Sangam-Siddiquis-Ahmads Shajra,Allahabad

What Is It All About? @ 2018-11-20 04:01:43am

By Suhail Ahmad,MD and Jawaid Ahmed

Villages and areas in and around Allahabad inhabited by our family branches are shown in red

These pages are all about our family’s roots in and around Allahabad. When the idea developed that we could juxtapose the name of our project into ‘Sangam’ we were thrilled.

Sangam is a very uniquely Allahabad thing. It is the confluence of rivers Ganges and Jumna/Yamuna on the southeast side of the city. Legend has it that a subterranean river also flows into the same confluence. Enshrined by our folklore, romanticized in songs it has become a rich part of our history, poetry, and literature. These pages are all about our family’s roots in and around Allahabad.

In the last 70 years our family has spread far and wide all over the world. The longing and yearning for the home, family, and roots become stronger with distance. These pages will be our virtual Sangam to flow to in search for our identity, roots, and history - one which dovetails into Allahabad's history.

About Allahabad's History

Ashoka Stambha (Pillar), Allahabad

It is well-known that Ilahabad (इलाहाबाद) is one of the two most ancient cities in India, but it is still surprising to see how far it dates back. The city is also known by its original name Prayag (प्रयाग) or Prayaga and is believed to be where Brahma offered his first sacrifice after creating the world. Prayaga is referenced to in the Vedas, the most ancient of Hindu sacred texts, and in the Puranas, another important group of religious texts.

Many artifacts were unearthed during excavations in Allahabad and were classified as 'Northern Black Polished Ware' dating back to around 700-200 BC. This also coincides with the rise of the Mauryan Empire of which king Ashoka was a part, During his reign, around 3rd century BC, he had many pillars inscribed with his edicts installed throughout India. The pillar in Allahabad is one of those that has survived. During those days most of the area known as Doab (Two Waters) including Prayaga consisted of dense continuous jungles except for a few huts at the confluence of the sacred rivers. Surrounded by the two rivers on 3 sides, the areas was very fertile with the annual floods from the rivers replenishing the topsoil.

The Mauryan empire was followed by Gupta's, and over the coming centuries many other empires, kingdoms, and dynasties were to come and go. One of the earlier written records about Allahabad were the memoirs of Huien Tsang, the Chinese Buddhist monk and chronicler who travelled through India during Harshavardhana's reign (607–647 AD) and visited Prayaga in 643 AD. In the memoirs he describes a ritual where hundreds took a bath in the confluence to wash away their sins. Some scholars theorize that this might have been the earliest account of Prayaga Khumb Mela while others point out that Harshavardhana was a Buddhist emperor and this probably was a Buddhist ritual.

Around the same time Muslim incursions into West Asia had been under way by Arabs under the Rashidun Caliphs, and by 642 AD they had wrested the control of most of the region from Sassanids and Byzantines, extending their rule from most of present day Pakistan to western Afghanistan with several pockets of local rulers here and there. Over the next few centuries, the Caliphates rule eventually waned, followed by Ghaznavid and then Ghorid dynasties battling for dominance while continuing the expansion through Punjab and some of the northern areas of present day India. Conversion from Hinduism or Buddhism to Islam was generally the trend in regions conquered by the Muslims.

Under the Ghaznavid rule their empire had extended to include Punjab. As the Ghorids moved in they pushed further east and established the Delhi Sultanate. Prayaga became a part of the Delhi Sultanate when it was annexed by Mohammad Ghori in 1193 AD.. It was almost 3 centuries later when the Mughals took over and under them Prayaga rose in prominence as the new rulers recognized its strategic importance specially in terms of the rivers providing critical transportation routes. During Emperor Akbar's reign Prayaga was renamed Ilahabad (Persian for 'place of God') in 1575 AD. A fort was built on the banks of the confluence and the city was also made a seat of the provincial government.

There are two items of note about the 1193 annexation by Ghori. First, it allowed several local non-Muslim rulers to retain their reigns. One such ruler was Raja Harbong of whom we talk about in our following story of Ulta Qila. Second, the eastward expansion of the Islamic rule resulted in a migration of several Muslim clans who had been settled in the western areas which had been under Islamic rule since the conquest by the Rashidun Caliphs. Pursuit of new fortunes or fertile lands may have been the reason for the migration, but the altruistic desire to promote the message of Islam was not an uncommon motive. One such group of about 40 people, some of whom were named Shaikhs, moved eastward to the Prayag area sometime during first half of 14th century AD. One member of this group is part of the following Ulta Qila story. Another member of this group, named Shaikh Minhaj Uddin, was our forefather.

The Story of Ulta Qila (Upside-down Fort)

If you look at the map at the top right of this page, you will see the town of Jhusi (also known as Jhunsi and Jhulsi, the Hindi word for 'burnt') on the east side of the confluence. This was where Pratisthan Pur or Pratisthan Puram was once located. It had been the capital of the Lunar Dynasty (Chandra Vanshi or Somavanshi) and was one of Prayag's important locality. Legend has it that there was a fort called 'Samudrakoop' which is des