Migration from India and Pakistan

History of the Grand Trunk Road

Why is the Grand Trunk Road so important?

Conquerors, adventurers and traders have travelled along the Grand Trunk Road for thousands of years. Alexander the Great brought his armies from the Mediterranean through the Khyber Pass to the plains of northern India 2,300 years ago. When the Mughals from Central Asia invaded India, they entered through Afghanistan using the Grand Trunk Road.

The Mughals ruled most of the Indian subcontinent in the 16th, 17th and 18th Centuries. They introduced Islam to the region and built some of the world’s finest buildings, many of them along the Grand Trunk Road (see image 1). During the 19th Century the Mughals were displaced in the North West by the Sikh Empire of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and his military strongholds at Amritsar (see image 2), Lahore, Attock and Peshawar which all lay on the Grand Trunk Road. Even today, different religions including Sikhism, Islam, Hinduism and Christianity exist along different stretches of the Grand Trunk Road.

Who mapped out the route of the Grand Trunk Road?

A Muslim emperor called Sher Shah Suri mapped the route in its entirety, although it was the British who gave the route its current name. Sher Shah Suri ruled Northern India during the 16th Century and founded the short-lived Suri dynasty. He wanted to link the remote provinces of his vast empire. Therefore he identified key crossing points on great rivers, avoiding deserts to the south and mountains to the north. Sher Shah Suri built the Rohtas Fort just off the Grand Trunk Road near Jhelum, an area known to many Pakistanis now living in Britain.

Download the Word document below to read a selection of oral history extracts relating to the significance of the Grand Trunk Road.

The map below shows the route of the Grand Trunk Road from Calcutta in India, to Kabul in Afghanistan.

Document icon Learning article provided by: Manningham Library  | 
Photos © Tim Smith www.timsmithphotos.com

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