smart city
September 17, 2021

Smart City exist in Satya yuga ! The trush of ancient civilization:

By Nilakhi Banerjee

A ‘smart city’ does not mean one that is just technologically enabled. It also means the way the city adopts methodologies to enhance performance in key areas like transport, health, hygiene, water and sanitation so that the quality of life of its citizens is improved. Thus any city, no matter how ancient can be deemed ‘smart’ as long as it adopted sustainable development to ensure infrastructure improvement that impacted its inhabitants in positive ways. By this definition old settlements like those at the Indus Valley and Machu Pichu are sterling examples of cities that were ‘smart’ eons ago. Their main areas of expertise that benefitted the citizens were in that of infrastructure, roads and plumbing and sanitation.

Built Structures

Built Structures

A unique study lead by author and anthropologist Scott Ortman found that models used to extrapolate the growth of present day cities are applicable to ancient ones as well. In his words, “There is a level at which every human society is actually very similar, this awareness helps break down the barriers between the past and present and allows us to view contemporary cities as lying on a continuum of all human settlements in time and place.” Mathematical estimates show, from an urban settlement system that evolved independently from its old-world counterparts that principles of settlement organization are very general and may apply to the entire range of human history.

Thus, it is easy to study technological advancement in settlements of old making them ‘smart cities’ just as much as metropolitan areas  the world over are today. What we know of advanced urban culture in ancient times is thrown up in excavations of the Indus Valley, Mesopotamia in Egypt, areas of Korea and China, African settlements and the Inca villages. These habitations were sophisticated in their planning and suggest knowledge of urban design far ahead of the times in which they flourished.


Architecture was highly advanced as seen in Harappan dockyards, granaries, warehouses and walls. Baked bricks were used in construction with proof of staircases indicating homes having upper stories. The massive walls were used for protection during battle as well as to keep flood waters at bay. The Great Bath, a well-known edifice is thought to be a public bath.

Ancient Mesopotamia has the earliest large buildings. The Palaces, Temples and Ziggurats were constructed out of materials that were built to last. Some of these edifices are in existence to this day. Well known cities like Uruk and Ur adopted new technologies for sewage as well as paving on the streets. Egypt brings to mind the amazing pyramids of Giza and Cheops of massive stone blocks. Adobe or sun baked mud bricks were used for other construction and have survived as proof of the longevity of the strength of the materials and ingenious techniques of constructions of the ancient Egyptians.


The Inca city of Machu Pichu in Peru still retains its original buildings as it was not discovered and destroyed by the Spanish conquistadors in the sixteenth century. The city definitely lives up to the description of a smart city of its times as the architects that planned it did so to harmonize with the landscape that they considered sacred according to their belief that the height brought them closer to their Gods. Doors and windows were positioned to frame buildings and stones were carved to mimic the shapes of the revered mountains. Central Mexico holds the ruins of the city of Teotihuacan that also developed in much the same way as modern cities do.

Water Conservation and Sanitation

Unequivocal proof that ‘smart’ ancient systems remain functional even today is evident in social and environment activist – Anupam Mishra’s work in water conservation. In his TEDindia talk of 2009  he explains how modern government initiatives in the Golden Desert failed while the ancient ingenuity of water harvesting through kunds, roof run-offs and step-wells still succeed. In the dry desert  catchment areas are revered and many thousands of litres of pure drinking water is collected from the meagre rains. 400 year old canals still funnels water while modern roads are in a pitiful state of disrepair.


This water conservationist further clarifies that Jaiselmer in Rajasthan was well connected to. Europe 800 years ago when most of the urban metros of India did not exist. Water tanks had statues protruding out of their walls are varying levels to indicate the level of water to the illiterate as written indicators would not have helped. Stone pillars above ground indicated that people were entering a water catchment area and that prevented them from defiling the ground.

The Jaigarh fort near Jaipur is a 400 year old building that can store 6 million. Gallons of water in one season by collecting water from 9 miles of canals in the built structure. The step wells are large wells that have steps on all sides leading down so that at every stage. Of water capacity one can access the water by the steps. As the water table dries up in the warm season the level of water drops. But there are always steps to reach this lower level. Apart from conservation the structure also adds to the architectural aesthetics. Of the region and is amazing in terms of engineering and ingenuity.


Seen in Harappa, Mohenjo-Daro and Rakhigarhi is evidence that there existed an efficient. Municipal Government, which placed great emphasis on hygiene. It boasts of the world’s first sanitation system with flush toilets in homes connected. To a common sewerage pipe with many wells and a water supply system, indicating the use of hydraulic engineering. There is evidence of one room in homes being used for bathing with the waste water directed to covered drains. In fact excavations prove that some of the sewerage and. Drainage systems were more advanced than that which exists in some areas of the country today.


Many ancient roads were so well built that there are some in existence even today. In ancient times good roads not only helped citizens in their daily lives; they also facilitated the expansion of the empires as the armies could move men and materials to strategic positions. Roman roads are an excellent example of how well developed the construction methods were in those days. At its height of power Rome boasted more than 400,000 km of road. 80,500 km of paved paths and close to 30 highways connecting the city to. Areas far afield making trade and communication possible.


These roads were known as ‘viae’ that were resistant to rain, freezing and flooding; were constructed of stones, cement, broken tiles, sand and a combination of these materials. Dumped in a ditch called ‘fossa’ with an option for water drainage, compacted. With tightly fitted paving stones for the top layer, this science having been learnt from the Etruscans. As far back as 450 BC Roman records show laws specifying straight. Roads to be 8 feet wide and curved 16 feet. Tolls at bridges, investment by private citizens and regular maintenance. By the government made this a highly successful and long-lasting enterprise.

Mohenjo-Daro was one of the largest cities over 4000 years ago with the roads laid out. On a grid system with four north to south avenues intersected by four east to west ones. That successfully managed the bustling population and hectic trade and industrial activity.

What is the city but the people? As research has proved old cities that provided for its people were those that were really ‘smart’.

Submerged Civilization

When the world was battling with stone tools in India a whole city was present underwater. Lord Krishna took the whole city of Dwarka underwater to save if from external attacks. Even today the traces of the ancient city and civilization could be found deep inside the ocean.


We find an example in the story of a king named Kakudmi. Who was able to travel to the world of Brahma and experience Brahma’s scale of time. Here is the story, as related in the Srimad-Bhagavatam

Taking his own daughter. Revati, Kakudmi went to Lord Brahma in Brahmaloka, which is transcendental to the three modes of material nature. And inquired about a husband for her. When Kakudmi arrived there, Lord Brahma was engaged in hearing musical performances by the Gandharvas. And had not a moment to talk with him. Therefore Kakudmi waited, and at the end of the musical performances he offered his obeisances. To Lord Brahma and thus submitted his long-standing desire.

After hearing his words, Lord Brahma, who is most powerful, laughed loudly and said to Kakudmi. “O King, all those whom you may have decided within the core of your heart to accept as your. Son-in-law have passed away in the course of time. Twenty-seven catur-yugas have already passed. Those upon whom you may have decided are now gone, and so are their sons, grandsons, and other descendants. You cannot even hear about their names.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 9.3.28-32)

One catur-yuga lasts 4,320,000 years. With this information, we can estimate the rate of time dilation on Brahmaloka. If the concert given by the Gandharvas took about one hour in Brahma’s time scale. Then that hour must correspond to 27 times 4,320,000 earth years. So when they came back on earth both the king and his daughter were surprised to see that the progress of the human race was lost and they have become less knowledgeable. This is an indication of ancient smart work and cities which slowly got lost in the waves to time.