The Spiritual Significance of Allahabad
The city of Allahabad is one of the largest and most populous cities in the state of Uttar Pradesh, with a deep spiritual history. Now named “Allahabad”, which literally means “City of God”, the city was originally known as “Prayag”, meaning “Place of Sacrifice.” This refers to one of the earliest events associated with the city: it was here that Lord Brahma, the Creator of the Universe, is said to have performed His first yagna, or fire ceremony, after creating the world. The city of Prayag is mentioned throughout the ancient Indian scriptures, from the early Vedas to the Puranas, the Mahabharata to the Ramayana, when Lord Rama spent time in an ashram there.
The city is also a deeply sacred place, as it is Triveni Sangam – the place where the three holy rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati merge. It is where one of the drops of the nectar of immortality fell during the great war between the gods and the demons, thus the water that flows in the sangam is not just water – it is amrit, the nectar of immortality itself.
There are many places near to Allahabad which also hold great spiritual and historical value.
Please note, there will be a travel desk within our camp at Kumbh Mela to help you with arranging any traveling you may wish to do.
(approximately 120 km east from Allahabad)
Varanasi, also known as Benares, is a truly ancient city, being one of oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, and is considered to be one of the holiest places in all of India. Varanasi is revered as being founded by Lord Shiva Himself, and mentions of Varanasi appear as far back as in the ancient Vedas, where the city is called–among many other names–Kashi, or “the city of light.”
Varanasi has always been an epicenter of religion and culture. Varanasi is one of the holiest cities for Hindus, yet is revered by Buddhists and Jains as well. It was in Varanasi that the saint Tulsidas wrote his Ramcharit Manas, and some of India’s greatest musicians, philosophers, poets, and writers have come from Varanasi.
Varanasi currently has a population of about 1.5 million people, and millions of pilgrims travel to visit the city’s many temples and take a holy dip in the river Ganga each year. Approximately 60,000 are believed to take bath in Ganga each day alone here. To these people, Ganga is the ultimate purifier, and they come to Varanasi to have her darshan, to touch her water and become immersed in Ganga.
(approximately 130 kilometers from east Allahabad, 13 kilometers east from Varanasi)
Sarnarth, located just 13 kilometers from the holy city of Varanasi, is the deer park where the Buddha gave his first sermon after he attained Enlightenment, and thus is a place highly revered by Buddhists and is considered one of the four holiest places in Buddhism. The place where the Buddha delivered his message is marked by the Dhamek Stupa, built in 500 CE and standing at a height of over 43 meters. Many Buddhist monasteries have also been established in the area, including monasteries constructed by numerous countries where Buddhism is prominent, constructed in the style of those countries.
Nearby to Sarnath is the birthplace of the 11th Tirthankara of Jainism, Sreyansanath, in a village approximately one kilometer away.
(approximately 130 kilometers west of Allahabad)
The entire region of Chitrakoot is held to be sacred, as it is was in its forests that Lord Rama, his wife Sita Ma, and his brother Lakshman spent the first eleven and a half years of their fourteen year exile. Throughout the ages, great sages have lived and meditated within these forests, and it is said that Lords Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva took their incarnations here.
Today in Chitrakoot, there are many ghats, temples and other holy areas revered as places where various scenes from the Ramayana took place.
(approximately 170 kilometers north of Allahabad)
Ayodhya is an ancient city that is deeply associated with the story of the Ramayana. As the capital of the kingdom of Kaushala, it was here that Lord Rama took birth and lived His childhood, and it is where He victoriously returned and ruled after His fourteen years in exile and the defeat of Ravana. Ayodhya finds mention in other sacred texts, including the Skanda Purana which names Ayodhya as one of the seven holiest cities in all of India, and the Atharvaveda, which describes Ayodhya as “a city built by Gods and being prosperous as paradise itself.” Millions come to this city each year on pilgrimage to visit its temples and other holy areas associated with Lord Rama and others in the Ramayana and to bathe in the river Saryu’s sacred waters.
Ayodhya is also a holy city for many other religions. Five of the Jain Tirthankaras were born in Ayodhya, and the last Tirthankara Mahavir is said to have visited the city. Historically the city is important for Buddhists, as several Buddhist temples and monuments were set up the city in antiquity, and the Buddha is said to have visited Ayodhya a number of times. Swaminarayan, the founder of the Swaminarayan sampradaya of Hinduism, was also born in Ayodhya, and it was from here that he began his journey across India.
Mathura & Vrindavan
(approximately 550 kilometers north-west of Allahabad)
Vrindavan and Mathura are truly ancient cities. These two cities, located just 12 kilometers apart, lie on the site of a once extensive ancient forest, full of sacred wild Tulsi plants (holy basil) as well as peacocks, monkeys, birds and cows. It was in this forest that many of the stories and exploits of Lord Krishna’s childhood took place, including His birth at Mathura and then His herding of cows and dancing with gopis in the forests of Vrindavan. In the last 250 years however, much of this forest has been removed in response to urbanization, yet the city is still a very important pilgrimage point. Hundreds of ashrams and temples dedicated to Lord Krishna and Radha fill Vrindavan and Mathura, and millions of bhaktas, or devotees, visit the cities each year. A number of festivals occur throughout the year relating the scenes from Krishna’s life on earth. These cities are considered extremely sacred to both Vaishnavites and Hindus in general.
Rishikesh & Haridwar
(approximately 705 kilometers north-west of Allahabad)
Haridwar is one of the most important pilgrimage cities in the state of Uttarakhand. After flowing 253 kilometers (157 miles), the Ganga bursts forth at Haridwar into the plains of northern India. For this reason, Haridwar was known in ancient times by the name of Gangadwara, or the “Gateway of Ganga.” Considered to be one of the seven holiest places to Hindus in all of India, it is believed that, like Allahabad, one of the drops of the nectar of immortality that were churned from the sea fell here. The exact spot where the drop fell, known as Brahma Kund, is located at the Har-ki-Pauri Ghat (“Footsteps of the Lord”) in Haridwar. Each day, thousands of pilgrims come to this point to bathe in Ganga, believing Ganga’s waters will free them from all past karmas and clear their way for ultimate liberation (moksha).
Rishikesh, located 20 kilometers north-east of Haridwar, is a quiter pilgrimage town located in the foothills of the Himalayas. Over thousands of years, saints, sages and rishis have meditated in these hills, and it is where Lord Shiva came to meditate for all of eternity after He drank the poison which was brought during the churning of the sea in search of the nectar of immortality. Thousands come every day to Rishikesh to bathe in the pristine waters of Ganga, visit temples and quietly contemplate close to nature.