India is in the midst of a transformative urban awakening. The country’s 380 million urban population as of 2011 is projected to swell to over 600 million by 2030 and almost 900 million by 2050. These processes of urbanization and urban growth are embedded in and shape complex political, social, demographic, environmental and ethno-religious contexts; and while the developmental advantages to urban modes of living are clear, urbanization in India comes with its own set of challenges. This introduction outlines the current special issue, which collects six articles that reflect on three key themes in contemporary urban India: urban governance and planning; social, economic and political exclusion and the conflicts this may engender; and climate change in Indian cities. Here we briefly contextualise some of these issues, and reflect on some of the cross-cutting themes that individual articles in this issue address. Our hope is that this volume contributes to debates on the dynamics of governance, inclusiveness, security and prosperity in today’s urban India.