How India’s cities have grown and shrunk over the last 116 years

Did you know that in 1901, Delhi was just the seventh most populous city in India? Or that its population did not surpass Chennai’s until some point in the 1950s? Did you know that Bangalore, the fifth most populous city today, was ranked 14th in 1901? Or that Ghaziabad, Delhi’s satellite city which by 2011 was the 14th most populous city in the country, was a village of just 14,600 in 1901?

These and other insights can be found in a dataset released yesterday by the Census of India, which shows the population of thousands of Indian cities since 1901.

India’s 15 most populous cities, 1901-2011

How to read this chart: The length of a bar represent a city’s populations; its vertical position represents its rank; the dotted line represents the previous decade’s population.

For a geographic perspective, let’s take a look at how India’s 50 most populous cities, as of 2011, have changed in size since 1901 by placing them on a map. To get a sense of scale, we’ll size each city according to its population, relative to other cities of the time.

India’s 50 most populous cities as of 2011, shown since 1901

Source: Census of India. The census classifies India’s largest cities as ‘urban agglomerations’, defined as continous urban spreads of one or more muncipalities and their adjoining outgrowths.