Settlement Patterns in Ancient India

Copy of an old etching of the ghats of the anc...

Copy of an old etching of the ghats of the ancient city of Benares in India. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Some of the plans of rural settlements in Ancient India have been discussed elaborately in the ancient texts like Manasara Shilpashastra. Shilpashastras are old Sanskrit texts which were possibly compiled about the fifth or sixth century B.C. but the tradition which they indicate are of greater antiquity. VideHavels wrote about them in Ancient and medieval Architecture of India, 1915. P.K. Acharya translated them into English with his own comments entitled as Indian Architecture in five volumes in 1927.

Most of the plans are rectangular or square and do not appear to differ in essentials. Each village was surrounded by a wall and ditch for defense purposes. There were generally four gates in the middle of the four quarters. The centre of the village was generally occupied by a temple, tank or public hall. The four quarters were further sub-divided by straight streets. Each block was inhabited on the basis of caste or  profession, the best quarters being generally given to Brahmins and the high caste. The easterly axis of the general plan and the intersection of the urban street by north south running shorter streets bean relationship with climatic conditions. Such an arrangement ensured the advantage of sun-light and the proper circulation of fresh air.

The plans of rural settlements do not seem to have survived in the true form. When one speak of the village plan, one refers to the layout of the Basti (inhibited site) resulting from the arrangement of houses and  village streets of panes. In this sense a definite pattern has emerged only in the case of compact or linear settlements which are very limited in number. At times the settlements are so irregularly huddled together that it becomes very difficult to recognize the definite pattern.


About Rashid Faridi

I am Rashid Aziz Faridi ,Writer, Teacher and a Voracious Reader.
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4 Responses to Settlement Patterns in Ancient India

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