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C O V E R  S T O R Y

Indian roads which way ??

PANDIT JI and PANDITAYEN are sitting on a couch with a map of India spread on panditijithe table. They are at loggerheads over the best means of transport for their trip to Rajasthan.”I want to take a train,”says Panditji. But Panditayen waves him aside. “No, let us take a bus. It would be more comfortable and convenient.

Who uses trains these days for such small distances?” argues Panditayen. So finally, Pandit ji gives in and agrees to take a bus. Off they go with their packs and bags to the bus terminal.

Now comfortably ensconced in the bus, looking outside the window, Pandit ji sees a well laid out road, stretching out before him with lines of trees on each side.

from there to here

Indian roads through the ages

>> Harappa and Mahenjodro (5000 BC - sssssss2500 BC) of the Indus Valley civilisation had road maps as a part of their city plan.

>> In Vedic literature, Pushan (also referred to as the sun) is the god of pathways and roads. Prayers were addressed to Gods to give comfortable, wide, and non-thorny roads for travel.

In 6th century BC, ruler Bimbisara built a road in a place called Rajgir in Patna, Bihar, which is still in use.

Ancient texts refer to elephants and caravan loads that travelled, and the route they took. Early Buddhist texts mention trunk and ancillary roads, which existed between 700-185 BC.

The Mauryan Empire (first century AD) built roads to connect important trade centres. Greek ambassador Megasthenese, when sent to Chandragupta Maurya's court, recorded a Rajamarga (king's highway): a trade route and precursor to the modern grand trunk road. Any traffic jam on the Rajamarga was liable to punishment! State roads or rashtrapatha linked smaller distances.

Roads and their maintenance became significant during Emperor Asoka’s reign. There were huge monoliths across the country, a Banyan tree every 1.5 km, rest houses and watering stations.

Sankara, an Indian philosopher, traversed the whole length and breadth of the country setting up five pilgrimage centres. Imagine how many roads must have been there for his journey was on foot.

Emperor Sher Shah Suri built the longest road in India, between Dacca and Indus running through Agra and Delhi! He built four such long roads.

By the Mughal period there was hectic traffic on the roads and a watchman was appointed for the safety of travellers.


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