Home > General, Orissa Heritage Sites, Travelogue > Sisupalgrah, remains of an ancient citadel near Bhubaneswar

Sisupalgrah, remains of an ancient citadel near Bhubaneswar

Sisupalgrah

Remains of an ancient citadel near Bhubaneswar

Comparable to Athens, its contemporary, at its prime – archeologists who have worked on Sisupalgarh believe it was the most organised urban centres of ancient India.

Krutika Haraniya, Sishupalgarh: The Lost City, Live History India

Sisupalgarh is a excavated fortified citadel on the south eastern edge of Bhubaneswar. Several archaeological excavations have confirmed that the fortified settlement was continuously inhabited  from the 5th century BCE to the 4th century CE.

Sishupal Garh 1

The pillars of Sisupalgarh, Bhubaneswar, Odisha

Whats sets Sisupalgarh apart from the other ancient cities of India, or perhaps in the world, is its town planning. Intelligent traffic management, pedestrian-friendly pathways, grand gateways with guard houses, wide roads and a vast open space were some of the key features of the ancient citadel.

Sishupal Garh 2

Pillars of Sisupalgarh, Bhubaneswar

It can be considered as the country’s first “Smart City” and it existed almost 2500 years ago!

Sisupalgarh is named after the legendary character Sisupala of the epic Mahabharata. Sisupla, the king of Chedi Kingdom, was killed by Krishna with the Sudarshan Chakra.

Although named after Sisupala, historians believe that the original name of the well planned city is long lost.

Several excavation at the site has not yielded any inscription, mentioning the name of the site. But an inscription found in the Hatigumpha, in the nearby Udaygiri caves (Also see: Bhubaneswar, Buddhist and Jain Heritage) throws some light on the original name of the citadel.

Sishupal Garh 3

Pillars of Sisupalgarh, Bhubaneswar

The 2nd century BCE inscription mentions the name of a city called Kalingnagari. so was it the same as Sisupalgarh?

Some historians agree, while the others identify Sisupalgarh as Tosali, mentioned in the Ashokan rock edict of Dhauli and Jaugadh.

Set on a square plan, Sisupalgarh covers an area of one square kilo meter. The ancient fortified settlement is surrounded by a 9 meter high defensive wall.

The wall in turn is surrounded by a artificial moat. Both the traces of the wall and moat can bee seen to this day. There were eight gateways, two on each of the four sides. The gateways were elaborate brick and stone structures, complete with check post, guard rooms and watch towers. The gateways were connected with a grid of streets along with the palace in the centre.

Sishupal Garh 4

Remains of one of the surviving gates of Sisupalgarh, Bhubaneswar, Odisha

The population within the city was estimated to be around 20000 – 25000; which is twice as much as the population of the Greek city of Athens which had just 10000 people in the same period.

Prof. R. K. Mohanty, Archeologist

The fortified area of Sisupalgarh also houses several stone lined reservoirs, which were probably used for rain water harvesting. This give an idea of the advanced and sophisticated town planning of Sisupalgarh.

Sishupal Garh 6

Gateway of Sisupalgarh

The first excavation in Sisupalgarh was carried out in 1948 under Braj Basi Lal (popularly known as B B Lal). It reveled the northern gate of the western wall and the pillars of the palace complex.

Much later in 2007 – 8 an extensive excavation was carried out at the Sisupalgarh site. It was executed by the Department of Archaeology, Deccan College and Costen Institute of Archaeology, University of California. It used ground penetrating radars and other scientific equipment to explore the area.

Sadly today large part of the fortified area of Sisupalgrah have been encroached upon by rapid building activities. Close proximity to the state capital of Bhubaneswar, soaring land prices and administrative neglect have made Sisupalgarh a soft target of the land sharks.

Sishupal Garh 7

Sisupalgarh gateway overgrown with vegetation

Although Sisupalgrah is located just 5 km south – east of Bhubaneswar, there is not much of public transport. So it is best explored from Bhubaneswar by rented car. A fort styled gateway on the Puri Road (Google map of Bhubaneswar Railway station to Sisupalgarh gate), with Sisupalgarh written in Odiya, welcomes visitors to the Sisipalgarh village.

The road meanders through thickly populated township of Sisupalgarh. Locals are not aware of the places, but a few images from the net could do wonders. The Pillar Complex of Rani Uasa’ (Queen’s palace) can be reached after a left turn (Google map location). The place is locally called Shola Khamba, literally meaning 16 pillars.

Contrary to the name there are only 14 pillars. The front row contains 5 pillars (excluding one, which has only its base) there is a cluster of four pillars in a square arrangement at the eastern end of the front row.

There are four visible pillars in the back row, which are not in alignment. This pillars are located above a small mound. In 2008 excavation in this area revealed the existence of several more pillars but still the nature of the structure can not be ascertained.

Sishupal Garh 5

The remains of the gate, with heavy encroachment, Sisupalgarh, Bhubaneswar

Further west is the remains of one of the eight gateways of Sisupalgarh (Google map location). This is an elaborate brick structure. It is poorly maintained, the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) boards have long vanished, leaving only the frame and the site is overgrown with vegetation.

More alarming is the encroachment, with houses being constructed just couple of yards from the site. It is really sad indeed, the way things are progressing, what ever is left of Sisupalgarh will soon vanish!

We have one Sisupalgarh in the entire world and we have to preserve it.

Paul Yule, University of Heidelberg

Getting there:

Reference:

  1. Excavation at Sisupalgarh, R.K. Mohantyet et al., Man and Environment XXXIV(1) 2009
  2. Sisupalgarh the lost city, Krutika Haraniya, Live History India
  3. A forgotten fort called Sisupalgarh, Bibhuti Barik, The Telegraph, Aug 30. 2010
  4. Sisuplagrah – the lost city, Ashish Sarangi, Medium
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  1. June 18, 2018 at 2:38 PM

    I have been to Sisupalgrah so many times. It is my favorite place to visit. I can spend hours strolling provided it is not raining

  2. July 4, 2018 at 5:28 AM

    That looks so incredibly beautiful.
    Love the pictures.

  3. January 12, 2019 at 9:21 PM

    Another excellent and informative post. Thank you.

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