Mysore: The tourists from all over the nation and overseas 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’s a delight to hop on a tonga and enjoy the horse ride in the city and nearby the palace. The tourists from across the nation and overseas look forward such rides and add this in their itinerary.
The Dasara tourism Committee in this year recognized only 7 tongas that are majestically decorated to convey the rich cultural hierarchy of Mysore dynasty. It was during the last year, 35 tongas were recognized, while this only 7 tongas are recognized causing displeasure among the tongawalas. The tongawalas not worried over the issue, busied themselves in preparing for Dasara Utsav. The tongas especially decorated are waiting for tourists in the heart of city.
If you go to see, once upon a time, tonga was only a means of transport in Mysore town to take the tourists for sight seeing around palace and also bring them from distance places. It was primary means of transport in the absence of automobiles in those days. Meanwhile, the times have changed; modernity has set in owing to technological inventions that change the world almost every passing day. The car manufacturers of different brands bring all new models every half year or so. The craze for new cars is fast catching up with the people and the number of people travelling in tongas are declining steadily. The majority of tourists from distant lands arrive here in their own automobiles that have the implications on the people travelling in tongas over the years. The tongawalas who are idling rest of the year turn enthusiastic during Dasara Utsav. They earn more during this season forgoing leisure and break.
If you turn back the pages of history, there lies substantial information on tongas. In the erstwhile Mysore when there weres no automobiles, bullock-cart was the key means of transport, while tongas were introduced by the royals believed to be in 1897. The gongas were popular in those days, while it was a status symbol to travel in tonga. Meanwhile, the municipality took over the administration of tongas. The 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. The tongas were plying to Kollegala, Chamarajanagar, Nanjanagod, K R Nagar and were quite popular. The 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 automobiles, the splendor of tongas began to lose its sheen. More number of people preferred to travel in their own automobiles and the number of people travelling in tongas declined. A tongawala faced the situation to return home empty hands, even waiting at the parking stand for the whole day. A few tongawalas who feared for their livelihood found other means including to work as auto rickshaw drivers in order to sustain their families. It’s due to this drastic change, the numbers of tongas on city road reduced significantly. Six-hundred odd tongas that were plying in city once are dwindled to less than one hundred and likely to reduce in the coming years.
The tongawalas face numerous of difficulties and it’s a known fact that it’s impossible to sustain living by keeping up with their age-old profession. The tongawalas are following their profession since generations together despite the struggle for survival. No doubt, it’s because of these committed and valued tongawlas the tongas are running in palace town. The situation demands the state government helps the dwindling tongawalas for their sustenance.