AH-1 is the longest route of the Asian Highway Network joining Tokyo (Japan) to Istanbul (Turkey). The 20,557 kms long route starts from Tokyo in Japan running through South Korea, North Korea, China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran to the border between Turkey and Bulgaria west of Istanbul, where it merges with the European route marked as E80 leading you through the scenic European cities of Dubrovnik, Pescara, Rome, Valladolid, Salamanca, and finally on to Lisbon.
The Grand Trunk Road or GT Road as it is popularly known, is an intrinsic part of AH 1 that enters India in Manipur in the North East and runs till Attari in Punjab. This Imperial Highway of the Indian sub-continent is one of Asia’s oldest and longest roads that connects the major countries of the Indian subcontinent (Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh).
We have all enjoyed cruising at top speeds on this tarmac beauty but little do we know that it has a vast and intriguing history that dates back to the Mauryan Period of 4th Century. For centuries, GT Road has connected South Asia to Central Asia. It runs from Chittagong in Bangladesh all the way till Kabul in Afghanistan covering a total distance of almost 2500 kms.
The nomenclature has changed under different imperial rulers.
“Uttarapath” (Uttara- meaning north and path- meaning route) was what AH1 was known as during the Mauryan period (4th – 2nd Century BCE) and it was marked by the stupas and Ashokan Pillars at various places
During the Sur Dynasty under Sher Shah Suri, a Pashtun Emperor of the 16th Century the road was reconstructed under the name of “Sadak-e-Azam” or “Shah Rah-e-Azam” (the Greatest Road). For safety and well-being of the travelers, trees were planted along it apart from various rest houses, temples, mosques, gurudwaras and various water bodies. This connecting route was vital to link the inaccessible provinces of his massive empire making trade and travel easier from administrative and military point of view.
When the Mughal Rule began (16th – 19th Century CE), the highway was rechristened as the “Badshahi Sadak”. The Mughals further refined the road by improving the physical characteristics of the road and its surroundings.
In the 19th century, under the British Colonial rule, this route was renamed to “the Long Walk” or as we know it today as “Grand Trunk Road“.
With a properly laid out route of highways, air and water are no longer the only mediums to travel around the world anymore. The next time you hit that throttle on the GT Road, take a moment to admire the vastness, history and beauty of this ancient route as it is now a part of a much bigger Asian Highway Network. We would suggest you keep that passport handy, while driving on this route!
Image source: Wikipedia, Google