Faizabad was built from scratch by the new nawab as capital of Awadh. The word Awadh itself is a tribute to Ayodhya. “There was no ancient past being erased. The very names call up a history of confluence,” says cultural theorist Ranjit Hoskote
Faizabad has been the point of origin of Avadh’s ganga-jamuni tehzib that travelled to Lucknow with Nawab Asafuddaulah, while Ayodhya has always nurtured the tradition of vidhwa bandhutwa (global harmony)”, says Shah Alam, writer, and founder of the Ayodhya Avam ka Cinema movement. It is inaccurate by any measure — the geographical boundaries of the epic Ayodhya might have to stretch to other districts of Barabanki, Gonda, Basti, Sultanpur and Bahraich, part of the 84 kosi parikrama, he points out.
Meanwhile, the new city created by Akbar was called Ilahabas, the abode of the divine (rather than specifically Allah) — and Prayag refers to a specific sacred spot, where the rivers Ganga and Yamuna meet, points out Hoskote. Settlements were not built on top of each other, but alongside, he points out, and the nature of Indian culture is of a palimpsest, layers, rather than one thing forcibly rubbing out another. This change is a “wilful misreading of history and an assault on the lived experience”, he says.
What’s more, the name we use depends on the context. We might say Prayag in a ritual or ceremonial context, but say Allahabad to refer to the town. “We would say Mumbai while speaking Marathi, Bombay if