In a primary dense moist evergreen forest of southern India, spatial patterns of trees ≥30 cm gbh were investigated from three contrasting 0.4-ha plots that differed in topography and amount of disturbance due to treefall. Exploratory data analysis is based on second-order neighbourhood and pair-correlation statistics used to describe the degree of clustering/regularity in patterns of all trees, and the degree of attraction/repulsion between young trees and adults. Stochastic simulations from the Markov point process models are then used to fit spatial interaction models. The results show that spatial patterns can be related to particular dynamic processes which depend on both exogenous and endogenous factors: on steep slopes disturbed by many treefalls, spatial pattern displays large clusters which can be interpreted as within-gap regeneration stages of various ages, while in areas undisturbed over a long period, interactions between young trees and adults give rise to spatial patterns consistent with substitution dynamic processes implying standing mortality rather than treefalls. Characterizing forest dynamics through spatial patterns of trees opens up the possibility of mapping structural units that might be considered as elementary functional patches of the forest mosaic.