Prayaga also known as Allahabad is a city in the State of Uttar Pradesh situated at the confluence of the Ganges and Yamuna rivers. Prayaga (place of sacrifice) is believed to be the spot where Lord Brahma offered his first sacrifice after creating the world. It is one of the four sites of Kumbha Mela, others being Haridwar, Ujjain, and Nasik. It is a very sacred and celestial place of importance in Hinduism and Hindu Mythology since it is situated at the confluence (Sangam) of the holy rivers, Ganga, Yamuna and the invisible Saraswathi called Triveni Sangam. In Sanskrit Veni mean river and Triveni means three rivers, and hence the confluence of three rivers known as Triveni Sangam.

Mythology of Prayaga:

Prayaga is also called as the Theertha Raj, the king of all pilgrimage centers. Its sanctity is manifested by its reference in Puranas, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. According to Hindu mythology it is said that, Lord Brahma, chose a land on the earth (Prayaga) to perform ‘Prakrista Yaga’, at the beginning of the creation and he also referred to it as Theertha Raj or the ‘King of all pilgrimage centers’. As per Padma Purana, Prayaga is said to be the best among all the places of pilgrimage.

The area of Prayaga is called as the land of Prajapathi and hence known as Prajapathi Kshetra. The Trinity lords Brahma, Vishnu and Maheswara are the presiding Deities of this region. It is also called Aryavartha since Aryans are said to have settled here first. The Gods and the seven sages (Saptha Rishi) have made their abodes on the outskirts of Prayaga, while Prayaga itself is said to be the abode of Lord Vishnu. Here Lord Vishnu is said to possess 12 names and forms known as Vata Madhav, Akshaya Madhav, Moola Madhav, Shankha Madhav, Chakra Madhav, Gada Madhav, Padma Madhav, Ananta Madhav, Bindu Madhav, Manohar Madhav, Asi Madhav, and Veni Madhav. It is said that, Lord Sri Rama, had spent some time here, at the Ashram of Sage Bharadwaj, before proceeding to near by Chitrakuta.

It is said that after the Kurukshetra war Yudhistira (Dharma Raja) was very much depressed with a guilty feeling of having attained sin due to killing many people in the war and sought the advice of sage Markandeya. On his advice he went to Prayaga and took a sacred bath at the confluence of three sacred rivers to get purified from his sins.

Prayaga has been known as the greatest pilgrimage since the Rig-Veda era. The basic reason is the confluence of two of the holiest rivers in India, the Ganga and the Yamuna. It is said that one who dies at the Sangam is freed from the cycle of re-birth and attains salvation. It said and believed that at the time of destruction of the Universe Prayaga is saved.

HOLY PLACES AT PRAYAGA

SANGAM (Triveni Sangam): The sacred Sangam is the confluence of three of the holiest rivers in Hindu mythology Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati which is also called the river of enlightenment. It is said and believed that it is one of the four sacred spots where a few drops of the nectar ‘Amritha” spilled while it was carried by Lord Maha Vishnu during the episode of Ksheera Sagara Madhanam. The other three are Haridwar, Nasik, and Ujjain. These four places are called theerthas and considered holy by the Hindus. Among them Triveni Sangam (Prayaga) is regarded as the holiest and Tirtharaja. These three rivers maintain their identity and are visibly different as they merge. While Yamuna is deep but calm and greenish in colour, Ganga is shallow, but forceful and clear, Saraswati remains hidden, believe that she makes her presence felt underwater.

The significance of Prayaga is widely known in the terrestrial and celestial universe. By bathing in the holy waters of the Sangam one is ridden of all sins and gets all his desires fulfilled. If it is coinciding with the Kumbh the results are manifold.

The holy Sangam is the site for Annual Magh Mela/Ardh Kumbha Mela/Kumbha Mela. The Magha Mela is held between mid January and mid February every year. The Maha Kumbh Mela attracts huge gatherings of pilgrims and others from all over the world. Allahabad is world famous for the Maha Kumbh Mela that is held once in 12 years. It is said that, more than 30 million people take part in the mammoth religious carnival which is supposed to be the largest gatherings of people on the earth.

Sangam is just 12 km away from the Allahabad railway station and can be reached easily by auto rickshaws that regularly ply on the route. When once you reach there you have to travel in a boat to the sangam spot for taking bath and also for performing Veni Danam.

Bharadwaj-Ashram: Located in Colnelganj of the city near Anand Bhavan, it is the place where Lord Sri Rama is said to have visited to seek the blessings of sage Bharadwaj.

Akshayavat: It is an eternal tree that is indestructible It is located inside the Quilla on the banks of the river Yamuna. It is said that anyone who prays at this tree or dies under it attains salvation and its branches hang out into the Yamuna River. It is said that Lord Sri Ram spent a night near this tree while on His way to the wilds. It is also a holy site for the Jains.

Veni Madhav Temple:As said earlier there are 12 Madhav Deities in Prayaga but the Veni Madhav temple at Daraganj close to the Sangam is significant. It is a small temple, with a small idol of Vishnu representing Veni Madhava and Lakshmi. As per the inscriptions on the walls of the temple it is said that Lord Vishnu came to this spot as Veni Madhava to kill a demon who was trying to possess (by drinking) the three great rivers after he was cured of a skin problem when he took a bath in their confluence at Sangam.

Alopi Devi Mandir (Madhaveswari)
: “Prayage Madhaveswari” also known as Alopi Devi temple is located in Alopi bagh locality to the west of Daraganj. It is an ancient temple dedicated to Goddess Shakthi and is said to be one of the Shakti Peeth (Ashtadasa Shakthi Peetas). It is a unique temple where its presiding deity is in the form of a small wooden Jhula (swing), which is placed above a marble platform.

The origin of the name, Alopi (disappeared) lies in the Hindu belief that when the various body parts of Goddess Sati (chopped off by Lord Vishnu’s Sudarshana Chakra) fell at various places in India, they were sanctified as holy places for pilgrimage called Shakti Peetams. The last part fell at this location thereby named as “Alopi” (where disappearance was concluded) and the holiest of all.

VENI DANAM:A special mention need to be made about this unique ritual. The word Veni in Sanskrit means River. An interesting ritual performed at the Sangam is that of Veni Danam. This is a practice followed by married women for the long life of their husbands. The husband is supposed to comb and plait the wife’s hair and after decorating it with flowers, the end of the plait is cut off and offered to the rivers at the confluence. Normally hair floats on water, but at this place, the hair sinks straight to the bottom. Though hundreds of people offer their hair everyday, there is not a single strand of hair seen floating on the river. Whatever may be the scientific reason it is an inspiriting ritual for those who belief in the divinity.

How to reach there?

By Rail: The city has direct rail connections with several important cities viz. Calcutta, Delhi, Patna, Chennai, Mumbai, Gwalior, Kanpur and Varanasi.

By Road: Allahabad is on the National Highways 2 and 27. It is well connected to the rest of the country by road.

What can be done at Prayaga (Sangam)?
Sacred bath at Triveni Sangam
Veni Danam
Performing sacred rites to forefathers
Visit to holy temples

Kumbha Mela – 2013
 
With Jupiter (Bruhaspathi) already transiting the zodiac sign Taurus (Vrushabha Raasi); Sun entering into Capricorn (Makara Sankramana) on 14th January 2013; marks the beginning of once in 12 years world famous river festival Poorna Kumbha Mela arguably the largest religious gathering on earth starting from 27th January. This carnival will be held for a period of one month from 27th January 2013 to 25th February 2013 coinciding with the Hindu Lunar months Pushya-Maagha maasa (from Pushya Sukla Pournami to Maagha Sukla Pournami) and Maagha Mela. Ocean of humanity (men; women; sadhus; saints) from all walks of life irrespective of caste; creed; region; participate in this Hindu religious and spiritual fair in millions of numbers. This time it is being held at the sacred Prayaga Kshethra (Allahabad) on the banks of divine Sangam, the confluence of three holy and sacred rivers Ganga; Yamuna and Saraswathi attained more significance. Previous such Kumbha Mela was held in the year 2001 and nearly 80 million people estimated to have participated in the carnival including foreign tourists. This time participation is expected to cross 100 million with more than one million foreign tourists expected to visit India on this occasion.
 
Dates to remember in the calendar of Kumbha Mela-2013
 
Date
Significance
27.01.2013
Pushya Sukla Pournami (Full Moon day)
Maagha Snaana Aarambha
06.02.2013
Shat-Thila Ekaadasi
10.02.2012
Pushya Bahula Amaavaasya
15.02.2013
Vasantha Panchami
17.02.2013
Ratha Sapthami
18.02.2013
Bheeshmaashtami
25.02.2013
Maagha Pournami – Maha Maaghi
 
Other important related dates
 
14.01.2013 – Makara Sankramana (Transit of Sun into Makara Raasi)
10.03.2013 – Mahaa Sivaraathri
11.03.2013 – Maagha Bahula Amaavaasya (Somaavathi)
 
All said and done, the sacred bathing festival will be held almost for a period of 57 days starting from Makara Sankramana (14.01.2013) and ending with Maagha Bahula Amaavaasya (11.03.2013). During this period every day lakhs of people are expected to take bath in the holy confluence of Sangam with more number participating during the specified days.  Maagha maasam is given special significance for taking bath known as Maagha Snanam. It generally starts from Pushya sukla Pournami and ends with Maagha sukla Pournami or it could be from Makara Sankramana to Kumbha Sankramana as per Solar/Luni-Solar calendar. For followers of lunar calendar it starts from Pushya Bahula Amaavaasya and ends with Maagha Bahula Amaavaasya. During this period it is prescribed to take bath early in the morning before Sunrise preferably during Arunodaya kaala. This sacred bath is preferred to be taken in any river, lake or theertha or at least at home. Taking a bath (Snana) which is always refreshing, not only cleanses our external body, but also has significance from religious and spiritual point of view in the daily routine of an individual. In Hindu philosophy daily routine generally begins with a bath before worshiping God, a discipline that is inculcated with a sense of cleanliness in our actions. If it is during an auspicious period like Maagha maasam, its spiritual merits are in multiple. It is said that Maagha Snana can purify a person even from ghastly and dreadful sins committed. Taking bath early in the morning during Maagha maasam is highly sacred, spiritual and meritorious. Sacred texts like Vayu Purana, Brahmaanda Purana are said to have made reference to the merits and significance of Maagha Snanam
 
According to Dharma Shaastras the merits of Maagha Snaana gets increased depending on the place where the bath is taken as given below. 
  • With hot water at home–Merits equivalent to Six years of such Snana; 
  • From the waters of a well –12 years of such Snana phala;
  • In a lake –24 years of such Snana phala;
  • In any river – 96 years of such Snana phala;
  • In any sacred river – 9600 years of such Snana phala;
  • At the confluence of sacred rivers–38400 years of such Snana phala;
  • In Ganga (Ganges) River–Merits equivalent to 38400000 years of such Snana phala;
  • At Triveni Sangam (Prayaga) – 100 times of Ganga Snana phala;
  • Maagha Snana in a sea (Samudra) is considered as more meritorious than all the above.
Wherever the bath is taken one should always remember to recollect Prayaaga and pray Maasa Niyaamaka Sri Maadhava (Lord Vishnu). Look forward for more information on Kumbha Mela in the coming posts…Theertha Vidhi at Prayaga: One of the maxims of pilgrimage says that one should tonsure ones head at Prayaga. For observing and following theertha vidhi there are number of theertha purohits available at Prayaga who also provide dormitory facilities. Majority are in the area of Daragunj which is nearer to the Sangam spot. Pilgrims can approach them according to their own sampradaya. For performing Theertha Vidhi and Veni Danam as per Madhwa sampradaya facilities are available at…

Uttaradhi Mutt # 77, Mori Daraganj, Near Daraganj Police Station, Opp State Bank of India, Allahabad-211006. Tele: 0532-2508616, Mobile: 094513-66300. Contact Persons: Sri K.V.Narayana Acharya and Sri.K.N.RaghavendraAcharya. Accommodation, food and guide facilities are available at this place. Cab charges from Allahabad Rly station to the venue will be approx Rs. 150 to 200.

Writer:Bhargava Sarma

For more articles visit http://bhargavasarma.blogspot.com