Morphology of Rural Settlements in Malda


The rural settlement within the Malda district highlights human efforts for the livelihood and developing the habitat on the diverse geographical landscapes. The attributes of its natural endowments, social conditionality and historical antecedents and most notably the human efforts gave the rural countryside a particular kind of social and morphological characteristics. The morphological attributes of the villages have actually been collected from the different natural areas of the districts in order to understand the divergent forces and feature of it.

This paper has actually concentrated on understanding the settlement pattern in the Malda district in the 3 broad geographical areas of it particularly Tal, Diara and Barind.

Key Words: Village, Morphological structure, Geographical landscapes, landuse, The Malda district.


Settlement morphology is mostly interested in the lay-out, plan and internal structure of the settlements. It not only views settled area in terms of physical space however identifies its various elements in regard of socio-economic space which has its direct bearing in controlling the arrangement of buildings, patterns of streets and fields and functional characteristics of settlements in basic.

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Types, Type and Pattern constitute the 3 fundamental elements of morphology of rural settlements. Type would refer to three sets of formal and functional relationship: I) house to house, II) street to street and III) street to street. The fundamental concept of town morphology is the human instinct of gregariousness. To have a comprehensive view of settlement, it deals with the morphogenesis and the morphological structure of rural settlement. Besides the geometrical shape, this is imagined through air view or on a well drawn map, as one aspects of the kind of a settlement, the internal arrangement of lanes, houses, with varies relationship, provide another aspect, called as morphology, thus morphological structure.

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The morphological structure of villages, as concrete expression of human activity in space, involves five principles of settlement formation, advocated by Doxiadis. His hypothetical frame for any settlement consists of four parts: Homogenous parts, Central part, Circulatory part and Special part. These basic parts are closely associated with the dimensions of height, length, width and time, which are best explained by morphological analysis of the villages. The internal morphology naturally involves analysis of structural morphology and social morphology. Of these, the former concern with the description and interpretation of relationship involves and deals with the varied dwelling group, community structures and land or spaces.

Literature Review

Agglomerate and isolated homestead would be the two extreme types intervened by a large number of intermediate types. While in an agglomerate type there is one habitation site on which are located all the buildings, in the dispersed or isolated type there would be as many habitation sites as the building. Form connotes the geometric shape of the aggregate of building and streets, and thus, is expressed through innumerable categories, such as circular, rectangular, square, quadrilateral and irregular. Finally, pattern would be indicating geometrical arrangement of large number of settlement suggestive of correlation with natural and cultural features of the landscapes. Form, type can be applied to individual settlements but pattern is applicable only to a set of large number of rural settlements (Mukerji A.B, 1976). Generally rural settlements spread over number of buildings and distribution of cultivated lands on several levels. Just as in the cases of scattered and dispersed villages, this type of settlements represents a typical form which there can be established a sequence of form and structure (Gh. Iordache, 1974). The tendency of grouped households, agglomerating in the heartland is typical for settlement within plain lands, with intensive agricultural economy and low relief intensity. The phenomenon of households agglomerating in the heartland is result of the complex historical, economic, social and demographical factors (V. Cucu, 1998).

Study area

Malda district consists mainly of low lying plains, sloping towards the south with undulating areas on the north-east. Located between latitude 24040’20’’N to 25032’8’’N and longitude 87045’50’’E to 88028’10’’E. The Mahananda River divides the district into two regions. The western region is further subdivided by the river Kalindri into two areas. The northern is known as ‘Tal’- it is low lying and vulnerable to inundation during rainy season, the southern area consists of very fertile land and is thickly populated, commonly known as ‘Diara’. The region of mature alluvium that had given North Bengal its old historical name of varendri or barendri is known today as ‘Barind’. This region is made up of the ancient alluvial humps that are remnants of old riverine floodplains that remain unaffected subsequently by inundation and renewed silting.

Fig 1: Broad physiographic map of Malda district Fig 2: Study area map
Source: District Human Development Report, Malda Source: District Human Development Report, Malda
Harischandrapur I & II, Chanchal I & II and Ratua I & II are located in Tal region. Gajol, Old Malda, Bamongola and Habibpur are located in Barind region and Diara region consist English Bazar, Manikchak, Kaliachak I, and II & III. For my study, I have studied on Harischandrapur I & II from Tal region, Adina from Barind region and Manikchak from Diara region.


The rural settlements within the Malda plain area highlight in the geographical landscape by specific features which give its individuality. The characteristics of its natural background (majorly plain area- sub-divided into Tal, Diara, and Barind etc.), social-historical evolution and conditions and human economic activities gave the villages certain morphological-structural features, which harmonize with the general features of rural settlements within the plain. The following subtypes of settlements are viewed in the area- agglomerated, compact and dispersed villages. The selective objectives are--

* To analyze the Characteristics of rural house type;
* To determine Characteristics of rural house building materials with their availability
* To analyze rural road type and rural road network;
* To determine the landuse pattern in different physiographic divisions.
* To analyze rural economy with relation to land-use pattern and daily habits of the rural habitants;
* To find the impacts of Physical environments on land use of the villages.

Database and Methodology:

Both primary data and secondary data have been used in this term paper. Secondary data related to physiographic map, satellite images from Google earth, census data 2001 etc. For this term paper, primary data collected from one selected blocks from each physiographic division and field survey has done on this areas. To analyze data a very simple statistical tool like bar graph has been used.


Characteristics of rural house type

At first this paper shows characteristics of rural house type in the district of Malda. In Malda district, houses in rural area express the basic relationship between human beings and their physical and social environment. A feature common throughout most of Malda is the courtyard. This is in the centre, in front of or behind the house. This open space alternates as living room, workplace and storage space. Rooms are built round the courtyard with doors opening into it. The rooms often surrounded by raised verandas.

Fig 3: Rural houses are located around the courtyard Fig 4: Animal breeding in open space in front of house Source: Field Survey Source: Field survey

The plinth of the rooms is often raised. When rooms are built along one side of the courtyard only, three sides are fenced or walled in with an entrance door at the front. Such layout provides both privacy and safety. The courtyard provides the division between the outer part of the house and the inner sanctum reserved for women. This kind of layout is common all over the rural area in Malda.

Fig 5: Rural house with conical roof Source: Field survey

In Malda district, another significant characteristic of rural houses are that their roofs are inclined because in rainy season, the sloping roofs allows water to drain off. On the other hand, some conical roofs are found in certain tribal and caste areas of Malda. In my study, I have seen this kind of roof characteristics in Harischandrapur in Malda.

Characteristics of rural house building materials:

different blocks of Malda district, rural dwellings are built of locally available materials. Generally houses in rural area have made by mud, bamboo and brick. Some hay made houses are also found in rural area. Very few number of pakka houses are found in rural area in which mainly Brahmin families and economically well developed families are lived. For making wall of the houses, people use brick, mud, hay etc. In the case of making roof portion of houses, dwellers use mainly tile (square brick for flooring or roofing), hay and tin etc.

Fig 6: Brick made house with tile roof Fig 7: Hay made house with tile roof Source: Field survey Source: Field survey

Fig 8: Bamboo made house with tile roof Fig 9: Mud made house with tile roof Source: Field survey Source: Field survey

Due to non-availability of proper building materials, there did not allow for the growth of permanent of settlements. Tents made of skin or leather used by the various tribal groups in Harischandrapur block. They were the dwellings in this area before modern housing materials began to be used.

So the mud and sundried brick houses with thatched or tiled roofs are the commonest in Malda district. The quality of house building materials used depends on the economic condition of the owners. In some areas of Malda district e.g. Adina, Harischandrapur etc, government also provides prefabricated building materials.

The using of house building materials of dwellers in rural area depends on physical conditions of Malda, mainly the climatic condition. The climatic condition of Malda is very harsh throughout the year. For example, in this climatic condition people use mud for making their house in rural area because mud reflects the sun heat and makes the house relatively cool in summer season.

Rural road type and rural network:

Rural roads are the last link of the transport network, however, they often from the most important connection in terms of providing access for the rural population. In Malda district, permanent or seasonal absence of road access is a constraining factor in terms of providing rural communities with essential services such as education, primary health care, water supply, local markets as well as economic opportunities. The availability of such services and opportunities are difficult to sustain without a quality and well maintained rural network.

In rural area of Malda district, both metalled and unmettaled roads are found. Cart tracks are also found in villages. The conditions of the roads are not very good. Especially in rainy season roads are broken as well as damaged. The common feature is that most of the houses in rural area are located besides the both sides of the roads.
Fig 10: One unmettaled road of Adina Fig 11: One mettaled road of Harischandrapur Source: Field Survey Source: Field survey
Fig 12: Village road joints with NH 34 Fig 13: Damaged village road in rainy season Source: Field survey Source: Field Survey

In other hand, another common feature of the rural area is that roads under the villages are directly meet with the National highway. This common feature indicates positive aspect of village road network in Malda district. In Malda district, keeping in view the socio economic benefits accruing from providing road connectivity to the villages, there is a need to impart greater thrust to providing road connectivity. So government launched the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojna (PMGSY) in different blocks in Malda, with the objective of providing road connectivity through good all weather roads to all unconnected habitations.

Landuse pattern of three broad physiographic divisions in Malda district: The differences in cross regional landuse pattern across the Tal, Barind and Diara reflect the same set of settlement intensities, agrarian features and agricultural constraints. According to 2001 census, landuse patterns of Malda district are as follows-

| Homestead land| Orchards & Pasture land| Culturable wasteland| Net cropped area| Net irrigated area| Multi cropped area| Tal| 4712| 140| 213| 92373| 16528| 68426|
Barind | 3717| 161| 262| 109539| 9563| 32751|
Diara| 7176| 134| 196| 78098| 8480| 38225|
Source: Census 2001



In the Diara where settlement densities and regional land pressures are the highest, the quantum of land used for homestead purpose is nearly as high as the sum of homestead lands in the Tal and Barind. The extent of Culturable wastelands available for potential future cultivation in the Diara is correspondingly low. However, while the Net Cropped Area (NCA) is highest in the Barind, the irrigation and multi cropping intensity here is relatively low. Thus unlike the Tal where virtually all agricultural lands are multi cropped, a large portion of farming operations in the Barind are carried out on monocrop land. Cropping intensity in Diara for entirely different reasons, this has to do with the seasonal flooding and region experiences, as a result of which agricultural land becomes inaccessible for a certain part of the year. In recent times, the spread of mango cultivation, brinjal cultivation, chestnut cultivation etc. across the Diara has also been a factor in reducing cropping intensity.

Fig 14: Canal irrigation in Harischandrapur Fig 15: Irrigation through shallow machine Source: Field survey Source: Field survey

Generally the main source of irrigation is rainwater. Others irrigation facilities like canal, shallow machines are also found in some part of Tal region like Harischandrapur. Due to these facilities, agricultural lands are mainly multi cropped as well as cropping intensity is also high in Tal region than Barind and Diara region. The cropping intensity of Tal region is about 205% where 156% in Barind region and 167% in Diara region.

Rural economy with relation to land-use pattern and daily habits of the rural habitants: Rural economy is directly related with the livelihood pattern of this particular region. The differing characteristics in rural settlements and their habitant have seen across in Malda district seem directly related to livelihood pattern and work opportunities in different sub regions. Work participation is highest in Diara which has the highest density of settlement. However, the livelihood stress caused by rapid growth of district population against a limited land resource base means that work participation rates are well below 50% in all three regions of the district, and are lowest in Tal region at just under 37%. Each worker in the Tal thus has to support an average of 1.7 dependents, against 1.4 dependents in Barind regions and 1.2 in the Diara.

According to 2001 census, in Tal and Barind region almost 75% of rural people are engaged in agricultural activities. Household Industries are mainly concentrated on Kaliachak I and Kaliachak III. Almost 50% people in total workers are engaged in Household industry activities. In other hand, in Old Malda, Englishbazar, Kaliachak I and Kaliachak II, almost 50% people are engaged in other economic activities. So, mainly rural economy depends on agricultural activities. Outside, the Barind region, therefore, land scarcity is a major problem in the district. Agricultural and in Tal and Diara regions is mostly irrigated and already intensively cropped and cultivated. The scope of generating additional employment for the landmass in agricultural sector in this region has become progressively limited since each hectare of farmland in Tal and Barind blocks already engages between 2-4 agriculture on the average. In the Barind where the land situation is more favourable, most farmland is mono cropped because of terrain factor, low water table and resulting difficulty in providing in supplementary irrigation on such lands to generate additional work opportunities in agriculture. Consequently, the district is now poised for a major shift of workers from cultivation to non agricultural sector.

Impact of physical environments on land use of the villages: Physical environments directly affect on land use pattern of the villages. In Malda district, the soils of the Barind regions are hard silty clays of a reddish hue that has developed through the sesquioxides. Organic residues in this soil are highly decomposed, leading to no acidic soil pH at levels as low as 6.8 in the Barind tracts of Malda. Organic carbon content is also generally low at 0.54% in these Malda tracts, as a result of which overall soil fertility remains at modest level under unirrigated conditions. Since the undulating terrain in the Barind promotes a fair amount of runoff and the hard impervious clayey Barind soil permit little percolation, most of the monsoon runoff accumulates in the large natural bills or pools in the ravines formed by the courses of the Tangan and Punarvava rivers, covering the low lands here until long after the monsoon is over.

Spanning Manikchak, Kaliachak I, II, III and Englishbazar blocks within the district, the Diara is relatively well defined flatland formed by the fluvial deposition of newer alluvium in the transitional zone between the Barind upland and marshy Tal tracts. The Tal is mostly composed of Bog lands formed in mainly marshy pockets around vestigial inland drainages. Consequently, Tal is strewn with innumerable marshes, bils and oxbow lakes.

The uplands of Barind gradually slope downwards towards the north-east and north of Malda district in the region lying beyond the Mahananda. The six development blocks situated here. They are bounded by the Mahananda to their east, by the Ganga to west and the river Kalindri to the south. Since the tract is bounded by the river, soil conditions improve considerably, providing favourable for mango orchard and for the cultivation for jute and several other kharif and Rabi crops.

However although the geophysical situation of the Tal is relatively favourable compared to that of the Barind. Being the largest of three sub regions, the Barind also has the largest number of habitation. However, these are widely dispersed and their populations are smaller. The reasons for the lower scale of human settlement in Barind lie in its semi arid and water deprived character, with upland soils that supports a lower intensity of cultivation. Conversely the Tal and Diara, which are better endowed with water and also with fertile sedimented soils, have supported more diversified cultivation, more work related migration, and greater intensities of human settlement, which is reflected particularly in the Diara by higher masculinity within the regional population.

Cross regional differences also occur in agricultural yields across the Tal, Barind and Diara, which reflect intrinsic differences in soil quality, water availability and land husbanding practices. Except for the yields of the main aman rice that grows in rainfed condition over the monsoon months, agricultural yields are uniformly higher in the well watered Tal region. Again the yields overall for the Barind is actually a consequence of the vast extent of land cultivated during the rainfed aman season when differences in crop yields across the three regions are minimal.

Major findings

* Common feature in the most of the rural area in the Malda district is courtyard base rural houses. This is in the centre; houses are built up around this courtyard. * In the Malda district, rural settlements are mainly semi-compact and disperse type. * In rural area, people build their houses with the help of locally available materials. Their houses patterns depend on both their economic condition and the physical condition. * In Malda district, keeping in view the socio economic benefits accruing from providing road connectivity to the villages, there is a need to impart greater thrust to providing road connectivity. In rural area of Malda district, both metalled and unmettaled roads are found. * The landuse patterns are different in different physiographic divisions in Malda district. Homestead lands are well distributed in Diara tracts, where In Barind region, orchards and pasture lands, net cropped area and Culturable wastelands are well distributed. On the other hand, irrigation facilities and multi cropped area are well distributed in Tal region.

* The rural work participation rates are highest in Kaliachak I block. In other Kaliachak blocks, Harischandrapur II, work participation rates exceeds uniformly but WPR is very low in Englishbazar, Manikchak, old Malda and other blocks of Tal regions. * Mainly rural economy depends on agricultural activities. Majority of rural people in Tal and Barind region are engaged in agricultural activities. Household industries are mainly concentrated on Kaliachak I and III blocks. In other hand, in Englishbazar, Manikchak, Kaliachak II and old Malda blocks, half of the worker people engage in other economic activities.

* In Barind region, overall soil fertility remains at modest level under unirrigated condition. Upland of Barind is bounded by the river, soil condition improving considerably, providing favourable for mango orchards, and for the cultivation for jute and several others kharif and Rabi crops. * In the Tal and Diara region have supported more diversified cultivation due to fertile sediment soil. These conditions occur more work related migration and greater intensities of rural settlements which reflect on Diara by higher masculinity. * Agricultural yield in Tal, Diara and Barind regions differ due to intrinsic differences in the soil, availability of water and land husbanding practices. Agricultural yields are uniformly higher in Tal region.


Malda district is mainly lower part of the Gangetic plain as well as southern part of the North Bengal plain. The three broad subregions can be defined physiographically within Malda district like Tal, Diara and Barind. The village economy of the Malda district is based on agricultural activities, orchards etc. Agricultural features of Malda district depends on monsoon climate. Irrigation facilities are also available in the Malda district. Major portion of agricultural lands in Malda district are multi cropped. Traditional houses pattern in rural area has been changed by the economy. All over morphology of the rural areas are almost similar to each other in three physiographic regions. Agricultural crops are mainly jute, paddy and wheat. Mango orchards spread large portion of the Malda district. Rural houses types are almost similar all over the Malda district. But in the case of livelihood pattern, some regional variations are followed.

In Tal and Barind region, large number of people engages in agricultural activities, on the other hand household industries and other economic activities are developed in Diara region. In rural area of Malda district, half of the people have engaged in agricultural activities which indicate the agriculture based rural economy. At present time, government has taken some steps for development of rural area in Malda district like Pradhan Mantri Gram Sarok Yojna; Jatio Gramin Kormosangsthan Prokolpo etc. this kind of project control the morphology of rural settlements in Malda district. Another feature of village area in Malda district is that some tribal people have been lived in periphery of the villages. This tribal people are not permanent, they are come at a particular time of the year for some work and after finish their work, they go back. In my study, In Harischandrapur block, this kind of sight has been showed. So at a glance, rural morphology in Malda district is much diversified.


Bylund, E., ‘Theoretical Considerations regarding the Distribution of Settlement in Inner North Sweden’ in Geografiska Annaler, Vol. 42, No. 4, Advance and Retreat of Rural Settlement: papers of the Siljan Symposium at the XIX th International Geographical Congress (1960), pp. 225-231. * Desai, A. R. (1961), Rural India in Transition. Popular Book Dept., Bombay, 1961. * Doxiadis, C. A. (1969) ‘ Ekistics, An attempt for a Scientific Approach to the Problems of Human Settlements’ in Science and Technology and the Cities (eds.), Committee on Science and Astronautics, U. S. House of Representatives Washington, D. C., U. S. Govt., p. 9. * Ghosh, S., Introduction to Settlement Geography. Orient BlackSwan, 2008. * Mandal,
R. B., Introduction to Rural Settlement. Concept Publishing Company, 2009. * Mukerji, A. B., ‘Rural Settlements of the Chandigarh Siwalik Hills (India): A Morphogenetic Analysis’ in Geografiska Annaler. Series B, Human Geography, Vol. 58, No.2 (1976), pp. 95-115. * Siddique, A., Rajbongshi, B., ‘An Analytical Study on Design and Analysis of Stabilised Rural Roads’ in Proceeding of the Eastern Asia Society for Transportation Studies, Vol. 5, pp. 813-828, 2005. * Singh, R. Y., Geography of Settlement. Rawat Publication, 1994.

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Morphology of Rural Settlements in Malda. (2016, Oct 29). Retrieved from

Morphology of Rural Settlements in Malda
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