Kos Minars of North India, medieval markers of distance on long routes consolidated by Sultan Sher Shah Suri

In the  medieval period there came up a numbers of  what was then called Kos minarsMile Pillars) along the GT road in the northern states. First introduced  in the 16th-century by  Pashtun ruler Sher Shah Suri, the purpose of the tall minars was to serve as markers of distance along royal routes from Agra to Ajmer, Agra to Lahore, and from Agra to Mandu in the south. What an ingenious way to know the distance and location of the area  while on a long distance travel centuries ago? 

Kos Minar (Sher Shah Suri era) Punjab.
Many of Kos Minars  are found across the states like Rajasthan, Haryana Punjab, UP, etc., by the road side, railroad tracks and in the midst of paddy fields covering small villages and towns.  Archaeological Survey of India has considered them as an  integral part of India's ''national communication system" 

Mogul Kos Minar, UP /upload.wikimedia.org

Kos Minar, (Mogul era) Delhi zoo. /upload.wikimedia.org

Above images:  Kos Minar. Tall (30 ft) solid round cylindrical masonry tower  tapering at top with lime plastering on the outer wall. Kos (Sanskrit) meaning one fourth of a yojana 2 miles or 3,22 k', old distance measurement; Minar (Arabic) meaning tower. Ruler Suri was the first to build solid Kos with bricks with strong foundation base  and the odd towers were came to be known as Kos Minars.........  

Sher-Shah Suri , Delhi Sultan. i.ytimg.com

Above image: Sher Shah Suri (Farid) was the founder of the Suri dynasty that ruled northern states nearly 16 or 18 years, between 1538/1540 and 1556, with Sasaram (in modern-day Bihar) serving as its capital.  Son of a petty jagirdar, neglected by his father and ill treated by his step-mother, he very successfully challenged the authority of Mughal emperor Humayun, drove him out of India and occupied the throne of Delhi. He was a good administrator and modernized the long distance road ways connecting some cities in the north. He  standardized the use of Kos to measure distances and built towers- later known as Kos Minars. Some of his Kos minars stand as his legacy.........

Kos Minar, Ruler Akbar  Nausehra, UP.  adequatetravel.com

Kos Minars dotted along the main royal routes played no less  role than other while the ruler was on a long tour  via the designated routes. They played similar role of modern mile stone and was an important part of communication and travel. In the 3rd century emperor Ashoka  had  mud pillars or wells  built along the travel routes to guide the commuters  
in the north  eastern and  north western region.  Followed by ruler Suri (16th century), Mogul rulers  depended on  roughly 600 minars built by them while travelling. In order to help the travelers along with a caravan, they also had  many caravanserais (roadside inns) 
built for comfortable overnight stay.. The minars extended up to Peshawar in NW and E. Bengal NE via Kannauj.

Mogul ruler gave importance to minars and according to Abul Fazl who recorded in Akbar Nama that in the year 1575 AD, Akbar issued an order that, at every kos on the way from Agra to Ajmer, a pillar or a minar should be erected for the comfort of the travelers. The Mogul rulers used them diligently not only as a marker of distance, but also as a military check post and surveillance. A man stop the minar will watch the enemy movements a far off distances. When incoming army is spotted, the gate keepers and other will be ready to confront the enemy. the oupost at the Kos minars  were intended to counter threats from invaders from other countries, rebels, groups of bandits 
renegade generals & nobles. Urgent messages, etc were passed on 
 to the other through the  official message-carriers posted there along with horses. The messages would reach the destination via many Kos minars where they could take rest and eat food before resuming journey. When the ruler and his retinue were on a   long journey, he and the military officers would change horses  at Kos Minars. 

After the arrival of the British and with the  introduction of Imperial units and later, post independence the Kos unit of distance marker became obsolete and out of use. The structures were paid less attention and in many cases they became damaged. Only 110 Kos minars are left (49 in Haryana alone) and many of them are a state of disrepair.  Presently under the ASI under the protected heritage site category. In 2018 the ASI took steps to repair and restore 9 Kos minar in Mathura area alone. Efforts are  being  made to restore many of them as they are the vestiges of past era distance markers. At many  places the encroachers were removed from the government protected sites.