Indian cities are rapidly growing and expanding. With the increase in the size of the city, the city tends to expand and absorb its rural precincts leading to changes in land use pattern, morphological character and social and economic lives of the rural people. Thus, the city can be interpreted as a collection of urban extensions. And the villages which are incorporated within the urban limits are termed as urban villages. The rural character of the village is gradually transformed to urban profile in terms of land use, employment, income and culture.

Urbanisation is considered as a key process for socio-economic development and cultural transformation. As a consequence, massive transformation in socio-cultural set up takes place in urban villages. The social organisation, attitudes, values and behaviours experience transformation as they adopt various urban habits and occupations following the loss of agricultural land.

Conceptualising Urban Villages

An urban village can be defined as a village which has acquired urban characteristics due to reduction in its agricultural base by the process of acquisition of land holdings for public purpose or by its transformation into residential or industrial colonies. These are the rural settlements engulfed in urban limits during the process of development of large cities. These settlements have been rural in the past and hence, show some distinct rural characteristics but they are also termed urban because of their location in a clearly defined urban area, the influence of which is very strong. Like urban areas, now, in these villages majority of the workforce are engaged in non-primary activities.

Evolution and Growth of Urban Villages

The growth of a city depends upon on several factors. Technological progress, economic development, socio – cultural change, increase in population; are the various factors through which the physical form and the structure of the city grows. Most of the cities have evolved where an old core already existed, either as an expansion to the city or a new course surrounding the city. With the increase in the size of the city, the city tends to expand and absorb its rural precincts.

The transformation of villages from rural to urban can be broadly divided into three stages:

  1. RURAL: Those villages which are distantly located from the urban areas and not proposed to be urbanized in near future.
  2. TRANSITIONAL: Villages proposed to be included in Master Plan areas for acquisition and urban development.
  3. URBAN: Villages which are already engulfed in the urban area and are handed over to municipality for general maintenance and up keeping.

The villages experience major transformation in terms of landuse – mainly from residential to commercial and industrial, in terms of social structures and demographic compositions. Transformation of urban villages is mainly attributed to land acquisition and consequent changes in the livelihood pattern of the land owners, rise in land value due to strategic locations and demand for residential space which encourage the land owners and consequent to raise their structures horizontally as well as vertically.

The villages which were brought to urban fold are at present intensely commercialised and are high density settlements. There exists uncontrolled as well as unplanned growth, congestion, high density built-up area exerting pressure on the existing infrastructure and facilities resulting in high consumption of resources, disturbing the urban ecology and leading to social insecurity.

Dangerous multi storyed buildings in Mussorie


As soon as villagers realised that their land is an essential commodity, all the available spaces were encroached upon. Even the circulation corridors were encroached upon, making entry for vehicles virtually impossible. According to the 1963 Notification of the Municipal Corporation of Gurgaon, building bylaws within the ‘Lal dora’ area are more relaxed than the surrounding developed sectors. Taking advantage of the prevalent laxities, the outsiders bought the rented space for commercial establishments. The rent so received provides a steady livelihood to the local inhabitants.

Rural Urban Relationship– When the rural areas are engulfed into urban extents, a great deal is obliterated and forfeited. The village settlement is altered and transformed to newly acquire urban form. Villagers strive hard to survive in an urban environment which is forced upon them. Under the pressure of urbanization, the rural settlements have lost their traditional role striving to adopt a new identity and status in new urban setup. Though urbanization is a necessary and irresistible process, but its impact on the encompassed rural settlement should be well accounted for.

Urban villages assist in development of surrounding urban areas which usually come up on land acquired from villages. These urban villages provide affordable dwelling unit to migrants who are generally from the lower strata. Presence of infrastructure facilities and other public amenities attract homeless city dwellers. Scarcity of accommodation and consequently high speculating in rent prices has led to low and middle class and even white collared professionals to stay in these urban villages. Urban villages show that the mixed land is congenital facet in organic growth of settlement. Large scale development, commercial activity and unauthorised building construction are outcome of fallacious planning.

By- Shivani Varma

 Senior Faculty: Interior Architecture Design

IVS school of Design 


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