Definition of Urban Areas in India

We often hear about cities and towns and want to visit them for different reasons such as employment, entertainment, leisure etc. Before proceeding for any research in cities, we must have a clear definition of urban areas in India. However, the definition of urban areas vary from one country to another. The definition of urban areas, cities and towns is provided by Census of India.

Definition of Urban Areas in India

There are two types of cities or towns in India.

  1. Census Towns

    • According to Census of India, there are 3784 census towns in India.
    • Census towns are those towns which qualify the criteria as provided by census of India. There are following criteria for declaration of a settlement as town or city.
      1. Non-Agricultural Activities: The 75 percent population of a settlement should be engaged in non-agricultural activities. The non-agricultural activities include secondary and tertiary activities.
      2. Minimum Population Size: The minimum population of a settlement should be greater than 5000 persons.
      3. Minimum Population Density: The minimum population density should be greater than 400 persons/Km².
  2. Statutory Towns

    • The towns which are declared as towns by the law or statute of the government are called statutory towns.
    • There are 4041 statutory towns in India as per census of 2011.
    • When a settlement grows in size and lots of non-agricultural or allied activities of agriculture starts to grow in a settlement, the government forms the Urban Local Bodies (ULBs). by law of the Legislative Assembly.
    • Urban local bodies include Notified Area Committee, Municipality, Municipal Corporation etc.
    • The Constitution (74th Amendment) Act-1992 provides for the formation of ULBs.
    • Sometimes, the morphological feature of villages are similar to cities but they remain in rural category. It is so because the administration is still rural i.e. Panchayat.
    • To read about Urban Morphology, Click Here.


The definition of towns according to Census of India is based on demographic characteristics of a settlement. Whereas, the statutory towns represent the administrative and legal characteristics of a settlement.

The Govt. of India provides 50% weightage to statutory towns while issuing grants for urban development. Therefore, many state governments declare many villages as statutory towns.