Grand Trunk Road

The Grand Trunk Road formerly known as Uttarapath, Sarak-e-Azam, Badshahi Sarak, Sarak-e-Sher Shah is one of Asia's oldest and longest major roads. For at least 2,500 years,[3] it has linked Central Asia to the Indian subcontinent. It runs roughly 2,400 km (1,491 mi)[2] from Teknaf, Bangladesh on the border with Myanmar[4][5] west to Kabul, Afghanistan, passing through Chittagong and Dhaka in Bangladesh, Kolkata, Allahabad, Delhi, and Amritsar in India, and Lahore, Rawalpindi, and Peshawar in Pakistan.[6][1]

Grand Trunk Road
Uttarapath, Sadak-e-Azam, Badshahi Sadak[a]
Route information
Length2,400 km[2] (1,500 mi)
StatusCurrently functional
Existedbefore 322 BCE–present
HistoryMahajanapadas, Maurya, Sur, Mughal and British Empires
Time periodbefore c. 322 BCE-present
History of the Indian subcontinent and South Asian history
Major junctions
East endTeknaf, Bangladesh
West endKabul, I Gazani in Afghanistan
Major citiesCox's Bazar, Chittagong, Feni, Comilla, Narayanganj, Dhaka, Rajshahi, Howrah, Lahore, Gujranwala, Rawalpindi, Peshawar, Jalalabad, Kabul, Kolkata, Durgapur, Purnea, Patna, Varanasi, Allahabad, Kanpur, Agra, Mathura, Aligarh, Delhi, Sonipat, Panipat, Karnal, Kurukshetra, Ambala, Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Amritsar
In India, GT Road coincides with NH 19 and NH 44 of National Highways in India.

Chandragupta Maurya of the Mauryan Empire in ancient India, built his highway along this ancient route called Uttarapatha in the 3rd century BCE,[7] extending it from the mouth of the Ganges to the north-western frontier of the Empire. Further improvements to this road were made under Ashoka. It was rebuilt many times under Sher Shah Suri, the Mughals and the British along a partly similar route.[8] The old route was re-aligned by Suri to Sonargaon and Rohtas.[7][9] The Afghan end of the road was rebuilt under Mahmud Shah Durrani.[10][7] The road was considerably rebuilt in the British period between 1833 and 1860.[11]

The road coincides with current N1, Feni,(Chittagong to Dhaka), N4 & N405 (Dhaka to Sirajganj), N507 (Sirajganj to Natore) and N6 (Natore to Rajshai towards Purnea in India) in Bangladesh; NH 12 (Purnea to Bakkhali ), NH 27 (Purnea to Patna), NH 19 (Kolkata to Agra), NH 44 (Agra to Jalandhar via New Delhi, Sonipat, Panipat, Ambala and Ludhiana) and NH 3 (Jalandhar to Attari, Amritsar in India towards Lahore in Pakistan) via Wagah; N-5 (Lahore, Gujranwala, Gujrat, Lalamusa, Jhelum, Rawalpindi, Peshawar and Khyber Pass towards Jalalabad in Afghanistan) in Pakistan and AH1 (Torkham-Jalalabad to Kabul) to Gazani in Afghanistan.

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 Indian subcontinent, where parts of the road have been widened and included in the national highway system.[12]


Ancient timesEdit

The Buddhist literature and Indian epics such as Mahabharata provide the existence of Grand Trunk road even before the Mauryan empire and was called Uttarpatha or the "Northern road". The road connected the eastern region of India with Central Asia and Ancient Greece.[13]

Mauryan EmpireEdit

The precursor of the modern Grand Trunk road was built by the emperor Chandragupta Maurya and was based on the highway running from Susa to Sardis.[14] During the time of the Mauryan Empire in the 3rd century BCE, overland trade between India and several parts of Western Asia and Bactria world went through the cities of the north-west, primarily Takshashila and Purushapura modern-day Peshawar (in present-day in Pakistan). Takshashila was well connected by roads with other parts of the Mauryan Empire. The Mauryas had maintained this very ancient highway from Takshashila to Patliputra (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, Patliputra and Tamralipta, a distance of around 2,600 kilometres (1,600 mi).[10]

The route of Chandragupta was built over the ancient "Uttarapatha" or the Northern Road, which had been mentioned by Pāṇini. The emperor Ashoka had it recorded in his edict about having trees planted, wells built at every half kos and many "nimisdhayas", which is often translated as rest-houses along the route. The emperor Kanishka is also known to have controlled the Uttarapatha.[7]

Sur and Mughal EmpiresEdit

Sher Shah Suri, the medieval ruler of the Sur Empire, took to rebuilding Chandragupta's Royal Road in the 16th century. The old route was further rerouted at Sonargaon and Rohtas and its breadth increased. Fruit trees and shade trees were planted. At every 2 kos, a sarai was built, the number of kos minars and baolis increased. Gardens were also built alongside some sections of the highway. Those who stopped at the sarai were provided food for free. His son Islam Shah Suri constructed an additional sarai in-between every sarai originally built by Sher Shah Suri on the road toward Bengal. More sarais were built under the Mughals. Jahangir under his reign issued a decree that all sarais be built of burnt brick and stone. Broad-leaved trees were planted in the stretch between Lahore and Agra and he built bridges over all water bodies that were situated on the path of the highways.[7][8] The route was referred to as "Sadak-e-Azam" by Suri, and "Badshahi Sadak" during Mughals.[15]

British EmpireEdit

A scene from the Ambala cantonment during the British India.

In the 1830s the East India Company started a program of metalled road construction, for both commercial and administrative purposes. The road, now named the Grand Trunk Road, from Calcutta, through Delhi, to Kabul, Afghanistan was rebuilt at a cost of £1000/mile. A Public Works Department along with a training institute (the erstwhile Thomason College of Civil Engineering) which is now known as the Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee was founded, to train and employ local surveyors, engineers, and overseers, to perform the work, and in future maintain it and other roads.[16][17]

The 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."[18]

Republic of IndiaEdit

The ensemble of historic sites along the road in India was submitted to the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2015, under the title "Sites along the Uttarapath, Badshahi Sadak, Sadak-e-Azam, Grand Trunk Road".[1]

Psephologists sometimes refer to the area around the GT Road as the "GT Road belt" within the context of elections. For example, during the elections in Haryana the area on either side of the GT Road from Ambala to Sonipat, which has 28 legislative assembly constituencies where there is no dominance of one caste or community, is referred to as the "GT road belt of Haryana".[19][20]


See alsoEdit

Ancient roadsEdit

  • Silk route – ancient Sino-Indo-European route
  • Via Maris (International Trunk Road) – modern name of main ancient international route between Egypt and Mesopotamia

Modern roads in AsiaEdit

  • AH1, or Asian Highway 1 – the longest route of the Asian Highway Network, running from Japan to Turkey
  • Asian Highway Network (AH) aka the Great Asian Highway - project to improve the highway systems in Asia

References and notesEdit

  1. ^ a b c Centre, UNESCO World Heritage. "Sites along the Uttarapath, Badshahi Sadak, Sadak-e-Azam, Grand Trunk Road". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Retrieved 26 December 2018.
  2. ^ a b The Atlantic: "India's Grand Trunk Road"
  3. ^ UNESCO, Caravanserais along the Grand Trunk Road in Pakistan
  4. ^ Steel, Tim (1 January 2015). "A road to empires". Dhaka Tribune. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
  5. ^ Jhimli Mukherjee Pandey (15 September 2015). "Cuisine along G T Road". The Times of India. Calcutta. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
  6. ^ Khanna, Parag. "How to Redraw the World Map". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
  7. ^ a b c d e Vadime Elisseeff, p. 159-162, The Silk Roads: Highways of Culture and Commerce
  8. ^ a b Romila Thapar, p. 236, Early India: From the Origins to AD 1300
  9. ^ Farooqui Salma Ahmed, p. 234, A Comprehensive History of Medieval India: From Twelfth to the Mid-Eighteenth Century
  10. ^ a b K. M. Sarkar (1927). The Grand Trunk Road in the Punjab: 1849-1886. Atlantic Publishers & Distri. pp. 2–. GGKEY:GQWKH1K79D6.
  11. ^ David Arnold (historian); Science, technology, and medicine in colonial India (New Cambr hist India v.III.5) Cambridge University Press, 2000, 234 pages p. 106
  12. ^ Singh, Raghubir (1995). The Grand Trunk Road: A Passage Through India (First ed.). Aperture Books.
  13. ^ Sanjeev, Sanyal (15 November 2012). Land of the Seven Rivers: A Brief History of India's Geography. Penguin Random House India Private Limited. pp. 72–73, 103. ISBN 9788184756715.
  14. ^ Benjamin Walker, p. 69, Hindu World: An Encyclopedic Survey of Hinduism. In Two Volumes. Volume II M-Z
  15. ^ Anu Kapur, p. 84, Mapping Place Names of India
  16. ^ St. John, Ian (2011). The Making of the Raj: India under the East India Company. ABC-CLIO. pp. 83–84. ISBN 9780313097362. Retrieved 15 May 2018.
  17. ^ Gupta, Das (2011). Science and Modern India: An Institutional History, c.1784-1947: Project of History of Science, Philosophy and Culture in Indian Civilization, Volume XV, Part 4. Pearson Education India. pp. 454–456. ISBN 9788131753750.
  18. ^ A description of the road by Kipling, found both in his letters and in the novel Kim.
  19. ^ BJP on a strong footing in northern districts, Hindustan Times, 30 March 2016.
  20. ^ Haryana assembly elections: BJP counts on strategy, Times of India, 6 October 2019.
  1. ^ The road was known as Uttarapatha during the Mauryan period (4th – 2nd Century BCE), Sadak-e-Azam or Shah Rah-e-Azam (The Great Road) during Suri period (1540-1556 CE), as Badshahi Sadak (King's Road) during Mughal period and as Grand Trunk Road or Long Walk during the British period.[1]

External linksEdit

Coordinates: 27°20′13″N 79°03′50″E / 27.337°N 79.064°E / 27.337; 79.064