborately beautiful garden of guava trees and roses, the Bagh has intricate carvings and inscriptions on each of the mausoleums. The elaborately decorated gates give way to beautifully designed balconies and the entire structure contains only two tombs and one empty mausoleum, which is that of the daughter, Nithar’s. Located next to her mother, Sultan Begum’s tomb, Nithar’s is said to be the most gorgeous of all three tombs. Sultan Begum’s tomb is roofed with a chhatri which is a prominent dome-like structure while Nithar’s mausoleum has starry painted ceilings and extensive floral and motif designs and Khuro’s tomb which was the last piece is not much of an architectural stand-out and the walled bracketing are stunning. Entry is free the garden is open from 7 am to 7 pm.

Originally known as the Alfred Park during the British colonial times, the Chandrashekhar Azad Park is better known as the Company Garden and was established in 1870 to mark the arrival of Prince Alfred. It was renamed in 1931 as Chandrashekar Azad Park after he died as a martyr here. The biggest local park, it is a 133-acred green space housing massive statues of King George V and Queen Victoria in the centre of the garden. The park also is host to the Chandrashekar Azad Memorial, the Thornhill Mayne Memorial, the Allahabad Museum, the Madan Mohan Malviya Stadium and the musical training organisation of Prayag Sangeeth Samiti. Built in 1906, the Italian limestone canopy-structure of the Victoria Memorial is also a part of the park which is a canopy used to roof a large idol of Queen Victoria.

Constructed along the banks of the river Yamuna, Minto Park is a lush green park formerly known as Madan Mohan Malviya Park. The four lion sculptures in white stone, established by the Earl of Minto in 1910 is a highlight and the park which is relatively much smaller, hosts lush greenery alongside seating facilities. It was here in 1858 that Earl Canning read out the declaration of Queen Victoria’s Proclamation which resulted in the complete transfer of control over India from The East India Company to the government of Britain. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the event Earl of Minto installed a proclamation pillar in 1908. The marble pillar was topped with busts of Queen Victoria and Edward VII. In 1910 the park was named as Minto Park and after independence the marble busts atop the pillar were replaced by the Ashokan Lion and the renamed as Madan Mohan Malaviya Park. The park is open from 5 am to 7:30 pm.

Established in 2004, the cable-stayed New Yamuna Bridge over the river Yamuna was built to minimise traffic flow on the Old Naini Bridge. Also known as the Naini Bridge, it runs from northern to southern Allahabad. Over 1510 metres long, the bridge is supported by cables to its deck. For the best views, one must visit the New Yamuna Bridge during dusk when it is lit up and at dawn, one can get sweeping views of the Sangam.

Anand Bhawan is the former residence of the Nehru family which has now been transformed into a museum showcasing various artefacts and articles of the Independence movement. The double-storey mansion was personally designed by Motilal Nehru who designed this house after the old Nehru residence, Swaraj Bhavan was used as an office of the Indian National Congress. The house is beautifully adorned with the wooden furniture imported from China and Europe and various artefacts from all around the world. In 1970, Anand Bhavan was donated to the Indian government by Indira Gandhi, to convert it into a national museum.

Built in 1979 and situated beside Anand Bhavan, the Jawahar Planetarium has a capacity of over 80 people and organises space and celestial shows. It also holds an annual Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Lecture on November 14th, his birth date. There are shows in both Hindi and English with engaging science models and activities for kids here.

Situated inside the Chandrashekar Azad Park, the Allahabad Museum is a national-level museum which gives an insight into the history, culture, heritage and independence movement of India. The main highlights of the museum are the rock sculptures, the miniature paintings from Rajasthan, terracotta from Kaushambi and literary and artwork from Bengal School of Art. From the Harappan civilisation to the medieval period and the carvings from the Gupta period and Khajuraho, to India’s Independence struggle, the museum is a treasure of Indian history. A new rock gallery was inaugurated which showcases pre-historic rock art as well as a gallery for the Allahabad Museum Green Project. The museum also houses a large collection of Bengal School of Art and Modern Painting of Anagarika Govind, Nicholas and Svetoslav Roerich. The museum was first set up as a public library and a small museum by Sir William Muir and the Maharaja of Vijaynagar in 1878 with the help of the donations from the Province British government. The museum is divided into sixteen galleries, each one displaying a different sect of historic and art collections. Closed on Mondays, the museum is open from 10 am to 5:30 pm on Tuesdays to Sundays. Entry fee is INR 50 for Indians and INR 500 for foreigners while a photography fee of INR 500 is levied for photography enthusiasts.

Located inside the Company Gardens, the Allahabad Public Library was formerly known as the Thornhill Mayne Memorial and is the largest and among the oldest buildings in the state, constructed in 1864. Built in the Indo-Gothic architectural style, the library is designed with typical granite and sandstone turrets and a tall spire and has enclosed green spaces alongside colourful polychromatic structures. The library served as the house of the Legislative Assembly of the United Provinces when Allahabad was the colonial capital. Today, the library has a massive collection of about 125,000 books, 40 types of magazines and 28 newspapers in English, Hindi, Urdu and Bengali as well as 21 Arabic manuscripts. The library is open from 9:30 am to 6:30 pm.

In the next part, the last part of the series, we visit the world’s oldest continously inhabited city, and some historical and religious relevant towns and cities.

2 thoughts on “Travel Bucket List: India – Uttar Pradesh Part 6

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