If I forget thee O Allahabad, may my right hand perish

By Justice Katju

Even 2000 years of their diaspora Jews still say ” If I forget thee O Jerusalem, may my right hand perish ” ( Bible : Old Testament : Psalms : 137.5 ).
So also, I say ” If I forget thee O Allahabad, may my right hand perish ”.

Of my 77 years, I have spent 58 years in Allahabad ( Prayag ).. So I can rightly claim it is my city, which has made me what I am today.
This is the city where Lord Ram came after his exile from Ayodhya, and met Rishi Bharadwaj in his ashram on the bank of the sangam ( the confluence of the rivers Ganga, Jamuna, and the legendary Saraswati ).


This is the city about which the poet Tulsidas wrote in his Ramcharitmanas :
” Ko kahi sakai Prayag prabhau
Kalush punj kunjar mrigrau ”
( Who can tell the greatness of Prayag ?
It destroys all sins, like a lion which kills an elephant )

This is the city where Emperor Harshavardhan held his assembly in the first Kumbh Mela in 643 A.D. in which he honoured saints and scholars of all religions ( including the Buddhist Chinese pilgrim Hieun Tsang ) and then gave all his wealth to the poor, borrowing a cloth from his sister Rajyashree to cover his naked body.


This is the city in which Kumbh Mela assemblies are held every 12 years, the largest congregation of people anywhere ( 200 million in 2019 ).


This is the city where Hindus immerse the ashes of their dead in the sangam.
This is the city which was a centre of the Indian freedom struggle
This is the city which has produced great scholars, poets and jurists.

In Allahabad I met several people who were intellectually superior to me ( they are all dead now ), and I sat at their feet like a humble student listening to their rational explanation of things, events and treatises, until I too built up a huge store of knowledge.

Though born in Lucknow, I grew up in Allahabad. I was a student there in the Boys High School and the Allahabad University, then a lawyer in the Allahabad High Court, and finally a Judge in the High Court from 1991.

My exile fom Allahabad began in 2004 when I was appointed Chief Justice of Madras High Court, and since then I have remained out of the city ( except for a few short visits ).

The geat Urdu poet Munawwar Rana has written these verses about Allahabad in his long poem ‘Mohajirnama’ ( which was descriptive of the lament of mohajirs who had migrated from India to Pakistan at the time of Partition, but later regretted it ).

” Gale milti hui nadiyan, gale milte hue mausam

Allahabad ka kaisa nazaara chhod aaye hain

Kal ek amrood waale se kehna pad gaya mujhko

Jahaan se aaye hain is phal ki bagiya chhod aaye hain

Kuch der to woh takta raha mujhko, phir bola

Woh sangam ka ilaaqa chhoota, ya chhod aaye hain ?

Abhi hum sonch mein the ki usse kya kaha jaaye

Hamaare aansuon ne raaz ugla chhod aaye hain ”

The same is my plight, which cannot be described in words. I miss Civil Lines, Chowk, Katra, my school, the University, the High Court, the Coffee House, the sangam, etc, but all that has gone with the wind.

Leave a Comment