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Historical development of roads in India



The history of the development of road construction is linked with the history of human civilization. The first and oldest mode of travel was footpath with people found the most convenient and the shortest way to approach to their hunting and fishing ground. People use tamed animals for transport which required bridle paths of greater width and heights. After the invention of the wheel, animal-drawn carts continued to be the popular mode of transport for quite a long time. This had necessitated providing hard surfaces for wheeled carts. The first hard surface was discovered in Mesopotamia at about 3500 B.C. A brief review of road development in India is given below.

                 Roads in Ancient India


The excavations of Mohenjodaro and Harappa have established the existence of roads in India at about 3500 B.C. As per the early records,  in early periods the roads were mainly for administrative and military purposes. During Aryan period in 400 B.C., there were “Mahapathas” as a means of communications as referred in Rig Veda ( part 1, para 5). Kautilya the first Prime Minister of Emperor Chandragupta Maurya laid down rules in his book titled  Arthasastra. Rules have been mentioned regarding the depth of roads for various purposes and for different types of traffic. The punishment for obstructing roads have also been mentioned. At the beginning of 5th century, the roads had been improved by Emperor Ashoka.

                 Roads in Mughal Period


The roads were greatly improved in India during the Mughal period. Many of the highway built or maintained by Mughals received great appreciation from the foreign visitors. The road from Delhi to Daulatabad was constructed by Muhammad Tughlaq. The roads from Agra to Allahabad and from Ujjain to Bijapur were constructed by Muslim emperor.

                   Roads in British Period


The period covering the decision the decline of the Mughals and the beginning of the British rule was a period of neglect of the road system. During this period,  the condition of roads deteriorated. The early British interest was only in maintaining roads of military importance. William Bentinck took steps to build the modern Grand Trunk Road from Calcutta to Delhi with permanent bridges and good stones. Lord Dalhousie gave further Momentum to road construction by forming the P.W.D in place the military board in 1885. With the development of Railways, the attention of the government was shifted from road development. The work of road construction and maintenance was given secondary importance. Major Roads,  except those of military importance, were neglected and attention was mainly on the feeder Roads.

                   Appointment of   Jayakar Committee

In 1927, the central government appointed Indian road development committee under the chairmanship of M.R. Jayakar to report on the condition of the existing road and to suggest ways and means for their future development. The Jayakar committee submitted its report on 1928 with the recommendations that since the provincial governments and the local bodies unable to look after all the roads, the road development in the country should be taken up by the central government.


Historical development of roads, Book-Highway Engineering, Writer-A.K. Upadhyay

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