The city was earlier known as Prayāga, a name still commonly used. Prayāga existed during the Vedic period, and is mentioned in the Veda as the location where Brahma (the Hindu creator of the universe) attended a ritual sacrifice. Excavations have revealed Northern Black Polished Ware dating to 600–700 BCE. The Puranas record that Yayati left Allahabad and conquered the region of Saptha Sindhu. His five sons (Yadu, Druhyu, Puru, Anu and Turvashu) founded the main tribes of the Rigveda. Lord Rama, the protagonist of the Ramayana, spent time at the Ashram of Sage Bharadwaj before travelling to nearby Chitrakoot.
When people first settled in what they called the Āryāvarta (or Madhyadesha), Allahabad (then Kaushambi) was an important part of their territory. The Kurus, rulers of Hastinapur (near present-day Delhi), established the town of Kaushambi near Allahabad. They shifted their capital to Kaushambi when Hastinapur was destroyed by floods.
The Doab region, which includes Allahabad, was controlled by a succession of empires and dynasties. The area became part of the Maurya and Gupta Empires from the east and the Kushan Empire from the west before being governed by Kannauj during the 15th century. The city was the site of Maratha incursions before India was colonised.
Early medieval period
Xuanzang described Allahabad as a large city between two branches of the river. He adds that there was a large Deva temple and before its hall was a great tree, near which human bones of people who used to commit suicide by jumping from it in belief of going to heaven. Alexander Cunningham believes the tree described by him was the Akshayavat tree and probably still existed at the time of Al-Biruni who called it the "tree of Allahabad", with the practice of jumping from it to commit suicide still continuing by his time. The rest of Allahabad's history up to the Mughal Emperor Akbar isn't much known.
In contrast to the account of Xuanzang, the Muslim historians mention the tree to be located at the confluence of the rivers. The historian Dr. D. B. Dubey states that it appears that between this period, the sandy plain was washed away by the Ganga, to an extent that the temple and tree seen by the Chinese traveller too was washed away, with the river later changing its course to the east and the confluence shifting to the place where Akbar laid the foundations of his fort.
As the majority of the houses would have been mud-walled, a flood could easily destroy them. Cunningham's conclusion in his reports on the Archaeological Survey also supports the assumption, "I infer that during the long period that intervened between the time of Hiuen Tsang and that of Akbar, the two rivers gradually carried away the whole of the sandy plain. Long before this time, the old city had, no doubt, been deserted, for we know that the fort of Allahabad was founded on its site." Dilip Kumar Chakrabarti however disagrees. He states that there is no way modern Allahabad is ancient, but the city site of Jhusi located opposite the confluence was the ancient settlement of Prayag.
Henry Miers Elliot believed that a town existed before Allahabad was founded. He adds that after Mahmud of Ghazni captured Asní near Fatehpur, he couldn't have crossed into Bundelkhand without visiting Allahabad had there been a city worth plundering. He further adds that its capture should have been heard when Muhammad of Ghor captured Benares. However, Ghori's historians never noticed it. Akbarnama mentions that the Mughal emperor Akbar founded a great city in Allahabad. `Abd al-Qadir Bada'uni and Nizamuddin Ahmad mention that Akbar laid the foundations of an Imperial City there which he called Ilahabas.
Abul Fazal states, "For a long time his (Akbar's) desire was to found a great city in the town of Piyag (Allahabad) where the rivers Ganges and Jamuna join... On 13th November 1583 (1st Azar 991 H.) he (Akbar) reached the wished spot and laid the foundations of the city and planned four forts." `Abd al-Qadir Bada'uni states that while encamped at Piyag which was commonly called Illahabas, the emperor laid foundation of a great building called Ilahabad. Nizamuddin Ahmad gives two different dates for its foundation. He states that he laid the foundation of the city at a place af the confluence of Ganges and Jumna which was a very sacred site of Hindus. He also mentions about occurrences of 1584, "this time when the news of the disasters in Gujarat was reported, His Majesty deputed Mirza Khan... He (Akbar) founded a great city at Jusi Pyak at the place where the rivers Jamuna and Ganges united with each other and planned a fort around it. He named the city Ilahabas... and spent a period of four months."
Akbar was said to be impressed by its strategic location and built a fort there, later renaming it Ilahabas by 1584 which was changed to Allahabad by Shah Jahan. In 1580, Akbar reorganized his empire into 12 divisions, per Ain-i-Akbari, "to each of which he gave the name Subah and distinguished them by the appelation of the tract of country or its capital city." He combined the provinces of Jaunpur, Kara-Manikpur and territory of Bandhogarh into the "Subah of Ilahabas". He had been worried about the administration of the area particularly after Ali Quli Khan Zaman's rebellion. Allahabad was selected as its capital.
After Prince Salim's failed attempt to seize Agra's treasury, he came to Allahabad and seized its treasury while setting himself up as a virtually independent ruler. In May 1602, he had his name read in Friday prayers and his name minted on coins in Allahabad. After reconciliation with Akbar, Salim returned to Allahabad, where he stayed before returning in 1604. After capturing Jaunpur in 1624, Shah Jahan ordered the siege of Allahabad. The siege was however lifted after Parviz and Mahabat Khan came to assist the garrison. During the Mughal war of succession, the commandant of the fort who had joined Shah Shuja made an agreement with Aurangzeb's officers and surrendered it to Khan Dauran on 12 January 1659.
Nawabs of Awadh
The fort was coveted by the East India Company for the same reasons Akbar built it. British troops were first stationed at Allahabad fort in 1765 as part of the Treaty of Allahabad signed by Lord Robert Clive, Mughal emperor Shah Alam II, and Awadh's Nawab Shuja-ud-Daula. The combined forces of Bengal's Nawab Mir Qasim, Shuja and Shah Alam were defeated by the English at Buxar in October 1764 and at Kora in May 1765. Alam who was abandoned by Shuja after the defeats, surrendered to the English and was lodged at the fort, as they captured Allahabad, Benares and Chunar in his name. The territories of Allahabad and Kora were given to the emperor after the treaty was signed in 1765. He spent six years there and after the takeover of Delhi by the Marathas, left for his capital
Upon realizing the Maratha intent of territorial encroachment however, Shah Alam ordered his general Najaf Khan to drive them out. Tukoji Rao Holkar and Visaji Krushna Biniwale in return attacked Delhi and defeated his forces in 1772. The Marathas were granted an imperial sanad for Kora and Allahabad. They turned their attention to Oudh to gain these two territories. Shuja was however unwilling to give them up and made appeals to the English and the Marathas did not fare well at the battle of Ramghat. In August and September 1773, Warren Hastings met Shuja and concluded a treaty, under which Kora and Allahabad were ceded to the Nawab for a payment of 50 lakh rupees.
Saadat Ali Khan II after being made the Nawab by John Shore, entered into a treaty with the Company and gave the fort to the British in 1798. Lord Wellesley after threatening to annexing the entire Awadh, concluded a treaty with Saadat on abolishing the independent Awadhi army, imposing a larger subsidiary force and annexing Rohilkhand, Gorakhpur and the Doab in 1801.
Acquired in 1801, Allahabad asides from its importance as a pilgrimage center, was a stepping stone to the agrarian track upcountry and the Grand Trunk Road. It also potentially offered sizeable revenues to the Company. Initial revenue settlements began in 1803. Allahabad was a participant in the 1857 Indian Mutiny, when Maulvi Liaquat Ali unfurled the banner of revolt. During the rebellion Allahabad, with a number of European troops, was the scene of a massacre.
After the mutiny, the British established a high court, a police headquarters and a public-service commission in Allahabad, making the city an administrative centre. They truncated the Delhi region of the state, merging it with the Punjab and moving the capital of the North-Western Provinces to Allahabad (where it remained for 20 years). In January 1858, Earl Canning departed Calcutta for Allahabad. That year he read Queen Victoria's proclamation, transferring control of India from the East India Company to the British Crown (beginning the British Raj), in Minto Park. In 1877 the provinces of Agra and Awadh were merged to form the United Provinces, with Allahabad its capital until 1920.
The 1888 session of the Indian National Congress was held in the city, and by the turn of the 20th century Allahabad was a revolutionary centre. Nityanand Chatterji became a household name when he hurled a bomb at a European club. In Alfred Park in 1931, Chandrashekhar Azad died when surrounded by British police. The Nehru family homes, Anand Bhavan and Swaraj Bhavan, were centres of Indian National Congress activity. During the years before independence Allahabad was home to thousands of satyagrahis led by Purushottam Das Tandon, Bishambhar Nath Pande, Narayan Dutt Tiwari and others. The first seeds of the Pakistani nation were sown in Allahabad. On 29 December 1930, Allama Muhammad Iqbal's presidential address to the All-India Muslim League proposed a separate Muslim state for the Muslim-majority regions of India.
Allahabad is known as the City of Prime Ministers because seven out of 15 prime ministers of India since independence have connections to Allahabad (Jawaharlal Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Gulzarilal Nanda, Vishwanath Pratap Singh and Chandra Shekhar). All seven leaders were either born in Allahabad, were alumni of Allahabad University or were elected from an Allahabad constituency.