Compared to surrounding regions, Punjab's population is evenly spread and dense, particularly in the central areas. In Indian Punjab the rural population is consistently 60-70 percent of the total. It is similar in the adjoining districts of Pakistani Punjab except for Lahore District, which is 84 percent urban. Urban settlements now are sprawling towns, growing rapidly in both Punjabs but faster in Pakistan. Formerly they were walled and compact, with many-storied houses and narrow lanes for defense and shade. The towns are educational and administrative centers, and they have active agriculture trading sectors as well as numerous and diverse types of manufacturing. The estimated 1981 populations of the principal towns were as follows: Lahore, 2,922,000; Lyallpur (Faisalabad), 1,092,000; Multan, 730,000; Sialkot, 296,000; Amritsar, 595,000; Ludhiana, 607,000; Jalandhar, 408,000; and Patiala, 206,000.
Villages in the Punjab plains are nucleated. In the older villages—apart from the canal colonies, where villages were laid out in blocks at crossroads—houses are built together in a compact area and the outer walls are joined together to make a common rampart, with limited points of entry. Houses abut one another along narrow lanes, sharing many common walls. One can reach much of the village by going over rooftops, but the only access to the rooftops is from the inside of houses. Close outside this wall are work areas and areas for storage, or perhaps a village mill. Beyond this the agricultural fields lie open; only valuable orchards would be fenced. At some distance in the fields there are always one or two cremation grounds and some ritual sites. In larger Villages, there are commonly separate sides or neighborhoods for upper-and lower-caste groups, and there may be concentrations of households of specific caste or lineage groups in a particular lane or area.
Stereotypically, and commonly, the main entry to a Village is through a masonry gateway, called the durwaza, which arches over the main road and limits the size of vehicles that can enter. It may be up to 20 meters long. Inside, along the roadway on both sides, it has wide raised plinths, where People can sit. The durwaza is always an important meeting place and the preferred stopping place for visiting artisans and traders.
The average population of a village in the central area is about 990 persons, but the distribution is highly skewed. About two-thirds of the villages are of less than average size.
Since independence many houses have been built outside the former rampart, and farmers have begun building houses directly in their fields, particularly at well sites. Many small new hamlets have also been established. The changes in settlement patterns reflect increased geographical mobility and regional integration. In India's Punjab all villages have been electrified and connected by paved roads. Almost all now have some kind of private motorized transport vans, motor rickshaws, or minibuses. Pakistani Punjab has a similar density of infrastructure in the central canal colonies, but it also has many areas that lack both electricity and paved roads.