Types and Patterns of Rural Settlement

Type refers to a category of things having some common features whereas pattern refers to a regular form or order in which a series of things occur. When we say settlement pattern, the term is strictly applied to the spatial arrangement or distribution of settlements within a given area.

It differs from settlement form. Settlement form relates more to the spatial characteristics of individual settlement. However, sometimes forms and patterns are used interchangeably.

Types of Rural Settlements

Geographers have suggested various schemes of classification. If we group settlements found all over the country, these can broadly be grouped under four categories:

  1. Compact / clustered / nucleated settlement
  2. Semi-compact / Semi-clustered / fragmented settlement
  3. Hemleted settlement
  4. Dispersed settlement

1. Compact Settlements

As the name suggests, these settlements have closely built up area. Therefore in such settlements all the dwellings are concentrated in one central sites and these inhabited area is distinct and separated from the farms and pastures. Maximum settlements of our country comes under this category.

They are spread over almost every part of the country. These settlements are distributed over the entire northern Indo-Ganga plain (from Punjab in the north-west to West Bengal in the east), Orissa coast, basins of Mahanadi in Chhattisgarh, coastal areas of Andhra Pradesh, cauvery delta of Tamil Nadu, Maidaus of Karnataka, lower Assam and Tripura, in the valleys of Siwaliks, etc.

Sometimes people live in compact settlement for security or defence purpose. The greatest example of this type is in Bundelkhand region of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. In Rajasthan also people live in compact settlement because of the scarce availability of cultivable land and water body. Therefore, they want to make maximum use of available natural resources.

Such settlements generally range from a cluster of about thirty to hundreds of dwelling of different forms, size and functions. On an average their size various from 500 to 2,500 persons in sparsely populated parts of Rajasthan to more than 10,000 persons in Ganga plain. Very often these settlements have a definite pattern due to closely built area and intervening street patterns. As many as 11 patterns are identified. Five major patterns are: (i) Linear pattern (ii) Rectangular pattern (iii) Circular pattern (iv) Square pattern (v) Radial pattern.

(i) Linear Pattern

It is commonly found along main roads, railways, streams, etc. It may have a single row of houses arranged along the main artery. For example rural settlements found along the sea coast, river valley, mountain ranges, etc.

(ii) Rectangular Pattern

This is a very common type which develops around the rectangular shape of agricultural fields as it is common to find a system of land measurement based on square units. Village paths and cart tracks also confirm to the rectangular field patterns and run through the village in north-south and east-west directions.

Accessibility to farms and fields and connectivity to other settlements lead to rectangular shape of settlements. The settlements of coastal Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh and either side of Aravali hills, etc. may be cited for examples.

(iii) Square Pattern

This is basically a variant of rectangular type. Such a pattern is associated with villages lying at the crossing of cart tracks or roads and also related to features restricting the extension of the village outside a square space. These features may include an old boundary wall, thick orchards, a road or a pond.

(iv) Circular Pattern

In the upper Doab and Trans-Yamuna districts, Malwa region, Punjab and Gujarat, large villages are characterized by a very high degree of compactness. The outer walls of dwellings adjoin each other and present a continuous front so that when viewed from outside, the villages look like a walled and fortified enclosure pierced by a few openings. The round form was a natural outcome of maximum aggregation for the purpose of defence during the past.

(v) Radial Pattern

In this type, a number of streets converge on one centre which may be a source of water (pond, well), a temple or mosque, a centre of commercial activity or simply an open space.

Thus, the streets seem to be radiating from a common centre. Examples are settlements near Gurushikar, Mount Abu in Rajasthan, Vindhyachal in Uttar Pradesh, etc.

2. Semi-Compact Settlement

As the name suggests, the dwellings or houses are not well-knitted. Such settlements are characterized by a small but compact nuclears around which hamlets are dispersed. It covers more area than the compact settlements. These settlements are found both in plains and plateaus depending upon the environmental conditions prevailing in that area.

Such settlements are situated along streams in Manipur Mandla and Balaghat districts of Madhya Pradesh, and Rajgarh district of Chhattisgarh. Different tribal groups inhabit such settlements in the Chhota Nagpur region. In Nagaland, such settlements may be in the form of blushing villages. Like, compact settlements, semi-compact settlements may also have different patterns. Some of the patterns are (i) checker board pattern (ii) Elongated pattern (iii) Fan shaped pattern.

(i) Checker Board Pattern

This is a type of settlement found generally at the junction of two roads. The village streets meet each other at an angle or are parllel to each other. This is because of the tendency to align the dwellings along cardinal axes. This pattern is common in the northern plains.

(ii) Elongated Pattern

Such settlement occurs as a result of elongation of the rectangular pattern due to influence of site features. For instance, in the Ganga plains, in areas liable to inundation, the rectangular pattern becomes unusually elongated along the high ground. Even otherwise the advantage offered by riverside location forces such a pattern.

(iii) Fan Shaped Pattern

This is seen where some focal points or line is situated at one end of the village. A focal object may be a tank a riverside, a road, an orchard, a well or even a place of worship. Such patterns are common in the delta region where the dwellings simply follow the fan shaped profile of the delta as in the case of Mahanadi, Godavari, Krishna, Cauvery, etc. Such patterns are also common in the Himalyan foothills.

3. Hamleted Settlements

These type of settlements, are fragmented into several small units. The main settlement does not have much influence on the other units. Very often the original site is not easily distinguishable and these hamlets are often spread over the area with intervening fields.

This segregation is often influenced by social and ethnic factors. The hamlets are locally named as faliya, para, dhana, dhani, nanglay, etc. These settlements are generally found in West Bengal, eastern Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and coastal plains. Geographically it covers lower Ganga plain, lower valleys of the Himalayas and central plateau or upland region of the country.

4. Dispersed Settlements

This is also known as isolated settlements. Here the settlement is characterized by units of small size which may consist of a single house to a small group of houses. It varies from two to seven huts.

Therefore, in this type, hamlets are scattered over a vast area and does not have any specific pattern. Such type of settlements are found in tribal areas of central part of India covering Chhota Nagpur plateau, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, etc. Such patterns are also common in the hills of north Bengal, Jammu & Kashmir, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.