Prayagraj History

'The site at which Allahabad stands has been in the occupation of the civilised race long before the first faint beginnings of authentic history. While its contemporaries in the pre-historic age are now gone forever, Babylon and Carthage, Thebes and Memphis have perished to rise no more, the Prayag of the ancient Indian mythology stands like the Indraprastha of the Mahabahrata, where it did five thousand years ago.' The Modern Review- 1910

In 600 BC, there was a kingdom covering the part of present district of Prayagraj. It was called ‘Vatsa’ with capital as ‘Kaushambhi’, the remains of which still lies south-west of Prayagraj. Gautama Buddha also honoured this city with his three visits. After this, the region came under the Mauryan rule, Kaushambhi was made the headquarters of one of the provincials of ‘Ashoka’. Under his instructions two monolithic pillars were erected at Kaushambhi one of which was later shifted to Prayagraj.

Mauryan antiquities and remains have been excavated at Bhita, another important site in the district. After the Mauryas, the Sungas ruled over Vatsa or Prayagraj region. This is apparent from many Sunga artefacts found in the Prayagraj district. After Sunga’s, Kushan’s came into power- a seal of Kanishka and a unique image inscription was found during the second year of his reign at Kaushambhi. Gupta period objects have also been found in Kaushambhi, Bhita and Jhunsi. On the body of Ashoka Pillar there is an engraved line of ‘prashasthi’ of Samudra Gupta, while at Jhunsi there exists a well named ‘Samudrakupa’ named after him. On the downfall of the Gupta’s, the fate of Prayagraj receded into oblivion. Huien Tsang visited Prayagraj in the 7th century AD and described ‘Prayag’ as a great city of idolaters’, implying that Brahminical ascendancy has been retained at the time of his visit.

In 1540, Sher Shah became the ruler of Hindustan; it was at this time that the old Grant Trunk road from Agra to Kara and then eastwards to Prayagraj, Jhunsi, and Jaunpur was laid out.

A battle was fought between Akbar and the rebel governor of Jaunpur in 1567 at the village Mankarwal, one of the dependencies of Jhunsi and Prayag known as ‘Ilahabas’. After the victory Akbar marched in a single day to Prayag and rested for two days before marching to Varanasi, it was then he realised the importance of building a fort at this strategic place.

Akbar revisited Prayag in 1575 and laid the foundation of an imperial city, which he called ‘Ilahabas’. The new city soon became a favourite place of pilgrimage under Akbar’s rule. The city grew rapidly in importance and before the end of Akbar’s reign increased to a considerable size and importance.

Famous personalities of Prayagraj

Pandit Sundar Lal

Rai Bahadur Sir Sunder Lal CIE was born in Jaspur, near Nainital, on 21 May 1857. In 1876, he joined Muir Central College at Allahabad. Pandit Sunder Lal passed the Vakil's Examination of the High Court in 1880 and was enrolled as a Vakil in 1880. In 1896 the High Court raised him to the rank and status of Advocate. The distinction of 'Rai Bahadur' was conferred on him in 1905. He was appointed a CIE in 1907. 1906, he became the first Indian Vice Chancellor of Allahabad University. In 1916, he was named the founding Vice Chancellor of Banaras Hindu University (BHU). Sir Sunderlal Hospital of the Institute of Medical Sciences on the BHU campus is named in his honour. On 21 February 1917, Sunder Lal received a knighthood. He died in Prayagraj on 13 February 1918 at age 61.

Moti Lal Nehru

Motilal Nehru was born on May 6, 1861, son of Gangadhar Nehru and his wife Jeevarani. Motilal Nehru was an Indian lawyer, an activist of the Indian Independence Movement and an important leader of the Indian National Congress who also served as the Congress President twice- (Amritsar) 1919–1920 and (Kolkata) 1928–1929. In 1900, he bought a large family home in the Civil Lines of the city, rebuilt it and named it Anand Bhavan. In 1909, he reached the pinnacle of his legal career by gaining the approval to appear in the Privy Council of Great Britain. He was the only front rank leader to lend his support to non-co-operation at the special Congress at Calcutta in September 1920. The Calcutta Congress (December 1928) over which Motilal presided was the scene of a head-on clash between those who were prepared to accept Dominion Status and those who would have nothing short of complete independence. In 1923, Nehru was elected to the new Central Legislative Assembly member of British India in New Delhi and became leader of the Opposition. In that role, he was able to secure the defeat, or at least the delay of Finance bills and other legislation. In March 1926, Nehru demanded a representative conference to draft a constitution conferring full Dominion status on India, to be enacted by the British parliament. The Assembly rejected this demand, and as a result, Nehru and his colleagues resigned their Assembly seats and returned to the Congress party. He chaired the famous Nehru Commission in 1928, a counter to the all-British Simon Commission. The Nehru Report, the first constitution written by Indians only, envisioned a dominion status for India within the Empire. It was endorsed by the Congress Party but rejected by more nationalist Indians who sought complete independence.

Mahamana Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya

Madan Mohan Malaviya was born in Prayagraj on 25 December 1861 in a Brahmin family to Pandit Brij Nath and Moona Devi. He was an Indian educationist and politician notable for his role in the Indian independence movement and as the twice president of Indian National Congress. He was respectfully addressed as Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya

He is most remembered as the founder of Banaras Hindu University (BHU) at Varanasi in 1916, which was created under the B.H.U. Act, 1915. The largest residential university in Asia and one of the largest in the world having over 40,000 students across arts, sciences, engineering, medical, agriculture, performing arts, law and technology from all over the world. He was Vice Chancellor of Banaras Hindu University from 1919–1938.

Pandit ji was posthumously conferred with Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian award, on 24 December 2014, a day before his 153rd Birth Anniversary.

Amarnath Jha

Amarnath Jha, born in 1888, was the Vice Chancellor (VC) of University of Allahabad and Banaras Hindu University, son of Sir Ganganath Jha, a great scholar of Sanskrit but was equally proficient in his mother tongue Maithili apart from Hindi, English, Persian, Urdu, and Bangla. Amarnath Jha was reputed as the ablest professor in India of his time. He was the Head of the Department of English at the University of Allahabad for a long time; he was appointed to this post at the age of thirty-two only. He was born in a Maithil Brahmin family of Mithila in Bihar. He died at an early age of fifty-nine in 1947 at Patna. Dr. Amarnath Jha was a great scholar, a consummate speaker and an administrator par excellence. He became Vice-Chancellor of the Allahabad University succeeding his father and of the Banaras Hindu University in succession to Dr. Radhakrishnan. He worked as the Vice Chairman of the committee of a project in National Defence Academy, India. He was one amongst eminent dignitaries associated with the Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan, Prayagraj. Dr. Jha’s official career includes the first Chairman of the Public Service Commission, Uttar Pradesh Public Service Commission. Next at the end of his academic career, he was made the Chairman of the Bihar Public Service Commission (1 April 1953 – 1 September 1955).

Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru

Jawaharlal Nehru

Jawaharlal Nehru born on 14 November 1889 was the first Prime Minister of India and a central figure in Indian politics before and after independence. He emerged as an eminent leader of the Indian independence movement under the tutelage of Mahatma Gandhi and served India as Prime Minister, from its establishment as an independent nation in 1947 until his death in 1964.

He is considered the architect of the modern Indian nation-state: a sovereign, socialist, secular, and democratic republic. He was also known as Pandit Nehru due to his roots with the Kashmiri Pandit community while many Indian children knew him as Chacha Nehru.

Surya Kant Tripathi Nirala

Suryakant Tripathi Nirala

Suryakant Tripathi was born on 21 February 1899 in a Brahmin family of Midnapore in Bengal (originally from Gadhakola, Unnao, Uttar Pradesh).He participated in literary circles such as the Kavi Sammelan. Though a student of Bengali, Nirala took a keen interest in Sanskrit from the very beginning. Most of his life was somewhat in the Bohemian tradition. He wrote strongly against social injustice and exploitation in society. Since he was more or less a rebel, both in form and content, acceptance did not come easily. What he got in plenty was ridicule and derision. All this may have played a role in making him a victim of schizophrenia in his later life and he was admitted to Central Institute of Psychiatry, Ranchi. (Incidentally Bengali poet Kazi Nazrul Islam had also been admitted to the same institute for schizophrenia.

Sumitranandan Pant

Sumitranandan Pant was born in 20 May 1900 in Kausani village, Bageshwar District in what is now the state of Uttarakhand, into an educated middle-class Brahmin family. His mother died a few hours after childbirth, and it appears he did not seek affection from his grandmother, father, or older brother, which later influenced his writing. His father served as the manager of a local tea garden, and was also a landholder, so Pant was never in want financially growing up.

In 1968, Pant became the first Hindi poet to receive the Jnanpith Award, considered India’s highest accolade for literature. This was awarded to him for a collection of his most famous poems titled Chidambara. Pant received the "Sahitya Academy" award, given by India's Academy of Letters, for "Kala Aur Budhdha Chand.” Pant died on 28 December 1977, at Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh, India. His childhood house in Kausani has been converted into a museum. This museum displays his daily use articles, drafts of his poems, letters, and his awards.

Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit

Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit was an Indian diplomat and politician born in Allahabad in 18th August 1900, the sister of Jawaharlal Nehru, the aunt of Indira Gandhi and the grand-aunt of Rajiv Gandhi, each of whom served as Prime Minister of India. Pandit was sent to London, as India's most important diplomat, after serving as Nehru’s envoy to the Soviet Union, the USA and the United Nations. Her time in London offers insights into the wider context of changes in Indo–British relations. Her High-Commissionership was a microcosm of inter-governmental relations.

Major Dhyan Chand

Dhyan Chand was born in Prayagraj to Sameshwar Dutt Singh on 29th August 1905. He had two brothers. His father worked in the British Indian Army where he played hockey. He could get only six years of schooling as his family had to move from one city to another continually because of the transferable nature of his father's job. He loved to wrestle as a youngster though he was not much inclined towards other sports. The winner of three Olympic gold medals in field hockey, Indian hockey player Dhyan Chand was undoubtedly one of the best sportsmen ever to have graced the game. He was a part of the highly talented Indian hockey team during the era when India dominated the world hockey. A sportsman beyond compare, his goal-scoring feats were simply out of the world.

Chandra Shekhar Azad

Chandra Shekhar Azad, a daring freedom fighter, and a fearless revolutionary, Chandra Shekar was born on 23 July 1906 in Bhavra, Madhya Pradesh. He received his early education at Bhavra and the Sanskrit Pathshala at Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh for higher studies. At a very young age, he got involved in revolutionary activities. He joined the non- cooperation movement launched by Mahatma Gandhi. On 27 February 1931, betrayed by one of the associates, he besieged by the British police in Alfred park, Allahabad He fought valiantly but seeing no other way he shot himself and fulfilled his resolve a die a free man.

Mahadevi Verma

Mahadevi Verma was born in Farukhabad on 26th March 1907 and finished her education at Crossthwaite Girls' School in Prayagraj. At this school, she met fellow student Subhadra Kumari Chauhan, who would later go on to become a prominent Hindi writer and poet, like Verma herself. She received her higher education at the Allahabad University and passed her B.A.examination in 1929 and completed her master's degree-M.A. in Sanskrit in 1933. Varma is considered to be one of the four major poets of the Chhayavaadi school of the Hindi literature, others being Suryakant Tripathi 'Nirala', Jaishankar Prasad and Sumitranandan Pant. She drew a number of illustrations for her poetic works like Yama. One of her other works is Neelkanth which talks about her experience with a peacock, which is included as a chapter into the syllabus of Central Board of Secondary Education for 7th graders. She has also written Gaura, which is based on her real life, in this story she wrote about a beautiful cow.

Harivansh Rai Srivastava

Harivansh Rai Srivastava, popularly known by his pen name Bachchan, was an Indian poet of the Nayi Kavita literary movement (romantic upsurge) of early 20th century Hindi literature. Born in 27 November 1907 in a Hindu Awadhi Indian Srivastava Kayastha family, in Allahabad in the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh, in British India, he was also a poet of the Hindi Kavi Sammelan. He is best known for his early work Madhushala. He is the husband of social activist, Teji Bachchan, father of Amitabh Bachchan and grandfather of Abhishek Bachchan. In 1986, he received the Padma Bhushan for his service to Hindi literature.

Indira Gandhi

The only child of Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of independent India, Indira Gandhi was born in Prayagraj on November 19, 1917. A highly intelligent young woman, she attended schools in India, Switzerland and England including Somerville College, Oxford.

After Nehru was named India's first prime minister in 1947, Indira Gandhi inspired by her father, learned to navigate complex relationships of diplomacy with some of the great leaders of the world.

Nargis Dutt

Nargis was born as Fatima Rashid in Kolkata, West Bengal on 1st June 1929. Her father Abdul Rashid was originally a wealthy Mohyal Brahmin from Rawalpindi, Punjab. Nargis's family then moved to Allahabad from West Punjab. He introduced Nargis into the movie culture unfolding in India at the time, who starred in various classic films of Bollywood. Highly regarded as the greatest actors in the history of Hindi cinema, she made her screen debut in a minor role at the age of 5 with Talash-E-Haq (1935), but her acting career began with Tamanna (1942).

Amitabh Bachchan

Amitabh Bachchan was born in Prayagraj on 11 October 1942, Uttar Pradesh, in north central India. His ancestors on his father's side came from a village called Babupatti, in the Raniganj tehsil, in the Pratapgarh district, in the present-day state of Uttar Pradesh, in India. His father Harivansh Rai Bachchan, was an Awadhi dialect-Hindi poet and a Hindu, while his mother, Teji Bachchan, was Sikh. Bachchan was initially named Inquilaab, inspired by the phrase Inquilab Zindabad (which translates into English as "Long live the revolution") popularly used during the Indian independence struggle, an Indian film actor, producer, television host, and former politician. He first gained popularity in the early 1970s for films such as Zanjeer, Deewaar and Sholay, and was dubbed India's "angry young man" for his on-screen roles in Bollywood. Bachchan has won numerous awards in his career, including four National Film Awards as Best Actor and many awards at international film festivals and award ceremonies. Bachchan made his film debut in 1969, as a voice narrator in Mrinal Sen's National Award-winning film Bhuvan Shome. His first acting role was as one of the seven protagonists in the film Saat Hindustani, He has won fifteen Filmfare Awards and is the most nominated performer in any major acting category at Filmfare, with 41 nominations overall. In addition to acting, Bachchan has worked as a playback singer, film producer, and television presenter. The Government of India honoured him with the Padma Shri in 1984, the Padma Bhushan in 2001 and the Padma Vibhushan in 2015 for his contributions to the arts. The Government of France honoured him with its highest civilian honour, Knight of the Legion of Honour in 2007 for his exceptional career in the world of cinema and beyond.

Shubha Mudgal

Shubha Mudgal born in 1959 in Prayagraj is an Indian singer of Hindustani classical Her repertoire includes the genres of Khayal, Thumri and Dadra, as also popular Indian pop music. She has received several awards and accolades for her artistic accomplishments, including the Padma Shri, awarded in 2000. Apart from music, Mudgal is known for supporting left-wing causes and associating herself with radical, progressive organizations like Shabnam Hashmi's ANHAD and SAHMAT.