Monday, September 9, 2019

Disappearing Tongas of Lahore - Once The Poor's Rolls Royce

The horse driven carriages have ruled the world for since time immemorial. Once these elegant carriages were the prestigious means of transportation for the rich and famous. By and by, these start to vanish from usual city roads as dirt roads disappeared and metaled roads came to accommodate cars and other means of transportation.

However, these continued to be a major to subsidiary means of transportation in our part of the world for a considerable period of times. And were used in cities as late as 70 and 80s. I remember, we had a stable called "Astabal" near in our house in Lahore and tonga stand nearby where one could hire a tonga for any destination in the city. Occasionally, the licensing teams would come and new tonga licenses were issued after giving many tests to the horses to ascertain their roadworthy strength, the same we now licensing authorities give roadworthy certificates to vehicles. 

Photo taken by me while travelling in a train

Abdullah, one of the kochwans (tonga driver) was our favourite for he had decorated his carriage very elegantly with brass couplings and plates polished everyday and a pedestal mounted bell horn. We loved riding his tonga and he would occasionally allow us to press the bell horn, a feel I still remember.

In Lahore, the single horse drawn carriage was known as Tonga or "Tanga" (in local language), similar to the one in above photograph. In Karachi, these were called Victoria for these resembled the carriages of England and the design came to this part of the world when the British came to the Indian subcontinent.
Lahori Tonga - Photographer Unknown
The tongas in Lahore were of two types: the straight carriage tongas, which were the usual sights, and the Lahore Tonga. The latter was unique design but very uncomfortable to ride. I wonder who designee it and why.

As of now these tongas are no more to be seen in the cities, but are still being used in the villages a cheap and affordable means of communication. I shot the above photo from the moving train a while ago when passing through a village.The state of the tonga speak of the poorness of its owner and the people who travel in these. But for them, it is still their Rolls Royce.

If you ever want to ride a in Lahore, do visit old Lahore, specially the Bhaatti Gate where local tour operators have these tongas specially prepared for tourists and you can have a ride of the old Lahore and be fascinated with the glory and awe of the narrow alleys overlooked with tall buildups, though now in much dilapidated condition. When the tip top of hooves of the horse of the tonga resounds among the rather closed environment of the walled city, it leaves reverberating memories of the once glory of the old Lahore where princes and wazirs once rode on their royal carriages.
Tourists from Abroad enjoying Tonga Ride in Old Lahore [Photo
One may also have a tour of famous old Anarkali Bazaar, now turned into a food street near the Tollington Market on the Mall Road. Here one can also have a hearty dinner in pure Lahore style with heavily oiled dishes which leave the diners licking their fingers even when the dishes have been wiped empty.

Watch this video below, though not in English, but it gives the viewers a good view of riding a tonga and walking through extremely compressed alleys of old Lahore:
So when in Lahore, look for tonga tours especially when you are in the vicinity of Old Lahore and Old Anarkali Bazaar. Believe me memories of tonga rides would stay in your memory chips for a long time. And do not miss to disembark at some eatery serving pure desi Lahori foods and lassi. If you are a early riser, then head for Old Lahore for breakfast of Halwa and Puri. This is something that very special to Lahore.

Photo[Header]: Source Unknown
References | Top 5 favourite breakfasts of PakistanThe Lahore Fort Road Food StreetEateries of Qaddafi Stadium, LahoreLakshmi Chowk - The Heart of Lahore | Nostalgic eateries of Lahore |

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