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Smart city 2,500 years ago

Park Street: Intelligent traffic management, pedestrian-friendly pathways, grand gateways with security, wide roads and a vast open space much like the Maidan made a small town in Kalinga kingdom (Odisha) the country's first "smart city" some 2,500 years ago.

The Narendra Modi government launched the Smart Cities mission in 2015 but Sisupalgarh, on the south-eastern edge of present-day Bhubaneswar was one of the most organised urban centres of ancient India, said Monica L. Smith, an archaeologist and professor in the department of anthropology, University of California, Los Angeles.

In a presentation titled The Antiquity of the Smart City Concept at the Indian Museum, Smith said Sisupalgarh was inhabited between 5th Century BC and 5th Century AD.

The city was first discovered and excavated by archaeologist B.B. Lal in 1948. Nearly 50 years later, researchers R.K. Mohanty of the Pune-based Deccan College and Smith also undertook extensive excavations at the site.

Intelligent traffic management and pedestrian-friendly pathways were among the key features of Sisupalgarh. Each of the four walls fortifying the city had two gateways - elaborate brick-and-stone structures that led to ramparts on both sides and a network of streets inside the city. "The gateways not only indicated grandeur but a sense of control," said Smith.

The streets inside were more than 10m wide. A giant central tank surrounded by multiple smaller ones, probably used for harvesting rainwater, bore signs of sophisticated planning.

The excavations also indicated active citizen engagement, said Smith.

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