The Story Of A Taanga Owner & His Horse

The Old Lucknow story of a taanga owner and his horse is a symbol of a world of nostalgia, that some hold on to in a swiftly changing nation.

Jigyasa MishraJigyasa Mishra   18 Oct 2018 8:45 AM GMT

In the heart of the city's old, history-rich quarters, Juggan Khan gets ten-year-old Raju ready every day, feeding him and making him look handsome, and then he and his friend roam on the cobbled streets, working together to earn a living.

Juggan Khan is a taanga (horsecart) owner. Raju is his horse. Their friendship is a decade old.

"Raju is very dear to me. I bought him ten years ago when he was almost a baby. Since then, he has been an obedient and hard-working friend," sixty-seven-year-old Khan said as he sat on his taanga in front of the imposing, eighteenth-century Rumi Darwaza, once the entrance to old Lucknow City.

Khan has been riding the taanga -- a two-wheeled single-horse driven wooden-cart -- for the last 50 years.

The taanga is part of Lucknow's rich history since the times of the Nawabs. The trundling taanga turns back the wheel of time when the royal families would take rides on these chariots.

It was after 19th century, when taangas were quite popularly used in Lucknow. It was the only mode of transportation, then. After few years, during colonial times, taanga was shed-covered, to prevent passengers from sun and rain.

There used to be Ikka- the one or two-seater horse-cart, too. It was used for private rides. Today's taanga is the modified version of khad-khada. It can only be found near Imambada, now.

Khan lives in the Khadra area of Old Lucknow with his wife and four children. This is also where his father started riding the taanga.

He makes about Rs. 500 to Rs. 600 per day.

"I spend about a hundred rupees to feed Raju and the remaining is spent on my family. Prices of grocery and medicines are rising and its not that easy to make a living today," he said.

Khan's career has seen the days of the rise – and fall – of the taanga."There was a time when the taanga used to be the only mode of transportation in Lucknow," he said. "I believe those were beautiful days, when we would light lanterns to hang them on each side of the taanga for rides after sunset. But vehicles have paralysed the roads of the city now.

While Khan loves Raju, his favourite is someone else – the girl in his life whose mention lights up his eyes. "I can never forget Lakshmi. Lakshmi was so smart and intelligent that she could take me home from any corner of Lucknow just on a command of mine, without the whip. She was like a child to me," he said.

When he was young, Khan says he had the choice to take up any job he wanted. But his love for the taanga didn't let him let him do anything else for a living.

"We took pride in riding a taanga since we were very young, but today's younger generation feels it's something to be ashamed of," Khan says wistfully

His only hope: tourists.

"Tourists still prefer a taanga ride to visit local attractions. Whether foreign tourists or those from within India, the taanga seems a unique and rare ride to them," said Khan.

Khan's taanga has featured in the movies as well. "Many directors have shot with my taanga for their films. My taanga has also taken royal families on rides," he said.

Juggan is happy living the life he chose. "I am proud of my taanga," he says, beaming. "When I can still feed Raju and my family at the age of 67, what else do I need in life?"

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