For the need of community, security and resources, people built their homes in close proximity to each other. This cluster of housing, the sustainable nature of the community and the sort of symbiotic relationship of the families formed a settlement. Rural settlements by definition is a community of people who live together in a rural area. They are made of dwellings grouped together and can include hamlets and villages.
There are many factors that aid in the formation and type of a settlement. Natural landscape determines the patterns of the housing cluster. For example, a mountain terrain or the banks of a river would result in a very different cluster pattern. The location of the settlement, the access to the site, climate of the area, the water sources and the nature of the soil are also key factors to the distribution of houses in a settlement.[i]
For the Indian context, rural settlements can be broadly classified into four types of dispersion.[ii]
- Compact Settlement: If the number of villages equals the number of hamlets in an area unit, the settlement is designated as compact. In such villages all the dwellings are concentrated in one central site. The inhabitants of the village live together and enjoy the benefits of community life. Such settlements range from a cluster of about thirty to hundreds of dwellings of different forms, sizes and functions.
- Semi-Compact Settlement: These are found both in plains and plateaus depending upon the environmental conditions prevailing there. The dwellings in such settlements are not very closely knitted and are huddled together at one common site. It covers more area than the compact settlements.
- Hamlet Settlement: The hamlets are spread over the area with intervening fields and the main or central settlement is either absent or has feeble influence upon others. Often the original site is not easily distinguishable and the morphological diversity is rarely noticed.
- Dispersed Settlement: The inhabitants of dispersed settlements live in isolated dwellings scattered in the cultivated fields. These dwellings are deprived of neighbourhood, communal interdependence and social interaction.