The Grand Trunk Road (GT Road) is one of Asia's great historical roads and a major route connecting Central Asia to the Indian subcontinent for at least 2,500 years, from Bangladesh to Afghanistan. It is a 2,400 km (1,500 mi) stretch from Teknaf in southeast Bangladesh to Kabul in 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...
In 2015, "Sites along the Uttarapath, Badshahi Sadak, Sadak-e-Azam, Grand Trunk Road" was submitted to the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The sites along the historic road in the World Heritage List include Agra, Delhi and Lahore.
There was trade along parts of the route far earlier, but the road became clearly established during the Mauryan 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 Kolkata-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.
Note: The itinerary is presented here from east to west. The map shows the main route from Howrah to Kabul in navy blue with older routes in yellow and the extension to Bangladesh in green.
The main route of the GT Road starts in Howrah, near Kolkata and heads northeast and then to several contiguous cities and towns on the banks of the Hooghly River. After that, it turns northwest to the Rarh region.
- 1 Howrah — Kolkata's twin city, the second-largest in the state, with the largest railway complex in India
- 2 Serampore — a former Danish colony
- 3 Chandannagar — a former French colony, famous for Jagaddhatri Puja and the immersion rally
- 4 Hooghly
- 5 Bardhaman (Burdwan) — a major agricultural city.
- 6 Durgapur — a major industrial city.
- 7 Asansol — most populous city in the Rarh region.