Asian Highway 1 is the longest route of the Asian Highway Network running 20,557 kms starting from Tokyo in Japan running through South Korea- North Korea- China- Hong Kong- Vietnam- Cambodia- Thailand- Myanmar where it joins the network of Indian National Highways. In the North-Eastern part of India, it starts from NH 39 ( Moreh – Imphal – Kohima- Dimapur ) running through NH 36 ( Dimapur – Nagaon ), NH 37 ( Nagaon – Jorabat ) and NH 40 ( Jorabat – Shillong- Dawk i) before entering into Bangladesh.
After a stretch of 508 kms in Bangladesh, it rejoins India in Petrapole which is a border check point between India and Bangladesh. NH 35 ( Petrapole – Kolkata), NH 19 (Kolkata – Durgapur -Asansol – Barhi – Allahabad – Kanpur – Agra – New Delhi), NH 1 (New Delhi – Jalandhar- Attari) from where it goes into Pakistan via the Wagah border. The total stretch of the AH 1 in India is 2,648 kms out of which 2640 kms is 2 lane and more while only 8 kms is 1 lane.
NH 1 is the Imperial Highway of the Indian sub-continent that we all have travelled a hundred times and which is popularly known as the Grand Trunk Road or GT Road is one of Asia’s oldest and longest roads that connects the major countries of the Indian subcontinent (Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh). It is also a part of the Asian Highway 1 (AH 1) which is one of the branches of the much larger network of Asian Highways running through 14 countries having an intriguing and a vast history that dates back to the Mauryan Period of 4th Century.
The Highway was given different names under different imperial rulers.
- “Uttarapath” (Uttara- meaning north and –path meaning route) was the name given during the Mauryan period (4th – 2nd Century BCE) to the highway that extended from Balkh in Afghanistan to Tamluk in West Bengal and was marked by the stupas and Ashokan Pillars at
- 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) and trees were planted along it apart from various sarais, temples, mosques, gurudwaras, associated water bodies for safety and well-being of the travelers. This connecting route was important to link the inaccessible provinces of his massive empire to make trade and travel easier from administrative and military point of view.
- Under the Mughal Rule (16th – 19th Century CE), the highway came to be known as the “Badshahi Sadak”. They 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 “the Grand Trunk Road” where “Trunk Road” means a major road connecting two or more cities and which is considered as the recommended route for long distance travels.
Today this route has been divided into two Highways, National Highway 1 (link to the west to Delhi upto Attari, Punjab) and National Highway 2 (link to the east of Delhi upto Kolkata) and are maintained by the National Highways Authority of India.
The Grand Trunk Road ends at Attari, Punjab in India but goes on till Kabul in Afghanistan from where it stretches further connecting Afghanistan, Iran and Turkey where it merges with the European route marked as E80 leading to the European cities of Dubrovnik, Pescara, Rome, Valladolid, Salamanca, and finally on to Lisbon.
So the next time you travel through these National Highways keep a look out for boards that are marked AH 1 as you would be driving on a 20,557 kms stretch of road that can take you places. So, air is not the only medium you can use to travel around the world anymore. We’d suggest you to keep that passport handy!