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Monday 14 September 2020

Prayagraj : A Confluence Of Himalayan Rivers

For once in my life, I was pretty excited as I was going with a group of friends and relatives to one of the holiest cities in India, Prayagraj. Although my visit had nothing to do with anything holy, I had always wanted to see the Yamuna as she is here a major partner compared to the Ganga. Although everyone dissuaded me not to travel during the Ardh Kumb time, my mind was made up and I was pretty curious to see the biggest gathering of humans in one city, therefore, nothing could stop me, cholera or the crowds.

It was a comfortable overnight journey of nine hours from Delhi when we landed in Prayagraj (earlier Allahabad) on a clear winter morning. The station was very clean and spruced up for the occasion that comes once in six years. With people jostling for space at every nook and cranny we somehow made our way out. We had chosen a time when most of the crowds had come and gone and so, there was a semblance of peace even as people flocked from all over the world. We decided to stay in a nice three-star hotel by foregoing our tent accommodation on the banks of the river. Freshening up, we boarded a mini-bus and comfortably reached the river site despite the blockages for VVIP movement.

One can also take an auto-rickshaw or a taxi to reach the river bank and after that one has to hire a boat to reach the Triveni Sangam. Thousands of people thronged on the river bank, wet and dripping, changing clothes. Some were happy taking selfies or doing poojas. I found a lot of foreigners here and Alison from Australia to my query on her visit said, “Something drew me to this amazing place.”
Standing at this site and soaking in the reverberations and beliefs of the masses who had congregated here with all devotion was an extraordinary experience. Leaving all my inhibitions and indifference, I boarded the boat with all happiness and expectations amid the icy breeze that was wafting in from the riverfront.  

If you are hiring a private boat, prices have to be negotiated as the boats-man quotes exorbitant rates. They quote anywhere between ₹1500-2500 but a reasonable price would be ₹1000-1200. It just takes about 20-30 minutes to reach the Sangam which is the meeting of the two Himalayan rivers.

The journey to the Sangam was fantastic – cold and windy with the water gushing in and making a roaring noise. The river currents here are very strong and fast and the color differentiation very clear. As we reached the spot of confluence, the boatman was eager to point the difference in the two rivers. Also, the chanting of mantras and the sounds of the aarthi from the temples ashore can be heard even as the waters lapped against the boat in a swaying motion.
Here, both Ganga and Yamuna maintain their visible identity through their colors. If the Yamuna is as big as an ocean and dark green, the Ganga is clear, dainty and quiet. For me, the Triveni Sangam was one of the most beautiful river spots and as usual everybody on the boat questioned the boatman about the mythical and unseen Saraswati river.

All of us are left wondering as the guide said you cannot see Saraswati as she has disappeared due to change in her course. I too wondered – is she mythical or just a ‘paleochannel’ (remnant of an inactive river) as geologists are claiming nowadays.
We reached our destination and after much introspection (since we had travelled so far), I took a dip with my head submerged in the cold waters even as my feet were desperately searching for the floor. The rush of the cold waters and the currents pushing you from one end to another was a bit scary but with life guards around you, it is nothing to be scared about.


One can take a dip in the river by stepping from the boat onto a submerged platform that is slung between two boats or onto a regular bathing platform. After taking a dip in the Sangam, there are changing rooms where one can dress up again but one has to scoot out after some time as more boats arrive with people for the Sangam dip.

Naga Sadhu
Image Credit: Nalini Chitradurga

I visited this place in February-March and it was an unforgettable experience. Standing at one corner of the city and traversing across it, Prayagraj is said to be ancient with life and livelihood of its people revolving around Ganga and Yamuna. Soaking in the sight of the multitude of masses gathering at one place and that experience - is beyond words which will stay with me forever.

Read more on the Sangam journey in the Next Part.

Location map:

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