“Toll for Cycles, Horses and Bulls 1 Rupee and 8 Anna; Pigs & Asses 5 Annas” reads an 83 year old board at the foothills of Mussorie. Thousands of people pass by it every year, as they trek to Mussorie from Dehra Dun but few pause to read it and still fewer realize its historical significance.
The Toll Barrier at the start of the Bridle Path
Put up by the Mussorie Municipality, in January 1929, this board is one of the four historical boards at the start of the Bridle Path which goes from Shanshai Ashram, Rajpur, Dehra Dun to Jharipani, in Mussorie. It informs people going towards Mussorie that the Municipality has decided to impose a tax on everyone passing through and lays down different rates for people walking or going in bullock carts, hand held carriages (‘dolis’), horse driven carriages and even for those taking livestock. Travelers were also advised to preserve the counterfoils as they would be checked once they reach Jharipani.
Devki Nandan Pandey, a noted Doon historian, informs “This bridle path was the only access route to the hills since ancient times and all supplies to the villages in the mountains, including Pauri, used to pass through Rajpur, which was a rich flourishing town in those days with numerous hotels, offices of rich businessmen and traders and the British Government.” The construction of the ‘motor road’ to Mussorie started only in 1926 and it was completed in 1930. “In 1929 the Municipality in Mussorie decided to collect toll tax along both the roads. The motor road to Mussorie was completed in three stages, but people still preferred the bridle path as it was shorter and not many people could afford the charges of the single bus which operated along the route. And only the extremely rich owned a motor car in those days” says Pandey.
The Toll Barrier Boards
“Put up in 1929, these boards are a mute reminder of our history” says Dhruv Mehta, a fourth generation resident of Doon. “They are in their original condition and location and have never even been repainted. These 100 year old boards still gleam as if new, thought because of absolutely no maintenance, the iron has finally started yielding to nature. Very soon we will loose them and a valuable piece of history will be lost. It will be such a shame” he rues.
Even as world over, societies works overtime to preserve their heritage, neither the Mussorie Municipality nor the Uttarakhand Government seem to care. Says 65 year old Uday Singh Bhandari, a retired Municipality employee, who since 1974 is living in what used to be the Toll Office, next to these boards “These boards are priceless. In any other country, they would have been preserved in a closed weatherproof enclosure and showcased. Tourists would love it and this could be a major tourist attraction of Doon. But unfortunately, no one cares. I’ve met the Municipal Officers so many times, pleaded with the local MLA to save this piece of Doon’s history, but to no effect. Slowely, but surely they are disintegrating before every one’s eyes”.
Priceless as they are, preserving them would hardly cost a few thousand rupees, yet it appears odd that no one bothers. It is hard to believe that a State Government which spends lakhs of rupees on celebrating Uttarakhand Day, cannot afford a miniscule amount to save Uttarakhand’s history. It is also surprising that Mussorie which thrives on tourism has no money to save a priceless tourist attraction. Will someone wake up before history becomes “history”?
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