ALLAHABAD One of India's holiest cities, Allahabad was built at the confluence of the Ganges and Yamuna rivers. It is the ancestral home of Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first prime minister. The Nehrus, Kashmiri Brahman pandits, were originally the Kauls, but because the family home fronted the river, or nehar, they came to be called the Nehrus. The city was earlier named Prayag and Kausambi, and was a thriving Buddhist center. Its name was changed to Illahabas, or "city of Allah," in 1584 during the reign of the Great Mughal emperor Akbar. The brilliant Akbar was committed to winning the hearts of his Hindu subjects, and what better way to do so than to build a beautiful city at the confluence of India's two most sacred rivers. Thus he founded Illahabas in 1575, which quickly became Allahabad.
Allahabad is surrounded by sites dating back to ancient times: to its east lies Jhusi, ancient Pratisthanpur, the capital of the Chandras; to its west lies a medieval Kara fort, bearing testimony to the Rajput Jayachand's influence. Recognizing the commercial potential of the city and the social and religious importance of its rivers, Akbar elevated Allahabad to the status of a Mughal suba, or provincial capital, building a fort overlooking the Yamuna. The presence of an Ashokan pillar there also testifies to the much earlier influence of the Mauryans.
The marauding Marathas pillaged Allahabad before the British declared it their capital of the North West provinces in 1834. The British decision to place a high court there soon turned the city into a thriving center for legal studies, as well as the home of a fine university. However, the British moved their capital to Agra a year later. In 1857 mutinous Sepoys captured the city. In 1888 Allahabad hosted the fourth session of the Indian National Congress. Thereafter, it became a center of India's freedom movement, and Anand Bhavan, the Nehru ancestral home, was donated to the Congress as its headquarters. Besides the Nehrus, other Congress nationalists from the city included Mangla Prasad, Muzzaffar Hasan, Kailash Nath Katju, Lal Bahadur Shastri, and Purshottam Das Tandon. Allahabad proved to be the urban cradle of four of India's prime ministers: Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Nehru Gandhi, her son Rajiv Nehru Gandhi, and Lal Bahadur Shastri. Allahabad remains an important city as a political and religious center. Its population in 1991 was approximately 800,000.
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