Explainer: What’s in a name? The story behind renaming of Allahabad

Everything you need to know about Uttar Pradesh government’s move to rename Allahabad as Prayagraj

By Aditi, Sanchita and Srijith


The Uttar Pradesh government passed a resolution to change the name of Allahabad to Prayagraj. The decision was taken by the Uttar Pradesh cabinet presided over by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.

Uttar Pradesh Cabinet Minister Sidharth Singh was quoted as saying, “The people of entire Allahabad, the sages and seers wanted that Allahabad should be known as Prayagraj….All the sages and seers had given their unanimous approval for the same.”

Source: eRail

The name Prayagraj: explained

A History of Allahabad -:

Before the Mughal era, the city of Allahabad was called Prayag. A few medieval texts, including Akbar’s court historian Abul Fazl called it Piyag. The Rig Veda and some of the Puranas mention the city, making it an important component of India’s history. Prayag also has a strong connect to India’s Buddhist past, as it is home to an Ashokan pillar built in third century BC.

Allahabad was named so in 1575 by Mughal Emperor Akbar, who called it ‘Illahabas’ meaning the abode of God. Akbar is said to have been impressed with both the strategic location of Allahabad due to confluence of rivers Ganga and Yamuna and the religious significance of the place

Illahabas soon had another variation in Illahabad. Coins minted during Akbar’s rule have both names. By the time of Shah Jahan, the name Illahabad had become popular. When the British colonial rulers established their rule over the region, Illahabad became Allahabad in English written in Roman script.

Renaming – Yogi Adityanath Era -:

Adityanath is said to have renamed Allahabad to Prayagraj to prepare for the Kumbh Mela. The association of Allahabad or Prayag with the Kumbh Mela is old. It was also known as Magh Mela. But its antiquity is not certain.

The association of Allahabad or Prayag with the Kumbh Mela is old. It was also known as Magh Mela. But its antiquity is not certain. Chinese Hiuen Tsang mentions about it in his memoir. Hiuen Tsang talks about an ancient annual fair being held at Prayag in 644 AD.


The BJP welcomed the name-change process, stating that the name ‘Prayagraj’ would give the city its “age-old identity”, and remove any signs of Akbar and the Mughals.

Congress spokesperson Onkar Singh said the government should make Prayagraj a new city, and let the name of Allahabad remain as is, reported The Indian Express.


Other cities that have been renamed over the years

  1. Trivandrum to Thiruvananthapuram

The city was known as Trivandrum until 1991 when the government decided to change it to its original name Thiruvananathapuram, which means the city of Lord Ananta. It’s one of the oldest cities with tradition traditions dating back to 1000 BC.

  1. Calcutta to Kolkata

The city adopted it’s Bengali name Kolkata officially in 2001. The name is derived from the Bengali term ‘Kolikata’ which was the name of one of the three villages predating the British rule in India.

  1. Madras to Chennai

The name Madras predates the arrival of British in India. It was reportedly derived from the term ‘Madraspattinam’, a fishing village situated north of Fort St George. The name change took place in 1996

  1. Bangalore to Bengaluru

Long before the invasion of technology on the city, a war was fought in 890 CE, according to a Western Ganga dynasty inscription found in Begur. The city was a part of the Ganga Kingdom until the year 1004 when it was named as ‘Bengaval-uru’, also referred to as the ‘City of Guards’ in Old Kannada. The name change took place in 2006.

  1. Poona to Pune

The oldest reference of the city can be found inscribed on a copper plate dating back to 937 BC belonging to Rashtrakuta Dynasty that refers to the town as ‘Punya Vishaya’. Britishers named the city Poona, but it was replaced with a more traditional ‘Pune’ in 1978.