By Swayamtiw Tiwari
Background: Kumbh Mela is a Hindu pilgrimage to wash in four holy rivers, most notably, the Ganges River. In the city of Prayagraj, along one of these holy rivers, is the sacred banyan tree named Akshay Vat.
This article is republished with the author’s permission from the blog, “A Haunted Travel.”
On the 2019 Kumbh Mela, devotees going to Prayagraj or Allahabad can also visit the ancient Akshay Vat unhindered.
The Indian Army will not stop Devotees from approaching this ancient banyan tree on the banks of the holy Sangam. This is indeed great news on the eve of the Ardha Kumbh Mela that begins in January 2019.
If you don’t know the reason behind this excitement, then read on…
Akshay Vat is an ancient banyan tree in the city of Prayagraj. Hindus believe that this tree is several thousand years old. It was witness to a grand “yagya” [sacrifice] conducted in this place many many years ago.
The two Indian heroes, Ram, Lakshman and Ram’s wife, Sita also visited this ancient tree on their way to Southern India. If you have read Ramayana, you will remember that Ram was exiled to the forests by his father for 14 years.
In the Medieval era, when the Mughal Emperor built his fort in Allahabad, he stopped the Hindus from worshiping this tree. His son, Jehangir, tried to burn Akshay Vat down. Historians say that he scalded the trunk of the tree by applying hot iron plates. But Akshay Vat survived all those assaults.
When the British became the new masters of India, they continued with the Mughal policies; Akshay Vat was still a no-go-zone for the Hindus.
In 1947, India became independent and the control of the Allahabad fort went over to the Indian Army. Many believed that they could now visit this legendary tree and worship it. They were disappointed. The Indian Army too stopped the Hindus from worshiping it.
This policy was discontinued only two weeks ago. On Dec. 16, the Indian Prime Minister announced that all Hindus visiting Prayagraj for the Ardh Kumbha Mela can visit the Akshay Vat without any hindrance. This is indeed good news for all domestic and foreign travelers.
Swayamtiw Tiwari has worked in several marketing leadership roles in media companies, broadcast stations and start-ups. Based in Delhi, India, he now runs a travel-story based company.