Four Good Books on Indian Urbanisation


India has a vast history of city planning from the inception of the Indus Valley Civilization which led to Mohinjadaro, Harapa and other similar towns in ancient India. We can learn many positive things about Indian planning and architecture from ancient times although the population density and political situation was quite contrary to what it is at present.

There are a few books emerging on Indian urban planning including theories of ancient India. These would be beneficial for Indian planning schools and other universities starting a planning course around India. There is a dearth of information on western architecture and urbanism but very little is written about Indian urban planning. This list is to help bridge the gap and help people gain knowledge about cities of India.

Related: Doreen Massey on Urban Space

Here is the list of books relevant to Indian urban planning:

1.Kauṭalya, L. N. Rangarajan  (1992). The Arthashastra. 

Arthashastra is one of the best books about ancient Indian planning and the stately affairs during the time of Chanakya. This will be of interest to people who specifically want to know how ancient India was depicted and was built with very sophisticated architecture and planning. It resembles the times during kings and old dynasties. The book details the relevance of ancient scriptures and importance of Indian history that is relevant till today, especially in understanding Indian culture and traditions. Whether you are new to understanding Indian urbanist philosophy or you are well versed with the era and culture, this book will enlighten you about ancient India.

2. Janaki Nair (2005)  – The promise of the metropolis: Bangalore’s twentieth century. 

The above book provides a detailed explanation of the present situation of Bangalore city in India. The book relates to three levels of analysis, namely, the conceived city, the perceived city and the spatial practice. Bangalore is one of the leading economic, industrial, technological and social hubs of India which is represented in the book. It is commonly known as the IT capital of India with the extreme advent of technological resources and use in Bangalore city. This book will give you an understanding of what it is to live in a city that needs incorporation of social and urban planning and is very informal in nature.

3. Ramachandran R (1989)  Urbanisation and Urban System in India.

The above book is one of the few Indian books on urban development and old systems of India during the 1980s and 1990s. It lists out the positives and negatives of Indian urban systems and provides many original findings of Indian urban systems. It focuses on the historical and socioeconomic aspects of India during the modern era before the advent of technology. The author focuses on the interdependence on various cities and villages within India and the amalgamation of such regions and nodes. It would provide a good base for students and teachers to understand the intricacies of Indian urban development and systems that are involved in the urban growth and governance structures.

4. Sara Dickey (2016). Living Class in Urban India.

This book is in response to the western perceptions of India as a developing world with a lot of poverty and crime. However, Sara Dickey argues that India in it’s reality is very modernised with many class structures similar to the western countries. The book highlights that there is a growth in middle class consumerism in India which is accelerating rapidly as economic opportunities are increasing and there are more opportunities for people to earn money as a means to escape from poverty. Sara Dickey conducts her own research through interviews and surveys to understand the intricacies of class struggle in Indian society, especially through the perception of the lower and middle class groups. As a foreigner herself, she has some interesting insights to provide for a global readership.


The above books will provide a good basis for Indian urbanism and growing trend in publishing books on Indian urban development. With the theoretical basis of urban planning being in England and the western countries, even in India, planning schools fail to focus on margining both the western and Asian practices equally.

The above books will provide good knowledge about how India is developing rapidly with it’s per capita and GDP growth which also includes it’s population growth as well. It is important that universities should incorporate these books into their curriculum so that students gain a larger understanding of Indian urban planning and development.

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