Signposts lost in history
Kos Minars played an important role in running the day-to-day administration of
the Mughal empire
Minars, that is Mile
Stones, or say Mile Pillars, were erected by the Mughal Emperors
on the main highways across the empire to delineate the route
and mark the distance. They played a significant role in the
system of governance during the Mughal period. But over the
years these significant road monuments have gone into a state of
disrepair and are almost lost in obscurity.
They were in news
recently after the Delhi High Court issued directions to the
authorities to remove all encroachments around the Mathura Road
Kos Minars and the monuments in its vicinity in Badarpur.
Acting on the high
court orders, the DDA and municipal corporation demolished about
30 shops and evicted the vendors. But the historical Kos Minars
on the Delhi-Mathura highway and elsewhere have not been so
Speeding along the
national highway from Delhi to Agra, one sees Kos Minars flash
past the roadsides, or notices them standing tall like a
sentinel some distance away in the fields. Their recurring,
rhythmic appearance makes one curious to know about these
phallic shaped monoliths as when and for what purpose these were
span to the Mughal empire had about 3000 kilometres of roads,
accounting for nearly 1000 Kos Minars, erected by the Mughal
monarchs (1556-1707). "KOS", a medieval measurement of
distance, denoted approximately three kilometres, or two miles.
Thus, the distance the two Kos Minars covered between them was
approximately four miles.
chronicler Abul Fazal recorded in his Akbarnama that
Akbar issued an order in 1575 that at every kos on way from Agra
to Ajmer, a Kos Minar should be erected so that those who had
lost their way have a mark to find their path. Kos Minars,
constructed for the comfort of travellers, eventually became an
institution during the rule of the Mughals. After Akbar, his son
and grandson, Jahangir and Shah Jahan, both added to the
existing network of Kos Minars. In the North, they were extended
from Agra to Lahore/Peshawar via Delhi, in the East to Bengal
via Kannauj, and in the South from Agra to Mandu via Shivpuri.
systematic study has been undertaken so far to find out as to
how many Kos Minars still survive. Perhaps the reason for this
apathy is that Kos Minars were always seen singly as
architecturally insignificant structures. But when one looks at
them as part of a much larger design, their real significance
For instance, some
of major cities of historical significance, monuments and
battlefields are situated on the route marked by Kos Minars. One
discovers a network of caravan sarais (travellers’
resting places), and bawlis (stepped drinking water
wells) — though some of them extinct now — built close to
Kos Minars for the comfort and benefit of travellers. Nearly 400
years later, modern highways have come up much along the same
route as one delineated by Kos Minars.
evidence has it that the Kos Minars played an important role in
running the day-to-day administration of the Mughal empire. Each
Kos Minar was equipped with a horse, a rider and a drummer to
relay back and forth royal messages with speed. Historians
maintain that their principal function was to facilitate
transportation and communication.
from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) reveal that so far
no systematic study or census has been done to identify and
count the surviving Kos Minars. Nor are all Kos Minars protected
monuments, though some of them are.
According to a
report of the ASI, there are 49 Kos Minars in Haryana, of which
17 are situated in Faridabad district, seven in Sonepat, five in
Panipat, 10 in Karnal, nine in Kurukshetra/Ambala, and one in
Rohtak districts. And all of them, except the one at Rohtak,
exist on the Delhi-Ambala and Delhi-Agra highways number one and
Some of the Kos
Minars have become victims of development, industrialisation and
land encroachers. Others are on the verge of collapse and are
crumbling and peeling off. Almost all of them, except a few like
the one standing intact in its historical sheen at the Delhi Zoo
and another one in Bhulwana village in Palwal on the Delhi-Agra
road, lie in ruins. In Haryana too, they have forfeited their
historical significance. Some of them have been encroached upon
in violation of the Ancient Monuments Preservation Act, which
envisages that there should be no construction within 200 metres
of an historical monuments, or site.
So far no efforts
have been made for the maintenance and upkeep of Kos Minars.
Perhaps the cognisance taken by the Delhi High Court might
coerce the authorities to protect and maintain Kos Minars.
Verily, Kos Minars present a great travel story, and need an
immediate exercise to check their status, and retrieve them from