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GRAND HERITAGE

Land of many histories

A. SRIVATHSAN

A special place where three rivers merge, Allahabad has many stories to tell.

PHOTO: S.K. YADAV

ALLAHABAD FORT: Standing testimony to the passage of time.

When you set your watch to Indian Standard Time (IST), you could call it Allahabad Standard Time as well. Because the time zone of India is calculated based on 82.5E longitude that runs through Allahabad. This is exactly five-and-a- half hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). To many, Allahabad is known as one of the sites of Kumbh Mela. But not many would know that it was here in 1910 that the first airplanes flew in India as a part of demonstration and exhibition. Allahabad is a city of many histories.

Allahabad is celebrated as Prayag, the sacred Hindu city. This is a special place where three rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati merge. Of the three rivers, Saraswati, is not physically present. But many believe it runs invisible. The city also served as an important centre of Islamic learning during the Mughal period. The present name of the city is a part of its Mughal legacy. It was Akbar who named it as Illahabad or the City of God.

Transfer of power

It was in Allahabad, in 1858, after the mutiny, that Lord Canning read Queen Victoria's proclamation that transferred power from East India Company. Allahabad became the capital of United Province. The city and its architecture flourished to befit its new status. New Civil Lines was built. Grand public buildings like Public Library in Chandrashekar Azad Park, All Saints Cathedral and Mayo Memorial Hall were constructed. Many of these buildings, though not well preserved, still remain as testimony to the erstwhile glory of the city. The beautiful large bungalows of the Civil Lines have not been as fortunate. They have either been demolished or are decaying.

The city was in the thick of the independence movement too. Leaders like Motilal and Jawaharlal Nehru and Chandrashekhar Azad hailed from Allahabad. Mahadevi Verma, Firaq Gorakhpuri and Harivanshi Rai Bachchan are a few of the literary stalwarts of Allahabad. Rudyard Kipling also lived in Allahabad when he served as the overseas correspondent of The Pioneer.

Allahabad, like many other historic cities in India, has three distinct quarters — the old historic city, the colonial civil lines and cantonment and the post-independent new city. Of the three, the new town alone has been the area of concern and investment.

Among its heritage elements, Kumbh Mela alone has received emphasis.

The city has many more important events and places that await attention.

Muir College


Allahabad's claim to fame as the Cambridge of the East began with the establishment of the Allahabad University in 1887. It started as Muir Central College named after William Muir, then Lt. Governor of United Provinces. William Emerson, the famous British architect who designed Victoria Memorial in Kolkatta and Crawford Market in Mumbai, designed this college. Emerson and many other architects then wanted their western architecture made suitable to the east. Hence they invented the Indo-Saracenic style for this purpose. This style combined elements of Hindu and Islamic architecture. Muir College is a unique combination of Indo-Saracenic, Egyptian and Gothic styles.

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