In ancient times Allahabad, then known as Prayag, was an important place of pilgrimage. By the end of the 12th century it fell under Moslem rule and in 1584 was given its present name. The Patal Puri temple finds itself underground today owing to the Fort that Akbar built all around and over it. Akbar’s Fort, at the confluence of the Yamuna and the Ganges, is an impressive pile of masonry. It houses the Ashoka Pillar, a single shaft of polished sandstone 35 ft. high. A shrine of importance to the Hindu pilgrim is that of Bharadwaja. Named after the great sage who occupied a hermitage on the high bank overlooking the watersmeet, his ashram became a cross between a hermitage, a seat of learning and a welfare institution. Two thousand years later, Allahabad University occupies the same site. One of the sights of Allahabad is the masoleum of Prince Khusro, which is covered with paintings and Persian verse. Allahabad has long been famous for its literary traditions. In the city outskirts, Anand Bhavan is the ancestral home of the late Jawaharlal Nehru. It is now a museum to his memory. Next to it stands Swaraj Bhavan, the House of Freedom, which he donated to the nation in 1930, to become a children’s home.
The real sight in Allahabad is the Magh Mela, held each spring at the confluence of the Ganges and the Yamuna. Bundle-laden pilgrims in their thousands arrive each day to settle around tents or makeshift huts. Holy men lie on beds of thorns or read out scriptures to worshippers ready to take the ritual plunge. Rose petals and marigolds are thrown into the river by pious Hindu women as an offering. Improvised stalls sell food and souvenirs. There are no bathing terraces and most pilgrims are rowed by inumerable boats into mid-river to perform their immersion.