Kashmir Indepth
Kashmir

Vanishing Tonga still survives in Sopore

Raouf Dar

Srinagar Sep 27 (KINS): With new modes of transportation taking over roads, the Tonga continues to hold its space in north Kashmir’s Sopore town.

The horse-driven two wheeled vehicle is seen in Sopore town ferrying both goods and passengers.

It has been a source of livelihood to many families.

“We have been riding these horse carts since generations. We used to earn handsomely but for the past over a decade, they have been steadily vanishing here,” said Mohammad Ali, who has been associated with riding horse carts for over three decades.

He claimed that it has become difficult for them to feed their family on the meager income.

“We do not earn more than 200 rupees a day. People associated with it have been switching to other professions due to advancement of the technology. But there are many like me who still continue this profession,” Ali told news agency KINS.

Usually, six passengers sit in one Tonga; however there are few, which could even accommodate eight.

The history of Tongas in Kashmir dates back to the 1930’s when the Maharajas used to travel in luxurious horse carts.

It is believed that these horse carts may vanish completely in the next few years even in Sopore, as Tonga Wallas do not earn much and people prefer other fast means of transport over these Tongas.

Recalling the times when Tongas were the only means of transport in Kashmir, Abdul Hameed, 60, said, “Horse carts were the main modes of transportation, both in towns and villages of Kashmir 15-years ago. They had been galloping through deserted and deteriorated roads.”

In the earlier days, horse carts were also used on marriage occasions to ferry the bride and groom. They were also being used for ferrying cow-dung and other products from one place to another.

Tanga Wallas believe that the main reason for its downfall was the advent of auto-rickshaws.

The new generations of Tonga Wallas feel a kind of insult to ride a Tonga. “Running a Tonga is like an insult these days as people are mediating otherness to us and our children don’t want to be looked at as Tonga Wallas like their fathers,” said Mohammad Iqbal.

The people associated with dealing in accessories related to Tongas have also switched to other professions. “There are only a few people who come to us to buy accessories, like horseshoes, saddles, wheels and their rubbers. It is not possible to feed even a small family on this business,” said Ghulam Ahmad, who has been associated with this business for decades. (KINS)

 

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