Interestingly, the seed that would grow into this multi-generational wonder was planted by Chandragupta Maurya over 2300 years ago!
We’re marching on relief over Injia’s sunny plains,
A little front o’ Christmas-time an’ just be’ind the Rains;
Ho! get away you bullock-man, you’ve ‘eard the bugle blowed,
There’s a regiment a-comin’ down the Grand Trunk Road;
Oh, there’s them Injian temples to admire when you see,
There’s the peacock round the corner an’ the monkey up the tree,
An’ there’s that rummy silver grass a-wavin’ in the wind,
An’ the old Grand Trunk a-trailin’ like a rifle-sling be’ind.
While it’s best foot first, . . .” wrote Rudyard Kipling in his poem, Route Marchin’.
One of the oldest highways in Asia, the Grand Trunk Road is a marvellous piece of construction. Today, you can see fleets of cars and trucks speeding down the highways, carrying goods, supplies and passengers. Although the road looks as modern as it can be—complete with a smooth tar surface and trees on either side, a closer, more careful look will show you evidence of its age. The highway is at least 500 years old!
Here are 10 amazing things to know about this ancient architectural heritage:
- The Mauryan Empire was flourishing under Chandragupta in the 3rd century BC, extending from the modern day Bangladesh in the East to Afghanistan in the West. As trade gained momentum in this vast empire, Chandragupta built a road from Taxila in Pakistan to Khorasan in Afghanistan and Patiliputra (Patna). The road, called Uttarpath (northern road) during the Mauryan era, was used by traders and invaders alike. Records show that Chandragupta appointed men especially to maintain this grand road.
- As long and far-reaching as Uttarpath was, it wasn’t developed into a highway until the 16th century. Sher Shah Suri, the Pashtun emperor who took over the reigns of the Mughal Empire in 1538 AD started developing this highway. He extended it from Chittagong in the east to Kabul in the West.
The completed highway now extends to about 2500 km. Sher Shah Suri rechristened it as Sadak-e-Azam or the Great Road. The Mughals also called it Badshahi Sadak meaning the King’s Road.
- To mark the length of the road, Sher Shah built Kos Minar—a milestone to mark every kos. Kos was an ancient measurement of distance with each kos roughly equalling 1.8 km.
- The Sadak-e-Azam also had inns and wells at regular distances so traders and travellers could rest. Some of these caravan serais (inns) exist to date.
- It also formed a crucial part of the Silk Route, helping the spread of knowledge, ideologies, faith and also allowed international trade to flourish.
- In the later years, when the British controlled India, they developed the highway to make it a motorable road and renamed it the Grand Trunk Road (GT Road) by which name it is known today.
- As of today, the Grand Trunk Road connects the capitals of four countries – Dhaka of Bangladesh, Delhi in India, Islamabad in Pakistan and Kabul in Afghanistan.
- But that’s not all. The ancient highway also connects other major cities like Torkham (a major border crossing between Afghanistan and Pakistan), Rawalpindi, Jhelum, Lahore, Wagah, Amritsar, Ludhiana, Ghaziabad, Kanpur, Prayagraj, Varanasi, Aurangabad (Bihar), Howrah, Kolkata, and Chittagong.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)