When I recently received an invite from travel expert Kendra Thornton to write about my 'hometown', I found myself in a dilemma. The twists and turns of life have presented me with more than one town to be called 'home'.
My ancestral roots are from Kushinagar and most of the family is now settled in Lucknow.
My parents are in Kuwait since almost a decade now.
I was born in Agra and brought up in Allahabad.
I moved to Pune to start an independent life.
Got married to a guy from Gwalior and shifted to Gurgaon.
Journeyed across the globe to call a small town in Michigan (Portage) my home for two years.
And I write this post from a completely new city - Charlotte.
To choose from a pool of such beautiful places was not easy. However, the city I picked is the one which has given me the sweetest and fondest memories- Allahabad.
Whether or not you are spiritualistic, a history enthusiast, a keen traveler or a foodie, Allahabad is sure to impress you with it's offerings. The various names given to the city by the learned and famous, highlight the very best of the town. From being known as 'Prayag' or 'the place of offerings' during the Vedic period to being fondly referred to as 'Tirth Raj' or 'the King of Pilgrimages' by Lord Brahma, the city remains to be one of the most pious places in India till date. The great Mughal Emperor Akbar, gave the city it's name, Allahabad, derived from 'ilahabad', which means 'Garden of Lord'. It's not only ancient and medieval history that makes the city special. Allahabad has been home for 7 out of 14 Prime Ministers of independent India, thus getting it's name- 'City of Prime Ministers'.
A tour around Allahabad is sure to impress you with the town's rich Indian history and culture. What's better is that you get to taste some finger-licking delicious food at every few steps. This pretty laid-back city will welcome you with open arms and lead you through the by-lanes, ensuring that you have a pleasant visit.
What tops the list? Sangam - Kumbh Mela
If you are in Allahabad, a visit to Sangam is a must. The Vedas mention the existence of an underground river, Saraswati, which is said to meet the mighty Ganga and Yamuna in Allahabad. The confluence of these three rivers, known as Sangam, has held a very high place in the hearts and souls of pious Hindus, who believe that a dip in the holy waters of Sangam rids them of all the sins and evils.
|Image Source : Wikipedia|
The banks of Sangam, every year, host millions of pilgrims, who travel from all parts of the globe to be a part of the biggest fair- Kumbh Mela. Saints and sages, devotees and onlookers, media and foreigners, administrators and stall-owners, together took the gathering count to over seven million in 2013, on the occasion of Maha Kumbh, celebrated every 12 years. The preparations start days in advance for this two-month long religious fair that lasts from January through March.
|Image Source : Daily Mail|
Mark of History and of Religious Beliefs: Akbar's Fort - Hanuman Temple
Right on the banks of Yamuna is a magnificent fort built by Mughal emperor Akbar. The architectural beauty of this fort is par excellence. Most part of the fort is now used by the military and is allowed for public visits only on certain calendar days. This fort also houses the famous Akshayavat, the immortal tree.
|Image Source : JourneyMart|
On the foot of the fort is the famous Lete (Sleeping) Hanuman Temple. From times immemorial, it has been observed that the Ganges floods this temple every monsoon. People of Allahabad believe that it's Ganges' own way of worshipping Lord Hanuman.
Contibution to the Independence of India : Anand Bhawan - Swaraj Bhawan
The Nehru-Gandhi family holds a very influential spot in Indian Modern History. Swaraj Bhawan, which was formerly Nehru's residence, was used as a meeting place by the freedom fighters of that era to draft plans to gain Independence from the British. Right next to it is Anand Bhawan, the house in which India's first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru grew up. The building now serves as a very fine House Museum.
|Image Source : India Travels|
Colonial Architecture: All Saints Cathedral
The All Saints Cathedral in the heart of the city- Civil Lines- can be visualized as the crown of the city. This cathedral, made in red sandstone, marble and stained glass, by an eminent British architect, William Emerson, stands true to it's beauty even after more than 125 years.
|Image Source : Wikipedia|
Love for Art & Culture : Shilp Mela
The handicraft fair organized in December, brings together crafters from all over the country under one umbrella. Shoppers hop from one stall to another buying fabric, jewelry, pottery, paintings, furniture and what not! Between all this, are the amazing performers, pleasing the audiences with various forms of Indian dance and music.
|Image Source : The Hindu|
Keep your Calorie Calculator aside - FOOD
While on Allahabad tour, you are sure to be pampered with good food. Medical College Corner's chaat can beat anything edible. Dehati's gulaab jamuns that melt in your mouth, are sweetened to perfection. Netram ki Kachori is bound to tickle your taste buds with it's spicy taste. Raja Ram Lassi wala's kulfi is definitely not to be missed. Heera Halwai k Samose make the perfect evening tea companion. Churmura from the street vendors, Masala pepsi from Lallu's and Chocolate Truffle Cake from El Chico are a must when in Civil Lines. And do not forget to grab several boxes of Hari k Samose for friends and family back home. These samosas stay fresh for weeks and are found nowhere else except in... Allahabad!!
Heading to Allahabad? Must-knows
The connectivity to and within the city is not bothersome. Being perfectly connected by rail from mostly all the major cities of India and the several trains running between the country capital, Delhi and Allahabad, make it convenient for the tourists. Decent air and road travel options exist too.
Within the city, local transport can take you just anywhere, as long as you are ready to jump from one mode to another.
Avoid a visit during summers, May through September, as it's really hot and humid. If visiting during winters, be sure to carry a bag full of woolens and be prepared to face dense fog, especially in January. Winters are no respite either.
This post was done as a part of the collaboration project initiated by Kendra Thornton. Kendra is the founder of Thornton Public Relations LLC, which works to bring strategic and low cost public relations to start-up and established travel, consumer and technology companies. Kendra also appears regularly as a travel expert on ABC, CBS, NBC and CW affiliates across the country to share travel trends, tips and deals with millions of viewers every year. Prior to starting her own business, Kendra was the Director of Corporate Communications at Orbitz.com, one of the nation’s largest travel agencies.
Moving on to what Kendra, a Chicagoan, has to say about the Windy City:
You may think that Florida beaches and Colorado Mountains can offer the best vacations, but no place can compare to the fun you'll have in Chicago. Of course, when you're a native Chicagoan, it's easy to make this judgment call. As Frank Sinatra said, "And each time I roam, Chicago is calling me home, Chicago is why I just grin like a clown--it's my kind of town..." Chicago has everything you love for a great vacation. There's all of the entertainment, night life, baseball and of course, deep dish pizza, but that's not nearly everything you'll get in a metropolis like Chicago. It's about arts and culture, history, local landmarks and world-renowned chefs making a name for themselves in the Windy City. These are some of the best places to visit in Chicago whether you love to relax and take it easy or like to explore.
Time to Get Out and Find Some Grub - Chicago has no limitations cuisine. You'll find every type of fare here. If you want to stick to traditional American cuisine with some Chicago flair thrown in, it's best to check out the South Water Kitchen in the Loop. It's open at 6 am and serves all of your favorite items for breakfast, lunch and dinner with a few things that you probably haven't tried before. One thing that makes this a great place for family travelers is the variety on the menu. Even picky eaters will find something to enjoy.
Oh Chicago, You Have the Most Beautiful Architectural Eyes - Whether you're into skyscrapers or just like historical landmarks, Chicago's got every kind of architectural wonder. Millennium Park is a great example of modern Chicago if you want to find some art and gorgeous architecture. Mayor Richard Daley had the public park commission in 1997 to restore an abandoned part of the city. Now it's known as the heart of Chicago. Millennium Park is home to incredible architectural designs, landscape art and local art as well as a variety of free cultural programs. It's fun to explore and also makes for some great photo opportunities.
A Cultural Hot Spot in Downtown - The Chicago Cultural Center is another place that locals gravitate towards because of its location and unique art pieces. It's located in the Loop across from Michigan Avenue. You get a real sense of Chicago just from looking at the many different pieces showcased here. There's always some kind of event going on at the cultural center as well, and it's completely free. That's another reason to love Chicago. When you're finished, you should head over to the Michigan Avenue Bridge to check out some of the landmark sculptures and founding history of this Midwestern metropolis.
Time to Relax and Unwind - There are all kinds of historical hotels, beds and breakfasts and other places to stay in popular parts of the city, but you really want a place where you can check out the Chicago skyline. There are a few hotels that offer an exceptional view of the city, but you'll be able to compare all of the amenities and rates on a site like Gogobot.com. It's easy to look up different hotels and select a part of the city that you want to stay in or sort hotels by highest reviews.
Before I sign off, I'd like to thank Kendra for the collaboration. It was fun writing about the city I spent almost 20 years of my life in and have not visited even once in the last couple of years. Brought back beautiful memories!!
Thanks, Kendra! It was awesome to have you here on Kreative Korner!
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