Ancient Temples In Prayagraj : The City Of Triveni Sangam
Ancient Temples in Prayagraj are hardly known outside the city. We know the city for the Holy Sangam of Ganga, Yamuna, and Saraswati – The Triveni Sangam. When I visited the city for Kumbh Mela, I wanted to visit its ancient temples too. Google helped me with a few names but I knew there would be more.
Once I was there, I discovered the concept of Dwadash Madhav, the 12 Madhava temples around Prayag. I could visit only a couple of them, I wish I had known about them earlier. I knew there are ancient Devi temples in Prayagraj, but it was once I reached the first temple that I discovered the two more. Happy I could find some of the temples mentioned in the Puranas.
Temples in Prayagraj
I have tried to classify the temples as I saw them. You can see them in any order.
Devi Temples in Prayagraj
Prayag has always been called Tirthraj Prayag, the reason it is now called Prayagraj. The three rivers that meet here are treated as Goddesses across India and invoked before any ritual is performed. I expected the temples of these Goddesses. I did find a small Ganga Temple near Triveni Sangam at Ram Ghat. It seems to have been recently painted in preparation for the Kumbh Mela.
Alopi Devi Temple
Alopi Devi or Alopa Shankari Temple is the first temple I visited in Prayagraj. It was on my plan, but when I visited it happened by chance. My auto driver dropped me near the temple and asked me to take another auto from here onwards. I saw the temple board and decided to visit it before taking the auto for the next leg.
I walked past a road that has recently been widened. The demolition of the houses on the left looked fresh. On the right, I passed by a series of ancient Murtis in black stone. I stopped by to pray and to speak to the priest who was taking care of them. He told me that a Kali temple has recently been demolished and the Murtis are now on the streets. Potters were selling their wares next door.
A little further a small lane led to the simple temple in pink, dedicated to Alopi Devi. I walked through the small shops selling bangles and bindis, things that are offered to the Devi to the main door of the temple. Took off my shoes, and entered the temple to see many representations of Devi inside the temple. No photographs were allowed.
Sanctum of this temple has a well at its center. A well-decorated but small Jhula or a Swing is hanging over it. It is the most unusual sanctum I have seen. There is no image. It is believed that the Devi disappeared from this swing, so this swing is worshipped. The temple priest told me that this temple is a Shakti Peeth, where the fingers of Sati fell.
I saw many people sitting and reading the Durga Saptashati or the Devi Bhagwat in the temple premises. It is a small but powerful temple. If you are sensitive enough, you will feel the energy here.
Lalita Devi Temple
I visited this temple on the last day of Kumbh Visit. As per Google maps, it was just a few kilometers away from Sangam, but no auto was willing to take me there. Everyone was willing to take me some distance from where I can take another auto. I changed 5 autos or e-rickshaws to reach Lalita Devi Temple. The temple as you see now is fairly new with some signs of antiquity.
The image of Sri Lalita Devi is accompanied by two other images. Covered in silver all around, it looked very similar to the DevKali image I had seen in Ayodhya. It could be a regional influence. On a side niche, there were a series of Sri Yantra kept.
I sat down and chanted Lalita Sahasranama, spoke to the priest and a fellow devotee. We all sought her blessings for ourselves, our families and our society.
Kalyani Devi Temple
About a km away from Sri Lalita Devi temple is another ancient temple – Sri Kalani Devi Temple. Board outside claimed that this is the ancient Shaktipeeth mentioned in the Puranas like Padam Puran by the name Lalita Kalyani. Now, all the three temples of Devi have claimed to be the original Shaktipeeth. Well, we would never know which one is the real one or maybe all of them are.
From an energy perspective, I think Alopi Devi was very strong and Kalyani Devi temple also has a lot of old energy. Here again, there are 3 images at the sanctum. They are fully covered with only their face and bright eyes on it can be seen. The present Murti is believed to be at least 1500 years old based on archaeological evidence. As per Purana this Murti measuring 32 fingers was installed by Rishi Yagyavalka in the Treta Yuga. She is the Adhishtatri or presiding Devi of Rishi Bhardwaj and his clan, who we know lived in Prayag.
In the temple premises which is like a Haveli, there is a temple dedicated to Shiva called Kalyaneshwar Mahadev and another to Bhairav. Another ancient Shiva temple Shool Tankeshwar is supposed to be close by, but Google did not help, so I will have to visit it another time.
Hanuman Temples in Prayagraj
Hanuman Ji is an important deity in Payagraj. I saw three of his temples that are ancient and very popular.
Bade Hanuman Ji or Lete Hanuman Ji Temple
This ancient temple is located close to Triveni Sangam. It is a part of Allahabad Fort built by Akbar, but it is accessible to the public. It is usually very crowded on Tuesdays, but during Kumbh Mela, every day was like a Tuesday. So, I stood in the queue to enter the temple. Slow queues let you observe the place in detail. I saw the temple compound all soaked on Kesari color – the color of Hanuman. A shop selling Rudraksha Mala, a wall mural and an ancient Banyan tree were all surrounded by people.
The temple steps took us down a few steps and there was this giant statue of Hanuman Ji in a lying down posture. No wonder he is called ‘Lete Hanuman Ji’. It is called ‘Bade Hanuman Ji’ for its big size and Qila Hanuman Ji for it is a part of fort premises. The original image seems to be in black granite. But the Sindoor all over the body makes it look Sindoori.
The story goes that a wealthy merchant of Kannauj did not have children, so he decided to erect a huge Murti of Hanuman Ji. He brought the Murti to Triveni for holy bath and the Murti refused to move from here. The merchant was blessed by children after this. Since then, people believe that all wishes are fulfilled by Lete Hanuman Ji. Another story says the Murti was under water for a long time and it refused to be in standing position no matter what tricks were tried.
Khade Hanuman Ji or Hanuman Gufa
Across the Sangam in a village named Jhusi, there is a fort called Ulta Qila. On top of the hill where the remains of the fort are is an ancient Hanuman temple inside a cave. You have to climb up the fort and then go down a couple of levels to see this ancient Hanuman Ji Murti. It is a simple Murti.
Close to it is an ancient well called Samudra Koop that belongs to the Gupta period. Pauranic references say that the kings used to invite the waters of all the oceans for ritual purposes into this well. A small pavilion stands next to it. I was surprised to see many tourists visiting this well, although these may be people visiting the Ashram next door.
Jhusi was originally called Pratishthanpur and it was ruled by Chandravanshi Kings. Due to the curse by Guru Gorakhnath and Matsyendra Nath the city was burnt and the fort turned upside down earning it the name Ulta Qila.
Hanuman Temple – Civil Lines
There is a fairly big Hanuman temple close to Company Bagh in the city. It was closed when I reached it around lunchtime. I was told like every Hanuman temple it is very crowded on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Interestingly it has a scene from Gita carved on its main gate, where Sri Krishna is giving the knowledge of Bhagwad Gita to Arjuna.
Other Temples in Prayagraj
Temples inside Allahabad Fort
Akshay Vat is an ancient Vat Vriksh or the Banyan Tree that is now within the premises of Allahabad Fort. The tree gets a mention in various Indian scriptures including the Ramayana.
Patalpuri Temple is an ancient temple inside the fort. It is a giant temple with stone pillars. During Kumbh Mela, it was too crowded to notice many things, but what you can not miss is its huge size. There are many small temples and priests sitting there keep telling the abridged stories of each of them. As always donating here is considered good for pilgrims.
I could not find any references to who built this temple but Huan Tsang it seems does mention this temple and the Akshay Vat. Going by its name – Patalpuri, was it meant to be a representation of Patal Lok, as it is below the ground.
A distance away but within Allahabad fort is Saraswati Koop. It is a fairly large well, that is all covered now and you can only see it behind a glass wall. Remember Saraswati is supposed to be the third river meeting here at Triveni Sangam. She is supposed to be present in this well.
You can visit these places, but you have to leave your bags and cameras outside. You can take your mobiles but no photography is allowed.
Nag Vasuki Temple
If you are at Kumbh Mela, you probably know the story of Sagar Manthan or the churning of the oceans. The rope in this churning was a snake named Vasuki. His temple stands close to Ganga, overlooking Ganga in fact. The recent street art on its walls and steps makes it look inviting.
Inside there is a small temple in a typical medieval style with a simple Shikhara. In the northeast corner of this temple is a small temple dedicated to Asi Madhav – one of the 12 Madhavs in Prayagraj. I could not see the image behind the lattice in this temple as there were too many dogs here.
I spent some time and moved on to my next destination in Kumbh Mela. Being on height, this temple gives a great view of the Ganga and its banks. During Kumbh, you can see the tents all around.
Gangoli Shivala Temple
The Gangoli Shivala is an ancient Shiva Temple located in Jhusi area of Prayagraj. This is a stone temple with a narrow tall Shikhara in stone. At the time of Kumbh Mela, its front wall was painted. It is said that many years ago, the temple was built by a merchant from Agra called Ganga Pradas Tiwari, and hence the temple gets his name Gangoli.
Temples at Bhardwaj Muni Ashram
Though small, Bhardwaj Muni Ashram complex has a lot of old temples and Murtis. Besides the ancient murtis of Bhardwaj Muni, it has temples for Rishi Atri and his wife Anusuya. There are temples for Sankata Mata, Durga, Kalyani, Pap Mochan, Rin Mochan, Yagnavalkya, Vyas Muni, Satya Narayana, and Annapurna. There are footprints of Sri Ram commemorating his visit to Prayag on his way to the forest. There is a Sati Kund and Koteshwar Mahadev Temple.
12 or Dwadash Madhav Temples in Prayagraj
A series of 12 Madhav Temples in Prayagraj takes you around the Prayag Kshetra.
1. Sri Adi Vat Madhav – Triveni Sangam
2. Sri Asi Madhav – Nag Vasuki Mandir
3. Sri Sankasht Har Madhav – Jhusi
4. Sri Shankh Madhav – Chhatnag Munshi Bageecha
5. Sri Adi Veni Madhav – Arail Ghat
6. Sri Chakra Madhav – Arail Ghat
7. Sri Gada Madhav – Chhivanki village
8. Sri Padma Madhav – Bikar Devariya
9. Sri Manohar Madhav – Johnsanganj
10. Sri Bindu Madhav – Draupadi Ghat
11. Sri Veni Madhav – Daraganj
12. Anant Madhav – Ordinance Depot Factory
I could visit 2 of these temples in Prayagraj – Akshay Vat, Asi Madhav, and Adi Veni Madhav. Rest of them would hopefully happen on a subsequent visit.
If you know of ancient temples in Prayagraj, please do let me know about them in the comments below.