Indian Cities:Some General Characteristics

English: View of Dal Lake and the city of Srin...

English: View of Dal Lake and the city of Srinagar from Shankaracharya Hill (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Although it is true that it is very difficult to see generality in towns because towns in India and in the world are system in themselves some similarities can be seen in the cities . Besides that in general the towns are so unique individually that even categorizing two cities in one single category poses many problems. Nevertheless a pattern emerges in organization and there are some similarity in characteristics of India towns. A modest attempt has been done here to list some of their characteristics.

          Strong Agricultural Base

 In a great majority of cases towns have still very strong agricultural elements within them. The smaller ones are indeed little more than large market villages with the same very local administrative function added; perhaps two or three central streets inadequately paved and lighted give the semblance of an urban formation. Even in so large a city as Agra herds of dairy buffaloes are driven out in the morning, back in the evening ‘hour of cow-dust’.

           Administrative Base

 Large number of towns are primarily administrative : they may have been local commercial centres and market villages picked as headquarters of districts or their sub-divisions mainly on account of centrality. For the most part these have a strikingly uniform cast, owing to the alien and hierarchical character of the administration of British India.

          Mixed Residential pattern And Disticttiveness Too!!

  Most Indian cities (and large sections of even the greatest of them) have not separated residential and other functions to the same extent as occidental towns.

            Yet if the separation of work from residence often hardly exists, there is a very strong tendency (at all lends from village to metropolis) for members of each religious community, caste or race to live together. This is only to be expected in the general social context of India. Notable examples are the pols of Ahmedabad and the Parsee housing estates of Mumbai and where there are very large number of Chinese, has in Calcutta there is a China town – as indeed happens universally.

            The British in India as it were fused this communal separatism with their own emphasis on class. Large Indian cities generally consist of two entirely distinct areas ; the old Indian city, a squalid but picturesque confusion and the monotonously planned open-developed town of European style bungalows with large gardens along straight, broad roads, aloof and boring in a high degree and absolutely dead in the heat of the day. These two are very often separated by the railway which – in some cases apparently by design – forms a broad barrier with few crossings ; the motivation of ‘Internal security’ is obvious. The ‘Civil tines’ contain the official residence of the local bureaucracy and such hangera-on as the more flourishing layers; architecture is European. The railway colony is generally on a far less generous scale, but on the mathematically rectilinear lines. The cantonment explain themselves, but they generally had a little Indian enclave, the bazaar to serve the needs, material and some times other, f the troops : this was necessary as for the most obvious reasons the Indian city was strictly out of bounds.

            Colonial Heritage

Although this distinction (between the main city and civil line area) is fading fast but to this date most of the cities retain their colonial heritage.

            Post Indepence Cities

Although this is true for the old cities of India but the newly developed cities which are developed in the post independence period has a character of their own, the tendency now is that of small towns developing into big cities with infrastructural links.


Net migration rates for 2008: positive (blue), negative (orange), stable (green), and no data (gray)

Migration is defined as movement by humans from one place to another, sometimes over long distances or in large groups. Historically this movement was nomadic, often causing significant conflict with the indigenous population and their displacement or cultural assimilation. Only a few nomadic people have retained this form of lifestyle.

Migration has continued with time under the form of both voluntary migration

Mitochondrial DNA-based chart of large human migrations (Numbers are thousands before present.)

within one’s region, country, or beyond and involuntary migration (which includes the slave trade, trafficking in human beings and ethnic cleansing). People who migrate into a territory are called immigrants, while at the departure point they are called emigrants.

Small populations migrating to develop a territory considered void of settlement depending on historical setting, circumstances and perspective are referred to as settlers or colonists, while populations displaced by immigration and colonization are called refugees.

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Sustainable Development: Anthropocene by Nabarup Ganguly

zzScientist now call the present epoch as Anthropocene on the Geological Time Scale.

The term Anthropocene- “the recent age of man” was coined by Nobel Laureate Chemist, Paul Crutzen and his colleague Eugene Stoermer.

Anthropocene marks the era when human activities have had a significant worldwide impact on Earth’s Ecosystems.

Dr Jan Zalasiewicz from University of Leicester has observed ;”Simply put, our planet no longer functions in the way that it once did. Atmosphere, Climate, Oceans, Ecosystems… they’re all now operating outside Holocene norms. This strongly suggests we’ve crossed an epoch boundary.”

Scientists are still debatin when the Anthropocene began. Some think it should be 1800s, others think 1900s- whatever it may be; Anthropocene belongs to us. Yes, an entire era is going to be marked for us Humans.

Humans will mark the end of the 10,000 year old Holocene epoch. Anthropocene has begun. We are leaving an indelible footprint and we need to be careful.

In the 2008 book ‘Cruisin’ the Fossil Freeway’, the famous Alaska-based artist, Ray Troll created a wonderful artwork depicting the geological timescale.


 The traditional settlement pattern in most of rural India viewed in terms of a system of settlements consists of a group of semi-independent villages weakly interlinked with one or more service villages.

Because of the lack of spatial organization in private and public investment decision making, these service villages do not form focal points of spatial interaction. The spatial interaction is split between other settlements because service facilities are distributed at several locations. Furthermore for a given area such as a block, the access standards of service villages providing a certain category of services with respect to its dependent settlement may vary widely. The access of a particular group of settlements to the nearest service settlement may be measured by the maximum travel distance from the farthest village in that cluster to the service settlement are by the population weighted average travel distance for the group of settlements in the cluster. Wide variations in both the maximum and the weighted average travel distance may be observed for each service village and its associated cluster of settlement corresponding to a particular category of services. In addition both the number of s and the total population served by each service settlement usually varies significantly.
The objective of spatial planning is to reduce these wide variations in access and population served by service villages and higher level service centres by preparing a location plan for guiding new investments in service facilities such that equity and efficiency criteria are satisfied. The spatial plan also ensures that social and economic infrastructure are not dispersed randomly over space but are concentrating at certain focal points which serve as incompetent points of growth. In other words, the current spatial organization is transformed into a desirable spatial organization which promotes focusing of investments at certain growth centres which are selected in terms of maximizing access to the population at a minimum cost.

Rural Settlement Systems in India


Village (Photo credit: johnnysam)

Rural Systems

Villagers in India manifest a deep loyalty to their village, identifying themselves to strangers as residents of a particular village, harking back to family residence in the village that typically extends into the distant past. A family rooted in a particular village does not easily move to another and even people who have lived in a city for a generation or two refer to their ancestral village as “our village.”

Patterns of Villages

Villages in India may be considered as a natural outcome of physical and cultural setting. Although they do not possess well-defined shapes and a distinct internal plan, there is some pattern, both internal and external, which can clearly be related to the nature of their site and arrangement. The most common shape of the village is rectangular. One of the main reasons for this pattern is the original rectangular shape of cultivated fields.

Another frequent form of pattern is of elongated villages where one axis of the village is markedly larger than the other. Some natural or cultural forces may be restricting its extension on one axis. This type of situation is often found along the higher ground in inundated areas, narrow strip between two streams and at the edge of an alluvial terrace. Among cultural features most important is the road. If the road is an important link with the surrounding villages or towns, then the elongation is obvious. The extension of a village along the road is often encouraged if the settlement is a market centre. Other common patterns of Indian villages are Fan pattern, circular village, polygonal village, oval village, horseshoe pattern (in plateau regions) double nucleation and irregular clusters.

The distribution of population, setting and type of rural settlements, village patterns are to a great extent related to the natural and cultural features of the area.

Factors Affecting Rural Settlements

There are various factors, which affect settlement types in rural areas. The older settlements were influenced by various physical factors like Topography, soil, side of the slope, favourable climate and economic and cultural factors influence the settlement type greatly. Economic and cultural factors are mainly transport routes, smaller business centres, places of tourist interest and religious and cultural divisions.

Compact settlements in India are often due to the agricultural activities. The type of agriculture that involves large labour force requires both farmers and agricultural labourers to reside in the same nucleated settlement. Due to the lack of transport facilities till very recently, the economic self-sufficiency was a major factor leading to the formation of compact settlements. Most of the settlements selected for the study are compact settlements.

Inhabitants of the rural settlement depend for their livelihood upon the exploitation of the soil, small fishing, quarrying, mining, forestry camps etc. Main factors influencing the rural settlements are:

  • Nature of Topography
  • Local Weather Conditions
  • Quality of the Soil
  • Nature of Surface and Sub-Surface Water
  • Pattern of Landholding
  • Social Organisation and
  • Economic Conditions

Highways and Settlements:An Introduction

The study of settlements is basic to Human Geography because the form of settlement in any particular region reflects Man’s relationship with the environment. Settlements have gradually grown up and evolved over a long period of time and by studying the site, pattern and arrangement of settlements something of the history of Man’s exploitation of the surrounding land can be deciphered.

A settlement is an existence of occupance for shelter where people live. Settlement is man’s structural transformation towards application to his environment. The study of settlements is largely a product of twentieth century. Human Geography is the study of relationship between man and earth of which Settlement Geography is a part and parcel. A settlement is man’s first step towards adaptation to his environment. Settlement designates an organised colony of human beings, together with their residences and other buildings (shops, hotels, banks etc.), the roads, streets which are used for travel. Settlements are situated as advantageously as possible with respect to natural features such as water, fuel, food, protection and drainage and access to transportation and communication. According to Brock and Webb settlement pattern denotes the shape or arrangement of settlement in relation to natural or manmade features or designs such as streams, ridges, canals and roads. The pattern of settlement is determined on the basis of the location of houses.

The pattern of settlement exhibits the relationship between one dwelling and the other. Similarly the site may have no bearing on pattern in some cases. Highways work as sort of life lines for the country or the region in which they are situated. So, naturally, they have tremendous influence on the settlements situated along them. In some cases the highways are the very ‘raison d’être’ of the settlement.