Horse Travel Bucket List: Glowing Carriage Ride in India

I love that this exists, and in the words of Liz Lemon, “I want to go to there.”
A horse and glowing carriage Stopped near the Air India ad at Marine Drive in Mumbai. Photo by Suraj P. Singh on Flickr.

A horse and glowing carriage stopped near the Air India ad at Marine Drive in Mumbai. Photo by Suraj P. Singh on Flickr.

In the west central state of Maharashtra, India, some very creative entrepreneurs have come up with the next big thing in urban/neon/equine transportation. In what looks like a cross between your favorite night club and a royal British procession, horses pull large glowing carriages through the busy streets.

Most of the carriages are what is known as a Victoria (locals also refer to them as Bagghis), an elegant phaeton popularized in the 1870s, but which stayed in production into the early-to-mid 20th Century. (We assume they did not glow in the dark in 1870.)

There are various iterations, with early imports and remodels made from a carved and painted wood, and Indian-manufactured styles being made in an elaborately hand-stamped and painted tin. The carriages have been a longtime element of the busy downtown Mumbai experience, but only in the past 20 years did the already-flashy silver and white reflective carriages get the electric upgrade. In an already powerful sensory experience, one can only imagine the stimulation overload of such a thing.

Or, get a moderately good grasp for it at a desk or in the palm of your hand, because YouTube is a magical and beautiful thing.

Concerns about humane treatment and conditions arose in 2011 with PETA calling for a complete ban on horse-drawn carriages in India, a call which was ultimately rejected. However, new restrictions, licensing, and certificates of fitness and health were required for all working animals, and conditions reportedly have improved significantly.

If you do get the chance to visit India and cross this spectacle off your bucket list, tour guides recommend having a map handy to go over with your bagghi driver of exactly what route you want and what the price will be, as prices are negotiated on a case by case basis up front with the drivers. The Oval Maidan and Marine Drive in Mumbai are among the most common and scenic routes for a ride.

Chances are good that your cart will be pulled by one of the exotic and native-bred Marwari or Kathiawari horses, or possibly a cross of one of these with an ancestral Polo Pony, English Thoroughbred or Arabian, as these have all been imported and bred extensively over the past century throughout India. You will know the Marwari and Kathiawari horses and crosses by their distinctive curled ears. While the native Indian breeds are quite rare and still making their population comebacks, they are a known Indian attraction, and have therefore found their way into the iconic tourist experience.

Go Carriage Riding! (And if you do, send Horse Nation the video!)



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