Hindu mythology speaks of a great churning of the Ocean of Milk to get Amritham or the nectar of immortality, a precious liquid which would give anyone who drank it everlasting life. There was a battle between the Devas or heavenly beings, and the Assuras or demons. The Devas had been weakened by a sage’s curse. Vishnu advised them to join hands with the Assuras, and churn the Ocean of Milk to find Amritham. The deal was that the nectar would be shared by the Devas and Assuras, but Vishnu promised that he would see that only the Devas got it, so that the demons wouldn’t gain control.
The two sides, with great difficulty, churned the ocean, using a mountain as the churning stick and Vasukhi, the serpent around Lord Shiva’s neck, as the rope.
A great many things came up from the Ocean during the churning. Finally, Dhanvanthri, the great physician, appeared, holding the pot of amritham.
Immediately, Lord Vishnu, in the form of a beautiful lady, distracted the Assuras, and the Devas were able to take away the nectar. But four drops fell from the pot at four different places and the Kumbh Melas are held there.
One of these places is Prayag, which is considered very holy. Hindus believe that a bath in the sacred river at Prayag on specific dates will bring moksha or salvation.
The rivers Ganga and Yamuna meet at Prayag, and it is believed that Saraswathi, an invisible river, joins them there. Therefore, it is known as Triveni Sangam. It is also believed that one day there will be a great flood which destroys the whole world except for Prayag.
Prayag is in present-day Uttar Pradesh, and is also known as Allahabad. The Government has decided to change the name to Prayagraj.