Over a century ago, Nobel laureate and one of the most renowned authors in English literary history , Rudyard Kipling, gave what can be called the best description of the Grand Trunk Road in ‘Kim’, unarguably his greatest work:
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.
Truly, this road continues to be a “river of life” for the peoples of four of the world’s most populated countries – Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh.
1. A part of the current route spanning the Grand Trunk Road was in existence during the Maurya Empire (322-185 BCE).
2. It was then known as Uttarapatha (Road to the North).
3. In the Mauryan times, the road stretched from the mouth of the Ganges at Tamluk in Bengal to Balkh in modern-day Afghanistan.
4. It is believed that officials were appointed by Chandragupta Maurya exclusively to oversee the maintenance of the road.
5. Sher Shah Suri was the original architect of what is now known as the complete stretch of the G.T. Road.
6. His objective was to facilitate trade during his reign and connect his hometown, Sasaram in Bihar, to Agra, his capital.
7. The road was renamed Sadak-e-Azam (Great Road).
8. Sher Shah had trees planted on both sides of the road and built sarais (inns) for travellers.
9. He also constructed wells for travellers along the Taxila section of the road.
10. The Mughals extended the eastern point of the road to Chittagong (in Bangladesh).
11. They extended the western point to Kabul.
12. Lord William Bentinck initiated the improvement of the road, which was later renamed as ‘Grand Trunk Road’.
13. The British connected Howrah and Peshawar to the stretch.
14. The total length of the G.T. Road is 2500 kms.
15. Wagah border post is the westernmost point of the G.T. Road’s India section.
16. The G.T. Road between Delhi and Kolkata is the NH2, a part of India’s Golden Quadrilateral road network.
17. The westernmost point in Pakistan is Landi Kotal.
18. Jalalabad–Kabul Road, which is the end section of the G.T. Road, is also its most dangerous stretch.
19. Howrah, Dhanbad, Varanasi, Allahabad, Kanpur, Ghaziabad, Delhi, Ludhiana, and Amritsar, are some of the major cities the G.T. Road passes through.
20. And this is how the British constructed the G.T. Road.
The Grand Trunk Road was constructed throughout as an embanked, thoroughly well-drained and well-metalled highway of the first class. It is raised in every part well above the height of known floods or inundations. The top width of the earthwork was in the first instance made 30 feet, but was soon afterwards increased to 40 feet, with side slopes of 4 to 1. The central portion was originally everywhere metalled to a width of 16 feet, with either broken stone or kunka, laid 8 inches thick, and rolled or beaten down to a thickness of 6 inches.