Sunday, February 7, 2010

Allahabad - Where to Stay, Eat


Allahabad - An introduction

    According to Hindu mythology, the creator God Lord Brahma chose a piece of land at which the three sacred rivers - the Ganga, the Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati - would flow into a quiet confluence (known as the Triveni Sangam). That land, was known as Prayag , now known as Allahabad is one of the largest cities of Uttar Pradesh. Allahabad is also called Tirtha-Raja (King of sacred places). It is one of four sites of the Kumbh Mela, an important Hindu pilgrimage. It is also said that Lord Rama visited Allahabad when he was in exile. The name ‘Allahabad’ is derived from Ilāhābād – the name given to the city by the Mughal Emperor Akbar. ‘Ilah’ is the arabic for ‘God’ and ‘abād’ is Persian for ‘to create’. Allahabad is thus the ‘God’s creation’. A major attraction in Allahabad is the Magh Mela which takes place every year in the month of Magh (January-February) of the Hindu calendar which I will be describing in a later post.

Allahabad is well connected by rail, road and air and with major cities/towns in India. We boarded the Gorakhpur Express from Mumbai (LTT) on 12th Jan 2010 and reached there on the 13th morning. We had adequate woolens on since the winters here can get as cold as 5 deg. Cel. But what caught us unawares were the unseasonal rains greeting us at the railway platform. We hired a rickshaw and reached ISKCON...


 [ ISKCON Guest House ]

My Dad being a life member of ISKCON, we had prebooked our room in ISKCON, Allahabad situated in the Baluaghat area. The room was clean and spacious enough for two persons. We took two rooms as we were four in all. With Krishna bhaktas around and the temple bells ringing, the whole atmosphere was truly divine and kind of prepared us for our spiritual journey ahead. However, if you aren’t a member and wish to stay here then do check out if they allot rooms to non members and the relevant charges.

 [ ISKCON Temple]

During our stay, we had the fortune of meeting the daughter of Kashinaresh. Simple yet elegant, she had come there to stay for the night as she was to take a holy bath at 4 am the next day. I later came to know that the entire stretch of the ISKCON premises in Allahabad was actually donated by her father and that she was a regular visitor here.

 [ View from Terrace ]

 Prasadam offered by ISKCON is pure and Saatvik. They have their own garden where they grow different vegetables like cauliflower, cabbage, coriander, tomatoes, potatoes, etc. These vegetables are then cooked, offered to Krishna and finally served to all the devotees staying in ISKCON as Prasadam. It was fascinating to take a tour of this garden and see the gifts of nature from such close quarters.

 [ Garden ]
        
    Besides the prasadam, we were given hot milk-a product from the cows in their very own gaushala (cow-shed), every night. The hot and pure liquid, provided us with some much needed warmth and would be a perfect end to the very chilly days.

And a special mention of an old man, fondly called Daddu by everybody there who was in service of the Krishna bhaktas. Thank You Daddu for making our stay in ISKCON very comfortable and memorable.

 [ Daddu ]

Besides ISKCON, one can choose from a large number of hotels in Allahabad as per one’s budget. Search the internet and I would advice my readers to book your rooms in advance (esp in oct-march) to avoid any last minute hassles on reaching there.

There are many other eating joints in Allahabad especially in the upscale Civil Lines area. One such place in this area is the Pure vegetarian Bikanervala located just next to Vishal Mega Mart. Here, we had some north and south Indian fare which was hot and tasty. Apart from this, one can also check out their wide range of sweets, an assortment of cookies, Chinese, pizzas, and the chatpati chats on offer. Though a little expensive, if you are looking for some good and tasty food with cleanliness and hygiene, then I will definitely recommend this place.

 
[ Bikanervala ]
     
     Lastly, I would like to mention about Dadi’s chai whose tea stall was situated in the lane leading up to the ISKCON temple. She made us nice hot ginger, cardamom (adrakh, eelaichi) tea.


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8 comments:

  1. Excellent posts on your blog. It requires real dedication and focus to narrate and illustrate what you saw and experienced. We are enriched by your desire to share. Thank you for your hard work.

    Your post starts with,
    According to Hindu mythology....

    The westerners tag our scriptures as mythology; something that never really happened and is a complete fabrication by some creative minds - a work of fiction. Should we continue to propagate that by towing "their" line and in the process degrade and demean "our" holy scriptures by calling them mythology? I, for one choose not to do that in any of my write-ups. But everyone is free to follow his/her thought process. It would be desirable though to either be reverent or irreverent all the way. To show ones reverence by describing the holy dip at Triveni as transcendental in one article and then to do an about face in the next article by labeling the edifice of Hinduism as mythology is inconsistent. I am sure it was an innocent error which can be easily fixed. But one must remain vigilant against the external influences trying to reduce our ancient religion and traditions to mere mythology.

    ReplyDelete
  2. ‘Mythology’ is a word which can be used in various contexts. Please have a look at its definitions -
    Wikipedia -
    The term "myth" is often used colloquially to refer to a false story; however, the academic use of the term generally does not pass judgment on its truth or falsity. In the study of folklore, a myth is a symbolic narrative explaining how the world and humankind came to be in their present form. Many scholars in other fields use the term "myth" in somewhat different ways. In a very broad sense, the word can refer to any traditional story.
    In English to Hindi dictionary –
    Mythology means Puran Shastra / Pauranic kathaye
    Even many of the official temple websites use the word ‘Mythology’ to tell the associated story.
    Thus, I think, using the word Mythology does not in any way degrade or demean our holy scriptures.
    Lastly I would appreciate, instead of going into a long discussion over the meaning of a word, we should try to feel and experience the beautiful holy places which are present in India some of which I try to share through my blog.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Wonder post with beautiful shots. Before this I did not know the significance of the place.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Nice Article very useful for me.Thank you

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  5. Hope to visit this place some time.. Great Post Arti..!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Nice post. Do you have the contact details of ISKCON in Allahabad for stay options?

    Please mail me if you can- rajniranjandas@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thanks @R Niranjan Das. Here are the contact details:

    Brindaban Das - 9452963789 / 05322416718

    ReplyDelete

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