The Iconic Grand Trunk Road

The Grand Trunk Road is one of Asia’s oldest and longest major roads. For more than two millennia, it has linked South Asia with Central Asia. It runs from Chittagong, West Bangladesh to Howrah, West Bengal in India, then across Northern India through Delhi, passing from Amritsar.

From there, the road continues towards Lahore and Peshawar in Pakistan, finally terminating in Kabul, Afghanistan. Baaghi.tv brings you a few interesting facts about the iconic GT Road:

 

  • The route spanning the Grand Trunk (GT) road existed during the reign of Chandragupta Maura, extending from the mouth of the Ganges to the north-western frontier of the Empire.

 

  • The predecessor of the modern road was rebuilt by Sher Shah Suri, who renovated and extended the ancient Mauryan route in the 16th century. The road was considerably upgraded in the British period between 1833 and 1860.

 

  • Stories from the past  indicate that the Grand Trunk road predated even Buddha’s birth and was called Uttara Path, meaning, road to the North. Salman Rashid attributes the Road’s construction to Chandragupta Maurya.

 

  • During the time of the Maurya Empire in the 3rd century BCE, overland trade between India and several parts of Western Asia and the Hellenistic world went through the cities of the north-west, primarily Takshashila (in present-day in Pakistan).

 

  • Takshashila was well connected by roads with other parts of the Maurya empire.

 

  • The Mauryas had maintained this very ancient highway from Takshashila to Pataliputra (present-day Patna in India).

 

  • Chandragupta Maurya had a whole army of officials overseeing the maintenance of this road as told by the Greek diplomat Megasthenes who spent fifteen years at the Mauryan court.

 

  • Constructed in eight stages, this road is said to have connected the cities of Purushapura, Takshashila, Hastinapura, Kanyakubja, Prayag, Pataliputra and Tamralipta, a distance of around 2,600 kilometres.

 

  • Sher Shah, however, remains the only mentioned person as the builder of what is now the complete stretch of GT Road, which was referred to as Shah Rah e Azam (or The Great Road). During his reign, Caravanserais were built and trees were planted along the entire stretch on both sides of the road to provide shade to travelers. Wells were also dug, especially along the Taxila section.

 

  • The Mughuls later extended the road further east to Chittagong and west to Kabul and referred to the road as Sarak e Azam.

 

  • In the 1830’s the East India Company started a programme of metalled road construction, for both commercial and administrative purposes.

 

  • The Grand trunk road, from Calcutta, through Delhi, to Peshawar  was rebuilt at a cost of £1000 / mile, and a Public Works Department, and the Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee founded, to train and employ local surveyors, engineers, and overseers, to perform the work, and in future maintain it and other roads.

 

  • Over the centuries, the road acted as one of the major trade routes in the region and facilitated both travel and postal communication.

 

  • The Grand Trunk Road is still used for transportation in present-day India, where parts of the road have been widened and included in the national highway system, retaining the old name.

 

  • GT Road is mentioned in a number of literary works including those of Foster and Rudyard Kipling.

 

Kipling described the road as:

Look! Look again! and chumars, bankers and tinkers, barbers and bunnias, pilgrims – and potters – all the world going and coming. It is to me as a river from which I am withdrawn like a log after a flood. And truly the Grand Trunk Road is a wonderful spectacle. It runs straight, bearing without crowding India's traffic for fifteen hundred miles – such a river of life as nowhere else exists in the world.

Rudyard Kipling Author

 

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