ALLAHABAD, a major city and headquarters of a district of the same name in Uttar Pradesh, India at the confluence of the Ganges and Yamuna rivers. Of religious and strategic importance from ancient times, Allahabad probably emerged as a full-fledged town in the early Buddhist period; its history is obscure till the 10th/16th century, when the Mughal Emperor Akbar realized the suitability of the site as a navigable waterway and built a fort as a prelude to his more ambitious design of annexing the Deccan. Allahabad (or Elāhābād, as Akbar designated it) soon became a large city and the seat of a province. Prince Dānīāl was appointed to its governorship in 1005/1597, and in 1008/1599, Prince Salīm (the future Emperor Jahāngīr, 1014-37/1605-28), set up an independent court. Akbar soon acted to bring his rebellious son into line, and the political importance of Allahabad waned during the final years of his reign. Under Shah Jahān, Prince Dārā Šokūh was sent to Allahabad in 1055/1645 as governor, where he remained for more than a decade before he was killed by his brother and rival, the future Emperor Awrangzēb, in 1066/1656. The latter’s high regard for Allahabad’s strategic importance is indicated by the list of able nobles whom he assigned as governors; one of them, Amīr Khan Mīr-e Mīrān, was a descendant of the famous Persian saint Shah Neʿmatallāh Walī. The city was despoiled by the Marathas in 1149-52/1736-39, and then passed back and forth between the feuding nawabs of Oudh and Farrukhabad. It was finally ceded to the British in 1216/1801.
The architectural or antiquarian remains of the city are few. The fort, situated on the left bank of the Yamuna in the wedge formed by its confluence with the Ganges, may once have rivaled that of Agra or Delhi, but few traces of its ancient splendor remain. Ḵosrow Bāḡ, an extensive garden built by order of Jahāngīr in the Persian-Timurid garden-complex tradition, lies to the north of the contemporary but now dilapidated sarāy of Khuldabad; the garden contains the tomb of Jahāngīr’s son Prince Ḵosrow as well as those of his mother, his sister, and an unidentified fourth person. The four tombs warrant attention as major architectural monuments of medieval India, especially since they indicate that the indigenous robust style of Akbar’s buildings was continued into the reign of Jahāngīr.
Little is known about the cultural life of Allahabad during the early Mughal period. Prince Salīm’s court must have attracted a number of talented artists, but only the celebrated calligrapher-poet Mīr ʿAbdallāh Moškīn-qalām and Āqā Moḥammad-Reżā Moṣawwer are cited by name in Mughal records. By the middle of the 11th/17th century, however, the list of prominent literati connected with Allahabad expands considerably and includes the poet and prolific writer Abu’l-Barakāt Monīr Lāhūrī (d. 1054/1644), the commentator on Ebn ʿArabī and tutor of Prince Dārā Šokūh, Shaikh Moḥebballāh Mobārez Elāhābādī (d. 1058/1648), the poet Mollā Moḥammad-Moḥsen Fānī (d. 1081/1670-71), and the taḏkera writers ʿAlī-qolī Khan Wāleh Dāḡestānī (d. 1170/1756) and Bhagvān Dās Hendī (d. 1215/1800). A unique feature of Allahabad is found in the twelve residential quarters of eminent Sufis, known as dāʾeras; the just mentioned Shaikh Moḥebballāh is linked to one such dāʾera, as is the foremost Naqšbandī leader of Allahabad, Shaikh Moḥammad-Afżal Elāhābādī (d. 1124/1713). The latter wrote poetry with the pen-name Moḥaqqar and authored over fifty works, mostly in Persian; his numerous descendants further distinguished the community dāʾera as saints, scholars, writers, and poets, not only in Allahabad but throughout Muslim India. Perhaps the last versatile scholar and teacher to have been produced by the Allahabad dāʾeras was Mawlawī Ḵayr-al-dīn Moḥammad Elāhābādī (d. ca. 1243/1827), author of several works in Persian on theology, law, logic, philosophy, rhetoric and grammar, history, and biography.
Imperial Gazetteer V, Oxford, 1908.
Uttar Pradesh State Gazetteers: Allahabad District, Allahabad, 1911.
M. A. Ṣamdanī, Tārīḵ-eElāhābād (Urdu), Allahabad, 1938.
U. Singh, Allahabad, a Study in Urban Geography, Varanasi, 1966.
S. N. Singh, Suba of Allahabad under the Great Mughals, Delhi, 1974.
For notices on Arabic and Persian inscriptions of Allahabad, see Annual Report on Indian Epigraphy, 1961-62, 1969-70, 1970-71, 1973-74.
(Z. A. Desai)
Originally Published: December 15, 1985
Last Updated: August 2, 2011
This article is available in print.
Vol. I, Fasc. 8, pp. 889-890