Rural and Urban Settlements in India

Rural and Urban Settlements in India
Posted on 22-08-2023

Human settlements are crucial for meeting the fundamental needs of shelter and social interaction. These settlements can be classified into two categories based on economic activities: rural settlements and urban settlements.

Rural Settlements:

Rural settlements primarily engage in agricultural and related activities like forestry, poultry, dairy farming, and animal husbandry. These occupations rely on natural resources. Population density is lower in rural areas compared to densely populated urban areas.

  1. Close Settlements: Found in fertile regions like alluvial plains, these settlements have well-developed road networks and organized fields. People often work as farmers, with some hunting and fishing communities.

  2. Semi-Close Settlements: These intermediate settlements arise due to population pressure and economic interdependence. They're common in regions near rivers like the Khadar region of Yamuna.

  3. Hamleted Settlements: These involve scattered habitations, often found in plane and plateau regions. They feature small hamlets and are prevalent in areas like Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, and Madhya Pradesh.

  4. Dispersed Settlements: Fewer in number than hamlets, these settlements occur in challenging terrains like mountains, semi-deserts, and forests. They're found in regions like the Terai in Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.

Urban Settlements:

Urban settlements are larger and denser, with a focus on secondary and tertiary sectors. They are categorized into:

  1. Urban Village: A mix of rural and urban characteristics, with a majority engaged in non-agricultural activities.

  2. Town: Smallest urban unit with a population under one lakh, focusing on trade, manufacturing, and services.

  3. City: Larger than towns, cities have populations between one lakh and one million. They contain commercial activities, administrative offices, and financial institutions.

  4. Megalopolis: Term coined by Jean Gottmann, referring to vast urban regions like the Washington metropolitan area in the U.S.

  5. Conurbation: Coined by Patrick Geddes, this refers to continuous urbanization, such as the Mumbai Metropolitan Region or Delhi NCR.


Urban settlements differ from rural ones in various ways:

  1. High population density.

  2. Diversity in terms of classes, castes, and ethnic groups.

  3. Dynamic and socially mobile lifestyle.

  4. Urban life is punctuated by routines and order.

  5. Primary interactions are instrumental and often in secondary groups.

Settlements are essential for human existence, catering to various economic activities. Rural and urban settlements have distinct characteristics, ranging from occupation types to population density and social dynamics.

A human settlement refers to a group of dwellings where people live. These settlements vary in size and type, ranging from small hamlets to large metropolitan cities. Patterns of human settlement are influenced by factors such as physical features (such as terrain, climate, and water availability), cultural and ethnic factors (like social structures and religion), and security considerations (such as defense against theft and robbery).

Human settlements are categorized based on these factors:

  1. Clustered: In clustered settlements, houses are closely built and compact. They can take various shapes like rectangular, radial, or linear. This pattern is often found in fertile alluvial plains and northeastern states of India.

  2. Agglomerated or Nucleated: This type refers to settlements that cluster in a restricted area but have a dispersed appearance. Examples can be found in parts of Gujarat and Rajasthan.

  3. Semi-Clustered or Fragmented: These settlements are fragmented into separate units physically separated from each other. Examples are seen in regions like the Ganga plain, Chhattisgarh, and lower valleys of the Himalayas.

  4. Hamleted: Hamleted settlements consist of houses separated from each other. Such patterns can be observed in the middle and lower Ganga plain, Chhattisgarh, and the lower valleys of the Himalayas.

  5. Dispersed or Isolated: Dispersed settlements are isolated from one another. This type can be found in areas of Meghalaya, Uttaranchal, Himachal Pradesh, and Kerala.

Urban settlements can be classified based on their historical development, location, and function:

  1. Ancient City: Cities like Varanasi, Prayag, and Madurai fall under this category.

  2. Medieval City: Examples include Delhi, Hyderabad, Jaipur, and Agra.

  3. Modern City: Modern urban centers include Surat, Daman, and Pondicherry.

  4. Administrative City/Town: Cities like Chandigarh and Dispur are known for administrative functions.

  5. Industrial City: Mumbai, Coimbatore, and Jamshedpur are examples of industrial cities.

  6. Transport City: Transport-oriented cities include Kandla and Vishakhapatnam.

  7. Commercial City: Cities like Kolkata and Saharanpur are known for trade and business.

  8. Mining City: Raniganj, Jharia, and Digboi are examples of cities associated with mining.

  9. Cantonment City: Ambala, Jalandhar, and Mhow are garrison towns.

  10. Educational City: Roorkee and Allahabad are known for educational institutions.

  11. Religious City: Varanasi, Mathura, and Amritsar are religious towns.

  12. Tourists’ City: Nainital, Shimla, and Jaisalmer are popular tourist destinations.

Modern Indian cities are categorized based on population size, with Class I cities having populations of 100,000 and above, and Class VI cities having populations of less than 5,000. Urban agglomerations form when urban areas expand and merge. Around 60% of India's urban population resides in Class I towns. There are 35 metropolitan cities and six mega cities among the total 423 cities in India.

Thank You