Mysore/Mysuru: With Dasara fast approaching, Tongawallahs of the city are expecting that the Government will extend some benefits to them, which chiefly include distribution of special dress and payment of honorarium.
Tongawallahs are unhappy that the District Administration has forgotten to give them a treat during Dasara, as was the practice until three years ago.
Upset over the alleged apathy of the District Administration towards them, Mysuru’s Shah Pasand Tonga Association has planned to submit a memorandum to the authorities on Monday seeking Government support during Dasara.
According to Tongawallahs, the authorities used to allow Tongas inside the Palace premises on Dasara inauguration day, the day on which the Palace is gloriously illuminated. They also pointed out that the Tongas were painted afresh and the authorities used to distribute special dresses for Dasara and paid an honorarium to them. But this practice was abruptly stopped three years ago, they said.
Noting that there were more than 200 Tongas in the city not far ago, they said that this number is fast dwindling and now has come down to less than 120. Out of these, 50 are Sarots (Chariots), while the rest are ‘Shah Pasand’ Tongas. Though there are Tonga Stands at Agrahara, near Kukkarahalli Lake, RMC Yard on Sayyaji Rao Road and near Suburban Bus Stand, they are lacking in facilities.
Ahead of Dasara, Tongawallahs get their tongas (horse-driven carts) repaired, painted afresh and specially decorated out of their own pocket. Now they are seeking Government financial support during Dasara to draw more tourists towards them.
With tourists, both domestic and international, being their main sources of income, they believe that Dasara will bring a windfall to them. But at the same time, they are disappointed that the Government has ignored them.
Shah Pasand Tonga Association President Fayaz Ahmed told Star of Mysore that it is a matter of delight that the Government has decided to celebrate Dasara in a grand manner this year. But at the same time, the Government should also look at the plight of Tongawallahs, who are earning a meagre income and as such awaiting Government support at least during Dasara.
Pointing out that Mysuru Tonga rides have earned name and fame not only domestically, but also globally, with many foreigners enjoying the rides, especially during Dasara, he said that though the people of Mysuru and various organisations have been supportive of Tongawallahs, the Government seems to have forgotten them.
Recalling that all Tongawallahs of the city were asked to assemble at Kalamandira during Dasara when H.D. Kumaraswamy was the Chief Minister a few years ago, Fayaz Ahmed said that they were then given two sets of special uniforms, a peta and an honorarium. But since then, the Government seems to have completely forgotten them, he regretted wondering what the Government would do for them this year with grand Dasara celebrations.
Ola, Uber, KSTDC, and Trin Trin can help Tonga and Sarot owners by adding tonga and sarot rides to their Apps and website so that Tourists can have a choice to book this sustainable mode of transport. Also, KSTDC should create a Tonga City Ride Package so that tourists can visit all the tourist spots inside the city on a tonga. Also Destination Guides like Gully. Tours should add “Mysuru On A Tonga” Tour to their various on-the-ground tours.
“sustainable mode of transport”? Nice words amidst the car-loving polluted city!
Those Tonga horses look skinny and malnourished, and if this is a city in a Western country, Tongawallahs would be prosecuted for animal cruelty.
During 1950s, Tongas were the main mode of transport to ferry passengers alighting from Mysore Railway station to their destinations. Tongawallahs held those passengers at ransom, demanding exorbitant fares. They could sense a passenger as a stranger to the city, and once, I witnessed a Tongawallahs demanding 10 Rupees-a large sum those days to take a passenger to the KR Hospital, to visit his relative., arguing that the hospitals was several miles away-where as the Hospital was, still is, just a walking distance of 20 minutes!
A police inspector neighbour of mine, used to say that his case book is full of complaints about these Tongawallah’s threatening behaviour after depositing the passenger to the destination and demanding more money above to what they agreed.
Thse Tongawallahs were Muslims with several wives-it appears they are still Muslims. Sitting not from the passengers, they smelled bad, indicative of lack of personal hygiene. Once, a simple health check of Tongawallahs in 1959 showed many of them suffering from TB. Unlike The Tongawallahs sit in front of the passenger- with no o shielding and these days of Covid pandemic, the tourists are asking for trouble!
Dasara itself is a dated practice, with JC Wadiyar dead 50 years ago, and Mysore has to move on. Infact, I have heard my older generation of Mysoreans saying even in 1950s that JC Wadiyar was not a Royal any more, after Sirdar Patel abolished the royalty, and that it would have been better had this Dasra and Durbar disconitinued after the death of Nalwadi Wadiyar who many in those days considered as rhe real Maharaja.
Gowda Kumaraswamy, the dimwitted idiot as the CM-thanks to his father’s plea to the Italian barmaid Sonia Gandhi, made him the CM, in the disastrous coalition of Congress and JD (S), carried out many stupid acts, like this support of Tongawallahs during Dasara, a political stunt at its worse. It did not help tourists then , as they knowing these Tongawallahs reputation avoided them
We used to use these Tongas those days, and ended up with bed bugs, catching once paneumonia, when the Tongawallahs we used caoughed all the way to our home, communicating the virus-it was viral penumonia a very serious illness, which kept 2 of us in avery serious condition at the KR Hospital, the only one of 2 hospitals then.
These Tonga carts are rickety,, and shudder violently when the horse trots, making them unsafe.
Although the Tonga idea sounds great, in reality, best to discourage it, unless the cart strength is checked and certified, the horse is checked by veterinary doctor, and the Tongawallhs are health-checcked. Not going to happen in a third world country like India.