In this article, You will read the Urban Morphology of Indian Cities – for UPSC (Settlement Geography – Geography Optional).

Urban Morphology of Indian Cities

  • A large number of cities in India have a long history of their evolution. As a consequence, their nucleus and old part of the city is characterized by elements of natural growth which is recognized as indigenous parts of the cities.
  • During British period, new anglicised part was added to the existing town with a large number of government offices, cantonment, civil lines, railway colonies etc.
  • Later, during the post-independence period newly developed areas were added which were built up according to modern style, architecture, and plan.
  • Thus a single town or city may exhibit characteristic morphological features reflecting its development during different historical phases.
  • Generally, the urban morphology of cities in India shows dual structure. It is either blending indigenous features and Western-style structure or hybridized European features. Kolkata is similar to a Western city functionally, but it is more compact than any of the West-European cities of the same population.
  • Allahabad was and is still densely populated to the south nearer the Jamuna River. It is unplanned having a maze of narrow streets in complete contrast to the Civil Lines which is established on an extensive grid plan. The railway area acts as an effective divide blocking access to the north. It completely shuts off the crowded and irregular city from the broadly planned rectangular cantonment and civil lines.
  • The impact on the morphology of cities in India is purely social. Society in the 19th century had a distinctive character and organization of its own. Thus, morphology or forms of the towns in India reflect faithfully ethnic and social distinctions. The social areas of Third World cities are basically charac­terized by the degree of modernization, and consequently, there is visible in the urban landscape patches of both ‘tradi­tional’ and ‘modern’ areas.
  • In most of the cities in India, there is found a dual structure, and their morphological pattern may conveniently be divided into ‘local’ and ‘foreign’ lineaments. The old city of Delhi, for example, was a walled city with a moat. The walls and moat have now given way to post-independence devel­opment. But the ‘remains’ in the form of residential and commercial areas reflect the high density of buildings, irregular pattern of streets flanked by narrow lanes, and uncontrolled growth of mixed land use.
  • The residential units of the indig­enous city, mainly the ‘Chandni Chowk’ and ‘Sadar Bazar area’ are deeply ingrained by caste and community quarters. Outside the old city, and, beyond the Daryaganj area, there lies a spacious area of European-style buildings with a core in Connaught Place. It is further extended including the Parliament area of European-style bungalows, modern shops, and offices, the Central Business Circular Area with modern departmental stores and supermarkets.
  • The entire facade repre­sents the British legacy. If someone closely examines the morphology of Indian cities, it would not be a surprise for him to find that over one city, another of the entirely different urban scene is being superimposed. Besides a mixed land use, a new type of layout is being grafted along with an indigenous one.
  • After several decades of the country’s freedom and alien­ation, the most ubiquitous factor is a continuation of the western way of urbanism in political, economic, cultural, and social life in urban centers of India. These influences are subtle in medium-sized towns but dramatic in metro cities.
  • Most of the cities which were formerly under the princely states’ rule had a wall indicating the need for protection. The wall now is being demolished to give place for new business markets flanked on both sides by spacious roads and multi-storied buildings used as offices, financial and commercial establishments, and even for residential purposes in some cases.
  • “With the change in the concept of security, the city wall appears to be an anachronism. In Jodhpur, in view of the futility, it is now being demolished at various places to give way to roads and to provide more space for shopping centers.”
  • The same is the case in Udaipur where the city wall is now being demolished for the development of the central business area where banks, financial institutions, and retail stores find sites in buildings erected on both sides of the roads radiating east, north, and westward from the gates of the demolished wall.

Significant works have been done by geographers like Garrison, Kusum Lata, Jhon E Bush, and Prof. Ashok Dutta on the morphology of Indian cities.

Garrison (American) work:

  • It is known as “Fused growth theory on Urban Morphology”. It has emerged as model work for the study of modern metro cities of South Asia in particular. E.g. Jakarta. According to him there are three important trends:
    • Up to 1990 there has been concentric growth of towns.
    • From 1900 to 1950, there has been sectoral growth because of growth of transportation.
    • After 1950, there is multi-nuclei growth.
  • The case study of Varanasi and Calcutta is in agreement with the Garrison’s model.
    • Garrison’s model has been criticised for being a model of large sized towns and not for all towns.

Mrs Kusum Lata’s work:

  • She has divided Indian towns morphology into
    • Planned Towns: Chandigarh, Gandhinagar are the examples of planned towns. They are based on rectangular or grid pattern of settlements and roads.
    • Unplanned towns: They dominate the scene of urban area and are characterised by haphazard growth due to following factors:
      • Histro-genetic characteristics
      • Many Indian towns are village turned towns
      • Phenomenal rural urban migration
      • In west, built up area emerges after the establishment of infrastructure. In India the scene is just reverse.
      • Increases internal functions and slum settlements
      • Tendency of Indian people to live near CBD
    • Planned cum unplanned towns:
      • It involves two sets of urban morphology within a defined municipal area.
      • Planned areas generally have colonial history whereas unplanned areas are the older towns in the city. For example Connaught Place (planned) and Red Fort area (unplanned) in Delhi.
      • It is the characteristics of all colonial cities.

Professor Ashok Dutta’s Work on Morphology of Indian cities:

  • The study of Professor Ashok Dutta was based on two aspects: Nature of CBD and Residential Segregation.
    • Indian CBD is different from Western CBDs. Only 4 CBDs- Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai have similar CBDs, where, in day time there is high activity while at night they are deserted.
    • In most other Indian towns CBD is not an exclusive market zone rather it is also characterised by high population density.
    • There is tendency of Indian society to live in CBD.
    • E.g. Delhi is the case study of Medieval and quasi planned town. There are 2 nucleione is pre-industrial nucleus (Chandani Chowk) and other is modern nucleus (modern nucleus).
    • Multiple nuclei model can be applied in Delhi. Delhi has lately seen the emergence of further new CBDs e.g. South Extension (VII), Heavy manufacturing (VI) – Okhla, Nangoli, and Residential Suburbs (VIII) – Sonipat, TDICD, DLF City, etc.
Professor Ashok Dutta’s Work on Morphology of Indian cities

Internal structure of Indian cities

  • Internal structure can be understood by classificatory approach because Indian cities not only have various level of development but also history of origin.
  • Structure of Indian cities based on history of origin:
    • Ancient Cities – Varanasi, Kanchipuram, Gaya etc.
    • Medieval Cities – Delhi, Agra, Ahmadabad, Allahabad, Shahjanabad, etc.
    • Modern Cities – Noida, Chandigarh, Vishakhapatnam (these cities have been developed on the lines of British administrative requirements and have places such as Ghanta Ghar, Civil Lines, Cantonment)
  • Structure of Indian cities based on level of development
    • Unplanned City – Patna, Banaras
    • Quasi-Planned – Delhi, Kolkata, Lucknow, Mumbai, Bangalore
    • Planned – Chandigarh, Noida, Jaipur.

Colonial principles of planning

  • Spider web pattern: Delhi and Canberra are the examples of this form of planning. The settlements are developed in concentric forms.
  • Rectangular pattern: This type of pattern is found in industrial towns such as Tata Nagar, Chennai, Kolkata, etc. The planned part of these cities has rectangular pattern.
  • Radial Pattern: Mumbai is the example of this type of planning where city has developed along the coast in radial pattern.
  • Semi circular pattern: This type of planning can be seen in West Patna, Kochi, and Meerut etc.
  • Organic Morphology: Here the topography of site becomes important in the development of roads in hill towns and plateau towns. E.g. Melbourne, Hill stations, etc.

Case study of Banaras (Ancient City)

  • It represents ancient and unplanned structure of Indian cities. It is reflective of Burgess Model.
  • Central Business District
    • It consists of a temple and wholesale retail market.
    • It has places for both residential and commercial purposes. The roads are narrow and meandering roads with poor drainage system
    • It has tendency of congregation of shops in an area/road. E.g. brass, cloth market, utensils etc.
    • The lanes are the area with high economic activity.
  • Transition zone
    • It consists of light manufacturing industries and weavers housings.
    • Handicraft, bidi making industries can be found in this region
    • Roads are narrow and congested.
  • Middle class housing
    • This is the area with greater social cohesion. There is no class differentiation.
    • There is utopian residential housing with socialist pattern
    • The out fringe has development of institutional areas, heavy industries, air port, educational areas etc.
  • Independent nucleation
    • There are independent nucleated settlements that has developed around city such as Ramgarh fort, Shahi Chemical, Sarnath temple, Diesel Locomotive Works.
Case study of Banaras (Ancient City)

Case study of Kolkata

  • Along the Hooghly riverside, east of Howrah Bridge, a large metro city of Calcutta emerged with the rise of Europeans. It emerged from 1750.
  • From 1750 to 1850, the growth of the town is in two concentric zones. Bara Bazaar area emerged as the nucleus, CBD.
  • The CBD is surrounded by a zone of transition. This is the zone where all kinds of functions are done such as residence, marketing, godown, social centers, etc.
  • The third concentric zone emerged to accommodate low-income group
  • Post-1990, due to the sectoral growth, areas of functional specialization emerged. Mainly for industrial and residential functions.
  • After 1950, the independent nucleation of urban settlements around the main city (e.g. Dum Dum) emerged as HIG residences and airports. Budge Budge emerged in south. (this model applies to religious and historical cities as well)
Case study of Kolkata
Case study of Kolkata development
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Tnq sir ji…




Well organised content…. Thanks 🙂


thank you very much sir very heplful notes

ankit pandey

thanku sir ……..

Sunil Goyal

Please add other cities case study too if possible. Last year Delhi was asked.

Shivam Verma

In Kolkata case study and Garrison’s work – 1900 should replace 1990, please check if I’m wrong


From where have you find these diagrams of case study of banaras & kolkata…please tell its source..btw thank you for your efforts & hard work. These are really helpful notes.