Who built the Grand Trunk Road in India, running from West Bengal in India to Peshawar in Pakistan?
If this was a question in general knowledge quiz in India, Sher Shah Khan Suri , the Mughal ruler would come to be answer from anyone who has mugged up the history textbooks.
What is the fact behind this? Who was Sher Shah Khan Suri? How did he rise in power during Mughal encroachments?
A very interesting description of this all is found in this article by Dr Radhasyam Brahmachari, a renowned Indian Historian.
Sherkhan is often credited for the Grand Trunk Road, along with the water, shelter and trees plantation along the road. However, to quote Dr. Radhasyam Brahmachari, who has done an extensive research on history records and current texts, Sherkhan could hardly have built this HUGE road ranging 6240km, Read on (Original, complete article is here):-
“It has been mentioned above that the history books also tell that Sher Shah ascended the throne of Delhi on May 17, 1540, by defeating Humayun in a battle near Kannauj and in the same year organised a military campaign to suppress the revolt of the Gakkars in Punjab . He moved east, the next year, to suppress a similar revolt in Bengal in March, 1541 AD. The next year, he moved against the Rajput kings in central India and conquered Malwa. The very next year (i.e. in 1543 AD), he organised a campaign against the Hindu king Puran Mal and took control of the fort at Raisin and then moved against the Rajput king of Marwar. In 1544 he subdued the Rathore king, Maldev and in the subsequent year, he died in an accident in 1545 AD, in Kalinjar.
So, the rule of Sher Shah lasted only for five years and out of these five years, he spent nearly one year to gain control over the fort of Kalinjore. During the rest of his reign, he was on hectic movement from east to west and north to south for suppressing revolts or conquering new forts. It should be mentioned here that the period under consideration was a period of political chaos and lawlessness and to restore order, Sher Shah had to fight many battles and that too with partial success. Thus the question naturally arises-Was it possible for Sher Shah (or any other ruler of that time) to build such long roads within such a short span of time? Furthermore, is it possible to make roads, nearly 6,240 Km long, today using modern technology, within a period of 4 or 5 years? The real story is that, Abbas Khan, a court-chronicler of Sher Shah had written some lies to please and glorify his master and our historians took those narrations at their face value, without applying their common sense to estimate the credibility of those blatant lies.
A close scrutiny of events, during the time of Sher Shah, also reveals that, despite his vast efforts, he did not succeed in bringing the vast stretch of land, from Dhaka in Bengal and River Indus in Punjab , under his control. So, how could Sher Shah carry out such a gigantic project like making a road from Bengal to Punjab , when the territory in question was not under his supreme control? “
From this discussion, it is clear that Sher Shah is mis-credited for road construction north India, by historians who un-necessarily want to glorify the period of Mughal rulership in India.
As for the original question of who built the GT Road, well, Dr. Radhasyam Brahmachari rightly suggested that the trade and many war affairs between Indian Kings that have centuries of history much before the Mughal invasions, could not have been possible without the good network of roads, wide enough to carry chariots, elephants and armies used for the combats. Mughal only used the existing network and some of them renamed it or took credit for building them, as per their chroniclers. The current generation of historians need to become aware of the true history facts and revise their knowledge.
In fact the road seems to have a very old usage, and was called Uttarapatha meaning Northern Way, as mentioned here.
Today, the Grand Trunk Road remains a continuum that covers a distance of over 2,500 km. From its origin at Sonargaon in theNarayanganj District of central Bangladesh, it reaches India, passing through Kolkata, Bardhaman, Durgapur, Asansol, Dhanbad, Aurangabad, Varanasi, Allahabad, Kanpur, Aligarh, Delhi, Karnal, Ambala, Ludhiana,Jalandhar, Amritsar. Within India, the major portion of the road – the stretch between Kanpur and Kolkata – is known as NH 2 (National Highway – 2), the stretch between Kanpur and Delhi is called NH-91 (National Highway – 91), and that between Delhi and Wagah, at the border with Pakistan, is known as NH-1. From the Pakistan border the Grand Trunk Road (part of the N-5) continues north through Lahore via Gujranwala, Gujrat, Jhelum, Rawalpindi, Attock District and Nowshera before it finally reaches Peshawar. (Route source from Wikipedia.)