Prayāga

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By Swami Harshananda

Sometimes transliterated as: Prayaga, PrayAga, Prayaaga


Prayāga (‘[place of] excellent sacrifice’)

Visiting places of pilgrimage—especially the important ones—at least once in life-time, has been prescribed as a sacred duty for every Hindu by the dharmaśāstras and the purāṇas.

One of the very few pilgrim centres, a visit to which has been considered extremely auspicious, is Prayāga (the modern Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh). It has been designated as ‘Tīrtharāja’ (‘the king of pilgrimage centres’) also. Since the three rivers Gaṅgā, Yamunā and Sarasvatī (the mythical river supposed to join the other two from underground) merge here, the place is also called ‘Triveṇī’. The actual confluence is known as Triveṇī saṅgama and is 2.4 kms. (1.5 miles) from the city.

Brahmā (the four-faced creator of the world) is said to have performed a yāga or sacrifice here, which was the best (= pra or prakrsṭa) of all sacrifices. Hence the name Prayāga.

Sometimes it is described as the madhyavedi, the middle altar, out of the five used by Brahmā, the other four being Kurukṣetra (in Haryana), Gayā (in Bihar), Virajā (somewhere in South India) and Puskara (in Rajasthan).

Some of the purāṇas like the Matsya (3.4-10) declare that Prayāga is

not destroyed even in pralaya or dissolution of the world.

The hoary antiquity of Prayāga seems to be confirmed by a verse in the Rgveda itself (10.75, the khila part), (See KHILA also.) though the Rāmāyana (2. 54.6) refers to a forest at the place of the confluence of the two rivers.

Religious rites strongly recommended to be performed here are: bath at the Triveṇī-saṅgama, tonsure of the head (sometimes recommended even for women as prāyaścitta or expiation), performance of śrāddha to ancestors and dāna (giving gifts).

Veṇīpradāna (offering two to four inches of their braid of hair into the confluence, by married women) is another rite which is popular among the pilgrims even today.

One of the best places prescribed for committing religious suicide (by persons who have realised the Self or who are very old or who are suffering from incurable diseases causing much suffering and so on) is Prayāga. It is done by jumping into the river from the Akṣaya-vata, the famous (and age-old) Banyan tree on its bank.

A bath in the Triveṇī, in the month of Māgha (generally in January), is considered as extremely auspicious. During this period, many pilgrims assemble on the banks of the rivers and camp there, sometimes for three to four weeks.

It is again during this month, once in twelve years, that the famous Kumbha-melā festival is held here. (See KUMBHA-MELĀ.) It is the biggest religious festival

in the world, drawing more than thirty million people, including thousands of

sādhus (religious mendicants and leaders) who all manage a dip in the rivers within the time span of twenty four hours!

Other holy places here that are visited by the pilgrims are: Veṇīmādhava temple, Bharadvājāśrama, Nāgamandira (or Vāsukimandira) and the Akṣayavaṭa.

The Citrakuṭa hill of the Rāmāyana-fame (vide Ayodhyākānda 56) is situated at a distance of about one hundred kilometers (60 miles) from here. (See

CITRAKUTA for details.)


References

  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore

OLD CONTENT

Prayāga (‘[place of] excellent sacrifice’) Visiting places of pilgrimage—espe¬cially the important ones—at least once in life-time, has been prescribed as a sacred duty for every Hindu by the dharmaśāstras and the purāṇas. One of the very few pilgrim centres, a visit to which has been considered extremely auspicious, is Prayāga (the modern Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh). It has been designated as ‘Tīrtharāja’ (‘the king of pilgrimage centres’) also. Since the three rivers Gaṅgā, Yamunā and Sarasvatī (the mythical river supposed to join the other two from underground) merge here, the place is also called ‘Triveṇī’. The actual confluence is known as Triveṇī saṅgama and is 2.4 kms. (1.5 miles) from the city. Brahmā (the four-faced creator of the world) is said to have performed a yāga or sacrifice here, which was the best (= pra or prakṛsta) of all sacrifices. Hence the name Prayāga. Sometimes it is described as the madhyavedi, the middle altar, out of the five used by Brahmā, the other four being Kurukṣetra (in Haryana), Gayā (in Bihar), Virajā (somewhere in South India) and Puskara (in Rajasthan). Some of the purāṇas like the Matsya (3.4-10) declare that Prayāga is not destroyed even in pralaya or dissolu¬tion of the world. The hoary antiquity of Prayāga seems to be confirmed by a verse in the Rgveda itself (10.75, the khila part), (See KHILA also.) though the Rāmāyana (2. 54.6) refers to a forest at the place of the confluence of the two rivers. Religious rites strongly recommended to be performed here are: bath at the Triveṇī-saṅgama, tonsure of the head (sometimes recommended even for women as prāyaścitta or expiation), performance of śrāddha to ancestors and dāna (giving gifts). Veṇīpradāna (offering two to four inches of their braid of hair into the confluence, by married women) is another rite which is popular among the pilgrims even today. One of the best places prescribed for committing religious suicide (by persons who have realised the Self or who are very old or who are suffering from incurable diseases causing much suffering and so on) is Prayāga. It is done by jumping into the river from the Akṣaya- vata, the famous (and age-old) Banyan tree on its bank. A bath in the Triveṇī, in the month of Māgha (generally in January), is con¬sidered as extremely auspicious. During this period, many pilgrims assemble on the banks of the rivers and camp there, sometimes for three to four weeks. It is again during this month, once in twelve years, that the famous Kumbha- melā festival is held here. (See KUMBHA- MELĀ.) It is the biggest religious festival in the world, drawing more than thirty million people, including thousands of sādhus (religious mendicants and leaders) who all manage a dip in the rivers within the time span of twenty four hours! Other holy places here that are visited by the pilgrims are: Veṇīmādhava temple, Bharadvājāśrama, Nāgamandira (or Vāsukimandira) and the Akṣayavaṭa. The Citrakuṭa hill of the Rāmāyana- fame (vide Ayodhyākānda 56) is situated at a distance of about one hundred kilometers (60 miles) from here. (See CITRAKUTA for details.)