The city was formerly known as Prayag. It has been an important pilgrimage centre since the ancient times. According to Hindu Mythology the place belonged to Brahmrishi, and embraced all the part of the country north of Yamuna and Ganga. Legend has it that lord Brahma performed the ‘Ashwamedha Yojna’ here to establish his universal supremacy, but nothing can be said authentically.
Description of this place also is found in the great epic Ramayana. During the period of their exile, Rama, Sita and Laxmana visited this place after crossing the Ganga by boat over Ram-Chaura a place few miles away from Allahabad city. There is a vivid description in Ramayana of the visit of Lord Rama, to the famous temples of Prayag, particularly the visit to Bharadwaj Ashram and Akshyavata. Later, Bharat who came in search of Rama, also state with Muni Bharadwaj at his Ashram on the high bank over looking the confluence of Ganga and Yamuna but these are not borne out by history and hence it is difficult to calculate the ate of the origin of the city.
In the times of Buddha, Prayag was a part of ‘Kosala Kingdom’. The excavation show that ‘Kosam’ or ‘Kaushambi’ was situated some thirty miles from prayag. Kaushambi was the capital, and Prayag was the holy city. It was one of the principal cities during the period of Lord Buddha, whereas now Kaushambi lies buried underneath and Prayag is lost in the wilderness of urban Allahabad!
According to the writings of Hiuen-Tsang, Kaushambi was not so large a city as Prayag and appears to have been in a much declining state. King Harshavardhana used to distribute his accumulated wealth to the poor and needy here, at Prayag. He also held great assembly, once in every five years, the description show that the city had the expansion around the Patalpuri Temple where at present the Allahabad Fort is situated. Ashoka the Great erected a pillar, now preserved inside the fort compound. On this pillar are inscribed the six edicts of Ashoka. Besides the inscription of Ashoka, the pillar bears long inscription of Samudra Gupta, Jahangir-the Mughal Ruler, and innumerable scrubbings done by pilgrims of various dates. The record of the visit of Raja Birbal in 1575 to the Magh Mela is also found inscribed on the pillar. Akbar visited Prayag in 1575 and laid the foundations of imperial city which he naed ‘Ilahabas’. Taking into consideration the strategic site of Prayag, Akbar also built a fort. He again visited Prayag in 1584 and spent four months there. It is apparent that part of the fort had been completed by that time. The city grew rapidly in importance, and before the end of Akbars reign was a place of considerable size, one of the chief industries being boat building : for it is said that number of far large sea-going vessels were constructed there and taken down the river to coast. Before the completion of the fort the seat of this province, under a chieftain of Moghls was Jaunpur; and Kara, near Kanpur was an important town. After the completion of the fort Allahabad became capital of the province in place of Jaunpur, and from this time Kara ceases to possess any political significance. Although Akbar named the city as ‘Ilahabas’ in place of Prayag the former name nevertheless remains current and popular “but denotes the scene of religious worship rather than the city”. The name, Prayag, was perpetuated by the British by Christening one of the city railway station as ‘Prayag Railway station’ which was originally Allenganj. The name given by Akbar was conveniently changed by poplar usage to Allahabad. An omnamistic controversy arisen for long and it is yet undecided, “whether this name is merely a Hinduised formed of Ilahabas or whether there was really a town called after ‘Allaha’ one of the celebrated Banaphar twin brothers of Hindu story, and renamed by Akbar in the interest of Islam”. While comparing the description of Hiuen-Tsang regarding the expansion of the city which was around the Patalpuri temple, and the present core of the city along the Grand Trunk Road from Muthiganj to Mirganj, there are reasons to believe that the city core has shifted west-ward leaving its original site with a solitary fort.
In Akbar’s time Allahabad became an important arena of political activities. Prince Jahangir after rising in revolt against his father, came to Allahabad and declared himself the king. The history of the city is obscure after the death of Jahangir, but it did remain an important city of northern India. Allahabad regained its position and importance during the reign of the British, particularly after the shifting of Government Headquarters of north-west province in 1858, followed by the transfer of high courts in 1868. This resulted into a tremendous increase of population in the city. According to the figures available in 1853 the total population was 72093, but in 1865 it had risen to 105926 people. In 1872,the population was recorded as 143693, while in 1881, the total was 160118 persons. Later on Lucknow became the capital of United provinces, but Allahabad still remained the seat of High Court. With the establishment of Muir College, and later the University of Allahabad, it emerged as an important educational and cultural centre of Uttar Pradesh.
Allahabad is known as the city of Judges, Lawyers, Professors and students. Now it has also developed into an important railway centre with a big colony. The industrial complex has also grown in and around Allahabad. The city is fragmented into civil lines, old city, university area, industrial estate and new colonies etc. Lately the city has seen tremendous population explosion. It could be seen that Allahabad touched the lac-mark in 1865 : now it is many times bigger than what it was 100 years ago.8 As can be seen from the above description Allahabad is a fragmented rather compartmentalized city having well defined colonies of personnel of different professions as lawyers, judges and other civil personnel. As the city is an important rather most important educational centre of Uttar Pradesh. Educational activity with judicial activity dominates a city life. Students roam the streets and roads of the city.