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The Rickshaw in South Asia

The Rickshaw or Tuk Tuk is a popular form of transport in South Asia. Colourful & full of joy, it is a moving work of art used as a canvas to reflect local art & culture. Islamic art is also painted on Rickshaws In Pakistan, Bangladesh & Afghanistan.

Image credit: Beauty of Pakistan Twitter


Several theories surround the invention of the Rickshaw or Tuk Tuk. However, it is agreed it began as a 2-wheeled passenger cart, called a pulled rickshaw. This was generally pulled by one man with one or two passengers. The term was first used in 1887 in Japan.

Image credit: Raimund von Stillfried studio


'Jinrikisha', a Japanese term for Rickshaw, replaced palanquins as Japan's primary mode of transport - a couple of years after its invention. By the end of the century, the Rickshaw had reached Singapore, China, Hong Kong, South Africa & Pre Partition India.

Image credit The British Museum


In South Asia, from human-pulled Jinrikishas, the vehicle evolved into being driven by a bicycle and eventually by a motorbike.

Image credit Omair Zia


The first Rickshaw in South Asia is believed to be introduced in Shimla, India, around 1880 and in Kolkata in 1930. The vehicle was also introduced to the streets of present-day Bangladesh around the same time.

Image credit Glenn Losack M.D


Although the Rickshaw originated in Japan, Dhaka is known as the capital of rickshaws in the world. The cycle rickshaw is the most popular transport in Bangladesh. Around 40,000 rickshaws are moving across the streets of Dhaka every day.

Image credit Indusland Twitter


Most Rickshaws have a highly ornamental appearance. The design & patterns used in the rickshaws of South Asia provide an impression of local art and culture.

Image credit Laura Tantanzoni


Recognised as a cultural phenomenon in its own right, rickshaw art renders each vehicle unique. From the 1970s onwards, local culture, beliefs and aspirations were adorning rickshaws.

Image credit @lens_and_Pencil Instagram


The six-seater Qingqi Rickshaw and the three-seater covered Rickshaw, often known as the Rangeela Rickshaw (Colourful Rickshaw), are some of the most popular modes of transport in South Asia today.