|Boat queue for Triveni Sangam|
Second oldest city of India after Varanasi- Prayaga is another holy city. One of the four theerthas (sacred places) Prayaga or Triveni Sangam is just 83KM from Varanasi. Triveni Sangam is the meeting point of three sacred rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati (subterranean). One of the four places where the popular Kumbh-mela is held every 12 years sangam is believed to have soul cleansing powers hence a sacred bathing place. Also called as Theertharaja (king of holy places) Prayaga is the birth place of Soma (Moon), Varuna (God of rain) and Daksha Prajapati (Son of Brahma). The city has a long history dating back Vedic period as the location where Brahma performed a sacrifice and hence the name Prayaga. Mahrishi Ved Vyas wrote Siva Puarana here in this place.
|My boat in the long line|
Hindu mythology always revolves around the animosity between Gods and demons. One such story is the Samudra manthan where the ocean of milk was churned with gods on one side and demons on the other. As a result there were many sacred and precious things including amrutha (divine potion which gave gods immortality on consuming) came out as cream! Reluctant to share the amrutha with demons Gods were running away with the pot of amrutha and demons chased them for years. During this chase four drops out of the pot fell on earth which became four theerthas, viz, River Shipra in Ujjain, Triveni Sangam, where three rivers- Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati meet in Prayag, Haridwar where the River Ganga takes the plunge from mountains into the plains, and River Godavari in Nasik. Every twelve years Kumbha (pot) mela is held at one of these four places. People in millions visit to to have a holy dip.
After I packed up from Varanasi I was looking forward to visit Prayaga. The city was renamed by Akbar as Ilahabad and then by British as Allahabad. Specifically, I wanted to visit Triveni Sangam which is 6KM from the city. From Varanasi there are frequent buses to Allahabad and vice versa. After checking into a hotel near to bus stand I took several shared autorikshaws to reach Sangam. It was crowded. A KM streach of riverbank is called ghat and people do the last rites for the departed. I didn't walk along the ghat here as the wind was strong and the sand was all over up in the air. It was hard even to open the eyes or even to talk! Instead I opted to take a boat ride to the sangam first.
|Ghat at Prayag and the sand in the air|
All waiting boatmen ran towards me for a boat ride. After reducing the price to 1/4th of the original quote I got into one boat on sharing basis. The boat ride was definitely memorable. Strong winds together with the turbulent waters of Yamuna were tossing the passengers of the boat from one side to the other. The old boat with bamboos tied on the sides looked very fragile. But, the old boatman was very confident. He was saying- the waters from Ganga and Yamuna rivers are poluted beyond imagination in Kashi and Delhi respectively. But, when they join here at Sangam along with underground Saraswati they get purified. Nobody gets sick even when the water is consumed as it is! Hmmm!
Well, I was with a family of tourists in the boat. I watched and enjoyed some touristy things they were doing including feeding the migratory siberian gulls. These birds love namkeen sev! And there I was at Sangam waiting in a boat line. The boat was swaying severely and we had to jump over many different boats to reach the exact place where the rivers meet. Every year this point shifts.
Some women from my boat found it hard to balance while hopping over boats and fell (fortunately not in the water) but we went on. The panda here sells coconuts, flowers and performs rituals as per the pilgrim's wish. The popular thing is to offer three coconuts to the three rivers. So, my boat-mates took a dip in the waters and offered three coconuts. Interesting to see here is the color of the waters. The Ganga seems golden and Yamuna is darker. We can see it clearly!
|Colos of water from Ganga and Yamuna in Prayag|
There is an interesting story about sangam. The holiest river Ganga was worried when she was about to merge with the river Yamuna. She thought her holiness might fade away against the greatness of Yamuna. Per Hindu mythology, River Yamuna is younger sister of Yama (God of death). Though dip in the waters of Ganga provides liberation, a dip in Yamuna's water assures a painless death! When Ganga expressed her hesitation Yamuna assured that Ganga's greatness would never fade away. And, even after they merge the river is still called Ganga until it enters Bangaldesh. Then on it is called by the name Padma. After spending sometime there until some people statred getting dizzy in the swaying boat we returned.
Then I thought of venturing into the Allahabad Fort to visit Saraswati Kund which is believed to be the origin of River Saraswati and Akshaya vat (immortal banyan tree). Well, the fort was built by Akbar and was a major garrison of Mughals. Now occupied by Indian Army only a part of the fort is allowed for visitors. Saraswati Kund being out of reach I visited the Patalpuri temple and the sacred tree. Akshaya vat has a mention in many ancient scriptures including Ramayana. It is believed that Lord Rama along with his consort Devi Sita and brother Lakshmana rested under this tree.
There are many other temples in near vicinity like Bade Hanuman and Alopi Devi Shaktipeetha. I was here only for one afternoon but, would never forget that boat ride and the sand storm!
More excursions from Varanasi HERE.
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Varanasi- As I Saw, A Photo tour
Seven days of my Kashi Yatra
Backpacking India III- Classic Pilgrimage!
Backpacking India Part II- A Parallel Journey
Stories from Backpacking India
If you want pictures please ask me :)
Scrapbook- A Travel Blog by Kusum Sanu is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.