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What Lies in a City’s Name: The Transition of Allahabad to Prayagraj

In October 2018, the Uttar Pradesh cabinet adopted the proposal of changing the name of the city of Allahabad to Prayagraj. The government in power stated they are rectifying the mistake made by Mughal emperor Akbar nearly 5 centuries ago. It is argued that the city was called Prayagraj before the invasion by the Mughals and ought to be restored.


The city was indeed known widely as “Prayaga” since ancient times, and it was Akbar who founded his city of Allahabad there in 1584. The city is situated near the banks of the Ganga and Yamuna rivers, two holy rivers, to the Hindus, making it a significant pilgrimage site; in fact, Allahabad experiences often the world’s largest gatherings during the famous Kumbh Mela held in the winter. All of this has made the place a significant epicenter for various kingdoms, invaders, or governments in power. But, for the sake of discussion, the interest lies in the name of the city, why it had to be changed, and the probable ulterior motives behind it.


Ever since the conflicts of Hindu-Muslim communities, resulting in the partition of Pakistan and Bangladesh, there has always existed, if not an explicit but a sort of cold war. The Hindu community holds a majority in India and is often charged with being "Islamophobic”. The then-serving party in power of the state, and the same being the current, has displayed several acts of such behavior, with abundant evidence, 


Nilanjana Bhowmick, in her article titled “Meet the militant monk spreading Islamophobia in India” calls the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh “a controversial and deeply divisive figure for his militant, misogynistic, and anti-Muslim rhetoric.” In the context of this being, in nearly 77 years of independence, no government has attempted to change the city’s historically significant name of ‘Allahabad’. The name clearly contains ‘Allah’ in it; the name means city of Allah, which was upsetting for some.


The change of Allahabad’s name was not isolated in the state by any means; the district of Faizabad was renamed Ayodhya, Mughalsarai, and Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Nagar all in the same year of 2018. Several other minor name changes have taken place, with one thing in common, the erasure of all “Muslim” associations with them. The cost of this transition included several fundamental changes, including forms, documents, identity cards, sign boards, and several other technical ones. The cost of this change was over Rs. 300 crore (300 million). At this point, one starts to question the futility of this entire concept in modern-day society.


Throughout all of this, the Allahabad High Court, the University of Allahabad, and the Allahabad Museum have all maintained their original names. In common conversations, Allahabad is still Allahabad. Prayagraj, for most natives who regard this decision as illogical, is just a train that connects the city to Delhi, the Prayagraj Express. The motive behind this change is very apparent, yet it is concealed, remaining unacknowledged, as the government invests huge amounts of taxpayer money in this entire façade.


With all the information presented, a counter-argument of “but what really lies in the name” can be easily drawn. Well, if nothing lay in it, no one would spend so much time, money, and energy on erasing it. What lay in the name of Allahabad was a matter of the identity of the natives, whose opinions were never taken; what lay in it was what this amendment represented, disregard for a certain religious community; disregard for the importance of the Mughal empire in the country’s history, whose history is conveniently left out of children’s history books; and finally, ignorance of the significance the name holds in the recent history of real and living people.


 


-Nevertheless, the name cannot be erased from the tongues of those who value it. The connotations of this transition will survive, but its impact on individuals will not. The name is nothing and everything, for the people who realize the entirety that comes with it—the direction the country is heading towards—and that is exactly what the bygone days of Allahabad and the current days of Prayagraj represent.


 


Featured Image- Giclee Print: The Sacred Bathing - Place at Allahabad


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