From the time of Asoka onwards, the arterial roads of India were a constant care of the major administrations. The Sarak-e-Azam, GT Road or Grand Trunk Road, perhaps the most famous highway in the world unless we include the trans-Asiatic silk-routes in the category, received a proportionate share of attention. It connected the middle Ganges plain, the region of the great cities, with the north-west frontier, and was the backbone alike of the Mauryan, Gupta and Mughal empires. It was a main channel of international and inter-regional trade. A part of it was repeatedly traversed by the Grand Mughal and his court on their periodical progresses to Kashmir.
In 1619 the emperor Jahangir ordered a small minaret-like monument to be built at every Kos along this road from Agra to Lahore. The Kos was an ancient Indian measure of distance, which varied from time to time; it was derived from Krosa, meaning a “cry”, and was probably a synonym of the goruta (the “moo of a cow”) used as an indication of distance as early as the Kautiliya Arthasastra (c. 300 B.C.). It was probably known also to Hiuen Tsang in the seventh century A.D. In Jahangir’s day the conventional Kos, as measured between surviving” Kos-miners, varied from 2 miles 3 furlongs to 2 miles 5 furlongs. Upwards of 168 of these miners are known to exist, but it is not necessary to suppose that all without exception date from Jahangir. For example, a series of them along the road from Agra to Fathpur Sikri is more likely than not to have been erected during the short effective life of the latter city between A.D. 1570 and 1582.
Of four Kos Minars which remain in the environs of Lahore, the typical example at Shahu-ki-Garhi, near the railway-line just outside Lahore station, is here illustrated. It is of brick, about 27 feet high, with an octagonal base and cone-shaped superstructure. Like the remainder of the series, it is uninscribed.