Brahma, the Hindu god of creation, is believed to have landed on earth in Allahabad (or Prayag, as it was originally known), and to have named it the king of all pilgrimage centres. Indeed, Sangam, a river confluence on the outskirts of the city, is the most celebrated of India’s four Kumbh Mela locations. Allahabad was also home to the Nehru family, whose house served as a headquarters for the independence movement against the British Raj.
Yet for all its importance in Hindu mythology, Indian history and modern politics, Allahabad today is a much humbler place. Though there are a few surprisingly good places to stay and eat, the main sights are of modest appeal – and the mix of dust, exhaust fumes and burning trash makes for eye-stinging air by late afternoon. The commercial heart of the city is Civil Lines, centred on MG Marg, which has the bulk of the shops, restaurants and hotels.