This study examines the internal structure of Madurai city, India, maps the neighbourhoods that have formed and developed over time and analyses the differences between them with regard to health, educational and infrastructural facilities.

It explores the patterns and processes of urban expansion through analysis of land-use and land-cover changes in and around the city.

Key findings:
  • Madurai is an ancient city built in the 3rd century B.C. around the famous Meenakshi Amman Temple to showcase the power of the then-ruling dynasty.
  • The temple has played a pivotal role in the development of Madurai. Caste-based residential segregation has continued from ancient times through the city’s sacred geometric planning, which sees that upper-caste groups reside close to the temple and lower-caste groups at the outskirts.
  • Madurai exhibits the characteristics of a shrinking city with a declining population – the city’s core is saturated and undergoing de-population, whereas its peripheries are growing at a rapid pace.
  • Close to a third of the city’s population live in informal settlements (27%), while the share of those living in rented housing (60%) is comparatively high compared to elsewhere in India.
  • Unplanned development, sprawling peripheries and a high share of informal settlements have adversely affected vegetation cover and the natural recharge points of the city. Once with plentiful water tanks, ponds and other natural recharge systems, Madurai now suffers from acute water shortages.
  • Inequality is deep-rooted, with residents in the core of the city enjoying better facilities, particularly in the provision of physical infrastructure.
  • Madurai fairs well in indicators such as literacy, female labour force participation and sex ratio compared to other Indian cities, thus revealing socially progressive gender values.