Mysore:Tourists across the nation and overseas will arrive in the palace city to witness the grandeur of Dasara Utsav. It has been a practice to educate the tourists on the cultural splendor of motherland during the princely rulers.
Those tourists who arrive here can identify several significant aspects that convey the glorious past of royalty. One among them is the tongas – horse driven cart. It is a delight to hop on a tonga and enjoy the horse ride in the city and nearby the palace. Tourists across the nation and world, look forward to such rides and add this in their itinerary.
This years dasara tourism Committee(DTC) has arranged only seven tongas that are majestically decorated to convey the rich cultural hierarchy of Mysore dynasty. Moreover, last year 35 tongas were arranged, while this year only seven tongas are organised causing displeasure among the tongawalas. Meanwhile,tongawalas are not worried over the issue, owing to the busy preparations for Dasara Utsav.
Earlier, tonga was a primary means of transport in the absence of automobiles in Mysore, to take the tourists for sight seeing around the palace. Meanwhile, the times have changed; modernity has set in owing to technological inventions that changed the world almost every passing day.The craze for new cars is rapidly grabbing interst in the society, where people lacks interest in tongas to take ride in this traditional mode of travelling. Majority of tourists who are from distant lands arrive here in their own vehicles that have the implications on the people travelling in tongas over the years. Tongawalas who are idling rest of the year turn enthusiastic during Dasara Utsav as they earn more during this season forgoing leisure and break.
If you turn back the pages of history, there lies substantial information on tongas. Erstwhile in Mysore when there were no automobiles, bullock-cart was the key means of transport, while tongas were introduced by the royal family, estimately in year 1897. Those days travelling in tonga was a status symbol. Meanwhile, municipality took over the administration of tongas. Besides, people who hire tonga to distant villages had to pay the hire charges in advance before beginning their journey. There were over 600 tongas at that time in Mysore town. Tongas were plying to Kollegala, Chamarajanagar, Nanjanagod, K R Nagar and were quite popular. Tongas in Mumbai were popular as Victoria and Shah Pasant introduced by Mysore royals. These tongas were fitted with lamps. Tongas used to get face lift during Dasara Utsav and the handler used to shine in distinct Mysore attire during the grand procession.
As the roads are cluttered with vehicles, the splendor of tongas began to lose its sheen. Owing to this,number of people travelling in tongas have been declined and more number of people preferring to travel in their own vehicles.
Being a tongawala is not a piece of cake, sometimes the sweat of whole day is results to empty pockets. A few tongawalas who are struggling for their livelihood have found other means of work such as auto rickshaw drivers, in order to sustain their families. Resulting to this change, the number of tongas on city roads have been reduced significantly. Once, 600 odd tongas were plying in the city are dwindled to less than a number of 100 and likely to reduce in the coming years.
Tongawalas face several difficulties and it is a known fact that it is impossible to sustain living by keeping up with their age-old profession. Tongawalas are following their profession since generations, despite the struggle for survival. No doubt, it is because of these committed and valued tongawalas, today tongas are running in palace town. Currently, situation demands that state government should support these dwindling tongawalas for their sustenance.