Grand Trunk Road

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Grand Trunk Road
GT Road, Sher Shah Suri Marg, Uttarapatha, Badshahi Sadak, Sadak-e-Azam[a]
Route information
Length2,700 km[2] (1,700 mi)
StatusCurrently functional
Existedbefore 322 BCE–present
HistoryMahajanapadas, Maurya, Sur, Mughal and British Empires
Time periodbefore c. 322-present
History of the Indian subcontinent and South Asian history
Known forMaurya Empire, Kos Minar, Dhaba, Sher Shah Suri, Sarai
Major junctions
East endChittagong, Bengal (present-day Bangladesh)
West endKabul, Afghanistan
Major citiesChittagong, Dhaka, Rajshahi, Purnea, Durgapur, Patna, Varanasi, Prayagraj, Kanpur, Aligarh, Agra, Mathura, Delhi, Sonipat, Panipat, Karnal, Kurukshetra, Ambala, Ludhiana, Amritsar, Lahore, Gujranwala, Rawalpindi, Peshawar, Jalalabad, Kabul

The Grand Trunk Road is one of Asia's oldest and longest major roads having existed for at least 2,500 years.[3] Chandragupta Maurya built his highway along this ancient route called Uttarapatha in 3rd century BC.[4] For more than two millennia, it has linked the Indian subcontinent with Central Asia, it runs from Chittagong, Bangladesh[5][6] west 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.[7][1]

Chandragupta Maurya's Royal Road, built alongside the track of Uttarapatha, extended from the mouth of the Ganges to the north-western frontier of the Empire. Further improvements to this road were made under Ashoka,[8][4] it was rebuilt many times under Sher Shah Suri, the Mughals and the British along a partly similar route.[9] The old route was re-aligned by Suri to Sonargaon and Rohtas;[4] the highway built by him ran from Sonargaon to Peshawar. As a result of his efforts, the road is still known by his name.[10]

The road was considerably upgraded in the British period between 1833 and 1860,[11] it coincides with current N1 (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 (Rajshahi to Purnea), NH 27 (Purnea to Patna), NH 19 (Patna to Agra), NH 44 (Agra to Jalandhar via New Delhi, Sonipat, Ambala and Ludhiana) and NH 3 (Jalandhar to Attari, Amritsar towards Lahore in Pakistan) in India; N-5 (Lahore, Gujranwala, Gujrat, Jhelum, Rawalpindi, Peshawar and Khyber Pass towards Jalalabad in Afghanistan) in Pakistan and AH1 (Torkham-Jalalabad to Kabul) in Afghanistan.


A scene from the Ambala cantonment during the British India.
Travelers on the Grand Trunk Road on ponies c. 1910.
In India, GT Road coincides with NH 19 and NH 44 of National Highways in India.

Mauryan Empire[edit]

The 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.[12] During the time of the Mauryan 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 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).[8]

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.[4]

Sur and Mughal Empires[edit]

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. For this role of his, the road is still known after his name; 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 on the road toward Bengal. More sarais were built under the Mughals;[4][9] the route was referred to as "Sadak-e-Azam" by him.[13]

British Colonial period[edit]

In the 1830s 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 (present-day Pakistan) 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.[14][15]

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.[16]

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."[17]


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


See also[edit]

Ancient roads[edit]

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

Modern roads in Asia[edit]

  • 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


  • Farooque, Abdul Khair Muhammad (1977), Roads and Communications in Mughal India. Delhi: Idarah-i Adabiyat-i Delli.
  • Weller, Anthony (1997), Days and Nights on the Grand Trunk Road: Calcutta to Khyber. Marlowe & Company.
  • Kipling, Rudyard (1901), Kim. Considered one of Kipling's finest works, it is set mostly along the Grand Trunk Road. Free e-texts are available, for instance here.


  1. ^ The road was known as Uttarapath (Northern Route) during the Mauryan period, Sadak-i-Azam or Shah Rah-i-Azam (The Great Road) during the Suri period, Badshahi Sadak (King's Road) during the Mughal period, and Grand Trunk Road during the British Colonial period.[1]


  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. ^ Bergsma, Harold (2011). India: Essays and Insights by a Gora. Lulu. p. 137. ISBN 978-8183320610. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
  3. ^ UNESCO, Caravanserais along the Grand Trunk Road in Pakistan
  4. ^ a b c d e Vadime Elisseeff, p. 159-161, The Silk Roads: Highways of Culture and Commerce
  5. ^ Steel, Tim (1 January 2015). "A road to empires". Dhaka Tribune. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
  6. ^ Jhimli Mukherjee Pandey (15 September 2015). "Cuisine along G T Road". The Times of India. Calcutta. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
  7. ^ Khanna, Parag. "How to Redraw the World Map". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
  8. ^ a b K. M. Sarkar (1927). The Grand Trunk Road in the Punjab: 1849-1886. Atlantic Publishers & Distri. pp. 2–. GGKEY:GQWKH1K79D6.
  9. ^ a b Romila Thapar, p. 93, Romila Thapar
  10. ^ Farooqui Salma Ahmed, p. 234, [ A Comprehensive History of Medieval India: From Twelfth to the Mid-Eighteenth Century ]
  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. ^ Benjamin Walker, p. 69, Hindu World: An Encyclopedic Survey of Hinduism. In Two Volumes. Volume II M-Z
  13. ^ Anu Kapur, p. 84, Mapping Place Names of India
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ 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.
  16. ^ Singh, Raghubir (1995). The Grand Trunk Road: A Passage Through India (First ed.). Aperture Books.
  17. ^ A description of the road by Kipling, found both in his letters and in the novel Kim.

Further reading[edit]

  • Usha Masson Luther; Moonis Raza (1990). Historical routes of north west Indian Subcontinent, Lahore to Delhi, 1550s–1850s A.D. Sagar Publications.
  • Arden, Harvey (May 1990). "Along the Grand Trunk Road". National Geographic. 177 (5): 118–38.
  • Mozammel, Md Muktadir Arif (2012). "Grand Trunk Road". In Islam, Sirajul; Jamal, Ahmed A. (eds.). Banglapedia: National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh (Second ed.). Asiatic Society of Bangladesh.
  • Tayler, Jeffrey (November 1999). "India's Grand Trunk Road". The Atlantic Monthly. 284 (5): 42–48.

External links[edit]

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