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Pilgrimage and PowerThe Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, 1765-1954$
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Kama Maclean

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780195338942

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195338942.001.0001

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 Sovereign Spaces

 Sovereign Spaces

Allahabad Fort and the Sangam, 1765–1860

(p.55) 2 Sovereign Spaces
Pilgrimage and Power

Kama Maclean (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter draws attention to the fort of Allahabad, built by Akbar at the sangam next to the mela grounds, and charts the tensions that characterized the coexistence of these highly charged arenas of devotional expression and military security. Drawing on oral histories and Hindu traditions relating to the sangam site and the fort, the chapter describes how locals have understood and incorporated the presence of the fort, and the British, into their devotional landscape. It also delineates the changes in pilgrimage activity in the 18th century, as the East India Company inserted itself into key pilgrimage cities in north India, attempting to manage pilgrimage as a matter of diplomacy and limiting pilgrim access to a key shrine in the fort, while profiting handsomely from pilgrim taxes. This intervention was resented and resisted by pilgrimage priests in Allahabad, Prayagwals, who traditionally played an important role in the management of piety at the sangam in Allahabad. This reached its height when the Prayagwals lent their support to the rebellion in 1857, in which the fort of Allahabad, as the base of British military organization and refuge, was a key site.

Keywords:   1857 rebellion, security, sadhu akharas, Kumbh and Magh mela, oral histories, pilgrimage diplomacy, Pilgrim Tax, East India Company, Allahabad Fort, Akshaybat Shrine

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