The horse-drawn cart, or 'tonga', is the traditional mode of transportation in Kashmir and still predominates the roadways in the town of Hajin, in the Bandiporadistrict of North Kashmir, despite the rapid global growth of the automotive industry.
Numerous households rely on the two-wheeled, horse-drawn conveyance that is present in every area of Hajin town to transport people to their destinations as a means of subsistence.
Students and government workers in Hajin choose to take a tonga trip early in the morning despite the availability of more contemporary modes of transportation like Tata Sumos, not merely for practical reasons but also because it is fun.
Speaking to Rising Kashmir, Mudasir Ahmad, a student who commutes daily in Tonga for school, described how the sounds of the cart, the tangewala's posturing, the use of a small whip, and the sounds exchanged between the horse and tangewala, along with the ambient sounds of the morning breeze, all combine to create a vast and mesmerising experience that leaves one feeling rejuvenated for the day ahead.
The horse cart operators in the town may be seen looking for passengers n the early morning hours. However, they worry about the profession's eventual collapse as those who are involved in it look for alternate employment opportunities .
Owner of a house-cart in Hajin, Mohd SubhanParrey, told Rising Kashmir that he has been involved with the business for many years and that while he used to make a significant profit, his current earnings are extremely low.
"While modern modes of transportation have surpassed the traditional ferrying of passengers, people like me still pursue this profession despite a decrease in demand", he added.
Despite fears about Tonga culture extinction, many Kashmiris think that no contemporary method of transportation can replace the Tonga trip.
Mohd Ayoub, a government official who has been taking tonga rides for years, told Rising Kashmir that the experience not only showcases the valley's undulating beauty but also provides a pleasant, relaxing and soothing air in the early morning hours.