A kambala (Tulu & Kannada: ಕಂಬಳ) is an annual buffalo race held in the southwestern Indian state of Karnataka. Traditionally, it is sponsored by local Tuluva landlords and households in the coastal districts of Dakshina Kannada and Udupi, a region collectively known as Tulu Nadu.
The kambla season generally starts in November and lasts until March. The kambalas are organized through kambala samithis (Kambala Associations), of which there are currently 18. Over 45 races are held annually in coastal Karnataka, including smaller remote villages such as Vandaru and Gulvadi.
Traditional kambala was non-competitive, and the pair was run one by one. In modern kambala, the contest generally takes place between two pair of buffaloes. In villages such as Vandaro and Choradi, there is also a ritualistic aspect, as farmers race their buffaloes to give thanks for protecting them from diseases.
Historically, the winning pair of buffaloes was rewarded with coconuts and bananas. Today, winning owners earn gold and silver coins. Some organising committees award an eight-gram gold coin as first prize. In some competitions, cash prizes are awarded.
Kambala has become an organised rural sport, with elaborate planning and scheduling to accommodate competietions at different places. A "Kambala Committee" arranges races in several categories describing the outfitting of the buffaloes. Typical categories are:
- Negilu (ನೇಗಿಲು: plough), in which the buffaloes are tied to an apparatus resembling a plough, but lighter.
- Hagga (ಹಗ್ಗ: rope), in which a rope is tied directly to the buffaloes.
- Adda halage (ಅಡ್ಡ ಹಲಗೆ: cross wooden block), where the driver stands on a plank on top of the buffaloes.
- Kane halage (ಕಣೆ ಹಲಗೆ: round wooden block), where the driver places one leg on the wooden block.
Categories may have junior and senior divisions.
Kambala draws large rural crowds, as it has done for the last three hundred years. People bet on the buffaloes, and one can witness more than 20,000 spectators in a well-organised Kambala, egging on and cheering the buffaloes to complete the race.
In some places, night races are arranged under floodlights.
The buffaloes developed for the race are carefully fed and some owners have even built separate swimming pools for competing buffaloes.
Kadri Kambala used to be held at Kadri, Mangalore and it is called Devara Kambala (God's kambala) as it is associated with Sri Manjunatha Temple in that city. This event was patronised by the Alupa kings of Mangalore, 300 years ago. For this reason, Kadri kambala is also known as Arasu kambala (king's kambala).
Animal lovers have criticised kambala as cruel to the racing buffaloes, which are driven by whips. Noted animal-rights activist Mrs. Maneka Gandhi expressed concerns about the ill treatment of buffaloes during the race. Kambala organisers contend that whips are necessary to elicit maximum speed. Government officials advise the riders to be gentle on buffaloes and avoid using whips during the race.
In 2014, based on lawsuits filed by animal welfare organizations, the Supreme Court of India ordered a ban on kambala. The ban also covered jallikattu, a sport of hands-on bull taming. A government order lifted the ban on jallikattu in January 2017, and the public asked for the ban on kambala to be lifted too.
The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Karnataka Amendment) Ordinance, 2017 re-legalized the kambala festival in Karnataka. President Pranab Mukherjee promulgated the new law on July 3, 2017. Litigation continued but was resolved by the passage of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Karnataka Amendment) Bill, 2018, which President Ram Nath Kovind approved on February 19, 2018.
|Town/Village||Taluk||Date of Kambala||Appx. pairs||Image||Remarks|
|Kadri||Mangalore||December||Competitive race:Much famed|
|Vandaru||Kundapura||December||300||Non competitive race|
|Choradi||Kundapura||December||150||Non competitive rural sport|
|Gulvadi||Kundapura||December||200||Non competitive rural sport|
|Baradi beedu||Karkala||December||Competitive race|
|Miyar||Karkala||January||Lava Kusha Jodukere Kambala.|
|Katapadi beedu||Udupi||January||competitive race|
|Aikala Bava||Mangalore||February||competitive race|
|Adve, Nandikur||Udupi||January||competitive race|
|Mulki seeme||Mangalore||December||competitive race|
Manday Horvara Mane Kambala December
- Chaudhari, edited by Sarit K. Chaudhari, Sucheta Sen (2005). Primitive tribes in contemporary India : concept, ethnography and demography. New Delhi: Mittal Publications. p. 120. ISBN 9788183240260.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
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