The Grand Trunk Road (or GT Road) is one of Asia's great historical roads and a major route connecting much of the Indian subcontinent; it runs through parts of Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Rudyard Kipling describes it in his novel Kim:
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. They looked at the green-arched, shade-flecked length of it, the white breadth speckled with slow-pacing folk...
There was trade along parts of the route far earlier, but the road became clearly established during the Maurya Empire, 322 – 185 BCE, when it was known as uttarapatha (road to the north) and ran from the mouth of the Ganges (near what later became known as Calcutta and is now called Kolkata), through the Empire's capital in what is now Patna, then via the then-great trading city Taxila and through Afghanistan, all the way to the Central Asian region of Bactria.
Later Indian rulers, especially the Mughals, did quite a lot of work on upgrading the Calcutta-Kabul part of the road and extended it east into what is now Bangladesh. However, the Kabul-Bactria section was not considered part of their Grand Trunk Road since Afghanistan was outside their influence.
The British also improved the road when they ruled India and, after the British left, the various nations along the route have done so as well.
Some of the main places on the route today, listed east-to-west, are:
- Chittagong, a major port and the eastern terminus of the GT Road
- Sonargaon, once a regional capital, near present-day Dhaka
- Howrah, near Kolkata
- Sasaram, citadel of the Suri Empire contains the tombs of Hasan Shah, Sher Shah and Islam Shah
- Varanasi, a holy city for Hindus
- Allahabad, another major Hindu pilgrimage center
- Etah, district
- Delhi, India's capital
- Panipat, Large industrial and textile city
- Kurukshetra, where the Bhagavad Gita was spoken
- Ludhiana, large industrial town
- Amritsar, center of Sikh culture
- Lahore, lovely Mughal city and centre of Pakistani culture, provincial capital
- Rawalpindi, an older city located next to Pakistan's capital Islamabad
- the fascinating archaeological sites at Taxila
- Peshawar, capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
- the Khyber Pass
UNESCO attractions along the route
- Sundarbans, a national park along the Bangladesh-India border with extensive mangrove forest and some tigers
- Mosque City of Bagerhat, home to several notable Turkic-Bengali mosques, including the Sixty Dome Mosque
- Sundarbans National Park, the Indian park; the two parks together make up the world heritage site
- Bodhgaya, where the Buddha reached enlightenment, is not far off the GT road
- Delhi has three world heritage sites. Humayun's Tomb Complex, Red Fort and Qutub Minar Complex
- Lahore — Fort and Shalamar Gardens, Wazir Khan Mosque, Badshahi Mosque, Tombs of Jahangir, Asif Khan and Akbari Sarai
- Hiran Minar and Tank near Sheikhupura
- Rohtas Fort near Jhelum
- Shahbazgarhi near Mardan