The Uttar Cabinet on October 16, 2018 approved the proposal of the state government to rename the city of ‘Allahabad’ as ‘Prayagraj’. The decision has been vehemently opposed by the opposition parties.
The move, however, fulfils the long-standing demand of seers before the Ardh Kumbh Mela in January 2019. Speaking ahead of the cabinet meeting, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath had said that there was a proposal from the Akhara Parishad to rename Allahabad as Prayagraj ahead of 2019 Kumbh.
The state’s governor had already given his approval on the matter.
Why Akbar renamed Prayag as Allahabad?
The city of Allahabad was originally known as Prayag in ancient times. Between 1574 and 1583, the 16th-century Mughal emperor Akbar founded a fort near the confluence of the Ganga and the Yamuna, known as Sangam, as he was impressed with its strategic position.
In fact, Akbarnama states that, "For a long time [Akbar's] desire was to found a great city in the town of Piyag, where the rivers Ganges and Jamna join, which is regarded by the people of India with great reverence and which is a place of pilgrimage for the ascetics of the country and to build a choice fort there."
Hence, Akbar named the fort and its neighbourhood as Ilahabad, which meant the "Abode of God", inspired by the religion he had founded, Din-i-Illahi. In the later years, Akbar's grandson Shah Jahan renamed the entire city as Allahabad.
However, the area near the Sangam, which is the site of the Kumbh Mela, continued to be called Prayag.
The city's original name Prayag, which means a "place of offerings", comes from its position at the Sangam of the rivers Ganga and Yamuna and the mythical river, Saraswati. The place plays a central role in the Hindu scriptures.
The city is also mentioned in the Veda as the location where Lord Brahma attended his first ritual sacrifice.
It is also the site for historic Kumbh Mela, which is held once in every 12 years and it is also believed to be the same place where the drops of holy nectar fell.
UP CM Yogi Adityanath while explaining the reason behind keeping the name Prayagraj said, "the confluence of two rivers is a 'prayag' and in Allahabad, three rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati meet. Hence, it is the king of 'prayags'. That is why it is 'Prayagraj'.”
What critics say!
There have been mixed reactions to the rechristening with critics saying that there have been quite a few name changes over the past few years.
According to the opposition, when there is already an area called ‘Prayag’, there was no need to rename ‘Allahabad’ as ‘Prayagraj’.
The opposition claims that the change would diminish the importance that Allahabad had in the country’s freedom movement.
They also claim that the decision is an attempt to disturb and toy with the history of the nation and a political gimmick ahead of the Lok Sabha assembly polls, which are scheduled to be held in 2019.
Other major name changes
The ruling government of Uttar Pradesh had earlier changed the name of 'Mughalsarai Junction' to 'Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyay Junction'.
The Government had also previously re-named 'Mughalsarai' as 'Pt Deen Dayal Upadhyay Nagar' and ‘Ardh Kumbh’ as ‘Kumbh’.
In 2017, seers belonging to different akharas had met CM Yogi in Lucknow and had urged him to change the name of Allahabad to Prayagraj ahead of the 2019 Ardh Kumbh fair to be held in the holy city.
The Akhara Parishad in the meeting of Margdarshak Mandal had put forward the proposal to rename the city.
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