Allahabad named after legendary ancient king; Islamic etymology came later, says AU professor
New Delhi, Oct 17: Allahabad has been renamed as Prayagraj by the Uttar Pradesh government just before the Kumbh in the holy city of confluence but there has been a mix response to the decision with majority favouring the decision. But is it really correct to say that it was named as Allahabad by an emperor of India to give it an Islamic name who had started a religion called Din-I-Ilahi in 1582 just a year before renaming the city.
The name of Prayag was changed Ilavas in 1583 when the foundation of the fort in the city was being laid. Professor D P Dubey at the Ancient History department of University of Allahabad told Oneindia, "The name of Prayag was given by Akbar as Ilavas (it means the place where Ill lived) after legendary King Ill whose name is found in Ramayana, Mahabharat and Purana. Legend has it that he used to become man for a month and woman for the subsequent month due to the curse of Lord Shiva. He was the father of legendary king Pururwa as per Indian tradition. Rig Veda mentions the name of both Pururva and his father."
Dubey said that he was a Chandravanshi ruler whose capital was Pratisthanpur which is the present day Jhunsi of Allahabad. So the city was named as Ilavas after him by Akbar and it was appropriate both for Hindus and Muslims. Akbar was very cleaver as he did not want to antagonise majority Hindu on issue of sensitive matter like changing name of one of the most sacred place of Hindus. Jahangir tried to change name of Varanasi as Mohamadabad but it remained in documents only.
Not only Ain-i-Akbari but historians like Abd al-Qadir Bada'uni write it as Ilahvas. Even coins of the time of Akbar write Ilahvas for the city. But with the passing time and specifically during the time of Shahjahan, Ilahvas became Ilahabad and British have made some other spelling change by replacing I with A to make it Allahabad while in Hindi it is still written as Ilahabad.
Dubey said that the name of Prayag is first mentioned in Mahabharat and Ramayan and even in Puran it is called Prayag which is around 2500 years ago. But the place where remains of the old city are as old as 7000 BC which is excavated across the Ganga River that is Jhunsi in modern times.
But Ashokan pillor inside the Allahabad Fort which has queen Kaurvaki's inscription, Samudragupta's inscription, Jhangir's writing but only Birbal inscribing about his successful Prayag visit in 1575. Some pilgrims too have also written something on it. Jahangir got his pedigree written on it. Jahangir's relics has damaged some of the line of Samudragupta written on it. The history of Samudragupta is based on this.
Some are opposing renaming of Allahabad into Prayagraj on cultural grounds. One of such person and author Priyadarshi Dutta said, "Etymological might have an Islamic origin viz. Allah or Ilahi but it has been Indianised long since. In Hindi, it is pronounced as (Ilahabad) and in Bengali (Elahabad) both evoking a collective nostalgia due to its historical and literary importance. It is a pilgrimage town Prayag meaning confluence of rivers viz. Ganga and Yamuna and invisible Saraswati."
Datta argued that the name Allahabad has great importance in history of freedom movement. Madan Mohan Malaviya was from the city. His originally wanted to build the Hindu University in Allahabad not in Varanasi. The first literary magazine of Hindi viz. Saraswati Patrika and first edition of Tagore's Gitanjali were published from Indian Press, Allahabad owned by Chintamani Ghosh. Allahabad was the capital of United Provinces during British period. Allahabad University is India's fourth oldest university and Uttar Pradesh's high Court called Allahabad High Court is located in the city.
But despite all majority are in favour and the state government has set the ball rolling.