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Famed Kambala Race of Kadri, Mangalore.
A Kambala Race at Pilikula Nisargadhama.

Kambala 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 of Karnataka and Kasaragod of Kerala, a region collectively known as Tulu Nadu.

The Kambala 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.

Kambala, race at Vandaru village, Udupi district, India


Kambla as derived from 'kampa-kala ' the word 'Kampa' is related slushy, muddy field. The Dravidian origin of the word Kampa by is kan+pa. And word 'kala' means field, where it happens. In other interpretations of modern Kambala is that 'Kamba', nishane a pole used for water spurt during race by buffalo pairs.[1]


Puttur Koti - Chennaya Kambula

Kambala is a sport.[2] The Kambala racetrack is a slushy paddy field,[3] and the buffaloes are driven by a whip-lashing farmer.[4]

Traditional Kambala was non-competitive, and the pair was run one by one. In modern Kambala, the contest generally takes place between two pairs 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.[5] Some organising committees award an eight-gram gold coin as first prize.[6] In some competitions, cash prizes are awarded.

Decoration of Buffalo[edit]

The buffaloes are decorated with coloured jhūls and m head-pieces of brass and silver (sometimes bearing the emblems of the sun and moon), and ropes which make a sort of bridle. The special towel used to cover the buffalo's back is called the paavade (Tulu:ಪಾವಡೆ).

Types of Kambalas[edit]

Traditionally, there were types of Kambalas

  1. Pookere Kambala
  2. Baare Kambla
  3. Kori Kambala
  4. Arasu Kambla
  5. Devere Kambla[7]
  6. Baale Kambala

Kori Kambla[edit]

Kori Kambla is a distinct agriculture-based celebration in Tulunadu. This refers to a kind of collective ploughing and planting on a fixed day for the enelu (Tulu: ಏಣೆಲ್) cultivation. A general race of buffaloes is known as kori (kandoe korune)[1] Kambala.

Bale Kambla[edit]

The celebration of Bale Kambala was discontinued about 900 years ago. Bale means baby, looks like small kambala, the small formers prepares their field for paddy cultivation.

Natha Pantha[edit]

The kambla influenced by Natha pantha,[8] in earlier days, the Kambla starts previous day evening with tradition dance of Koraga communities mostly by men. They performing full night with following all Panchamakara madya (Alcohol), māṃsa (Meat), matsya (Fish), mudrā (Gesture), maithuna (Sexual). The Koragas were sit up through the night before the Kambla day, performing a ceremony called panikkuluni, the meaning of word sitting under the dew. They sing songs to the accompaniment of their special kind of band dudi, about their special spirit daiva Nīcha, and offer toddy and a rice-pudding boiled in a large earthen pot, which is broken so that the pudding remains as a solid mass. This pudding is called kandēl addyē, or pot pudding.[9]


Kambala has become an organised rural sport, with elaborate planning and scheduling to accommodate competitions at different places.[10] A "Kambala Committee" arranges races in several categories describing the outfitting of the buffaloes. Typical categories are:

  • Nāyer(ನಾಯೆರ್): The runner have hold kind of special plough, it is not an actual plough which is heavy and bulky made by wood or iron, it is just a representation that is tied to a pair of buffalo. This type is mostly for the junior buffaloes or entry-level buffaloes. In the competition there are junior and senior rounds in this race.
  • Bal (ಹಗ್ಗ: rope), A rope is directly tied to the buffalo pair. And this is for senior buffaloes as the speed is greater here and the participating buffaloes are well experienced. Runner running aside of buffalo holding knots in the rope. This has junior and senior levels.
  • Aḍḍa palāyi (ಅಡ್ಡ ಪಲಾಯಿ: cross wooden block),A cross wooden plank is tied to the pair and the runner stands on it while racing. The wooden plank horizontally placed to muddy water, the runner stands on the plank. This is just for the senior category.[11]
  • Kaṇe palāyi (ಕಣೆ ಪಲಾಯಿ: round wooden block), a special made round wooden block where the runner stands on it on his single leg. There will special techniques with two holes in the block of wooden, which act like orifice, out of which the water forces out while running. The height of the water forcing out is measured to choose the winner. The more the speed is more the water height is. It would be 6 kolu or 7 Kolu there will a horizontal white cotton flag is installed so the general people judge the winner by eyewitness. Commonly it is called Nishaneg Neer Padune and this is only for senior most category.[12]

Kambala draws large rural crowds, as it has done for the last three hundred years.[13] 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.[6]

The buffaloes developed for the race are carefully fed and some owners have even built separate swimming pools for competing buffaloes.[14]

Kadri Kambala[edit]

Kadri Kambala used to be held at Kadri, Mangalore and it is called Dēvere Kambla (God's Kambala) as it is associated with Sri Manjunatha Temple in that city.[10] 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).[10]

Legal status[edit]

Many have criticised Kambala as cruel to the racing buffaloes, which are driven by whips.[15] Noted animal-rights activist Maneka Gandhi expressed concerns about the ill treatment of buffaloes during the race. While Kambala organizers 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.[15]

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.[16]

The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Karnataka Amendment) Ordinance, 2017[17] re-legalized the Kambala festival in Karnataka.[18] President Pranab Mukherjee promulgated the new law on 3 July 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 19 February 2018.[19]

However, it was found that the buffaloes were still being whipped in after the relegalization.[20]


Town/Village Taluk Date of Kambala Appx. pairs Image Remarks
Kadri Mangalore December Famed Kambala Race of Kadri, Mangalore Competitive race / Much famed
Vandaru Kundapura December 300 Kambala, he-buffaloe race at Vandaru village, Udupi dist.,India Non competitive race
Pilikula[5] Mangalore December/January 150[21] A Kambala Race at Pilikula Nisargadhama Competitive race
Choradi Kundapura December 150 Non competitive rural sport
Gulvadi Kundapura December 200 Non competitive rural sport
Baradi beedu Karkala December Competitive race
Venur Permuda Belthangadi December
Moodabidri Mangalore December Competitive race
Miyar Karkala January Lava Kusa Jodukere Kambala.
Katapadi beedu Udupi January Competitive race
Aikala Bava Mangalore February Competitive race
Adve, Nandikur Udupi January Competitive race
Pajir Bantwala February
Yeedu Karkala February
Puttur Puttur March
Jappina Mogaru[6] Mangalore March[6] 150[6]
Uppinangadi Puttur March
Bangadi Kolli Belthangadi March
Thalapady Panjala Mangalore March/April
Althar Udupi March/April
Parika Aramane Udupi November/December
Hokkadi goli Bantwala December
Handadi Udupi December
Vaddambettu[22] Udupi December[22]
Ajri[23] Udupi December
Mulki seeme Mangalore December Competitive race

See also[edit]


  1. ^ TuLunadina ShasanagaLa Sanskritika Adhyayana. By Shaila T. Verma (2002) Jnanodaya Prakashana,Bangalore, p.304.
  2. ^ 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. {{cite book}}: |first= has generic name (help)
  3. ^ "Kadri comes alive with 'Kambala', fair". The Hindu. 13 December 2010. Archived from the original on 19 December 2010. Retrieved 7 December 2012.
  4. ^ Herzberg, Esther Grisham,Christine Ronan,editor-Roberta Dempsey (1997). South India (sb ed.). Glenview, IL: Good Year Books. p. 5. ISBN 9780673363596. {{cite book}}: |first= has generic name (help)
  5. ^ a b "Kambala". The Hindu. 26 December 2011. Retrieved 7 December 2012.
  6. ^ a b c d e "Day and night kambala in Jeppinamogaru on March 19". The Hindu. 16 March 2011. Retrieved 7 December 2012.
  7. ^ https://Kambala:A sport and a tradition, 7 February 2017, Deccan Herald/content/595115/kambala-sport-tradition.html
  8. ^ Tuluvara mooltāna Adi Alade Paramrapare mattu Parivartane by Dr. Indira Hegde, [Navakaranataka,Bangalore,2012,p.278]
  9. ^ Karavali Janapada 1990, Mangalagangothri by Dr. Purushothama Bilimale, p.36
  10. ^ a b c "All set for Kambala season from tomorrow". The Hindu. 5 December 2009. Retrieved 23 February 2018.
  11. ^ KAMBALA: THE RACE OF THE BUFFALOES, http://www.dineshmaneer.com/kambala-the-race-of-the-buffaloes/
  12. ^ Dinesh Maneer (7 April 2011). "Kambala, the race of the buffaloes". Wordpress. Retrieved 23 February 2018.
  13. ^ "Kadri Kambala witnesses confluence of Tulu culture". Deccan Herald. 2 December 2012. Retrieved 7 December 2012.
  14. ^ "Chill-out zone for buffaloes". The Hindu. 18 September 2012. Retrieved 7 December 2012.
  15. ^ a b "Pilikula Nisargadhama plays host to Kambala". The Hindu. 10 January 2012. Retrieved 7 December 2012.
  16. ^ "Jallikattu Back, Why Not Kambala, Asks Karnataka. Protests Begin". NDTV.com.
  17. ^ Ravi, Anusha (3 July 2017). "Kambala is now legal in Karnataka, President promulgates ordinance". Oneindia.
  18. ^ Kumar, Ganesh; Udayakumar, Radha (3 July 2017). "President Mukherjee approves ordinance allowing the conduct of kambala in Karnataka". India Today.
  19. ^ K.T. Vinobha (19 February 2018). "President approves Bill allowing Kambala in Karnataka". The Times of India.
  20. ^ Chethan Misquith (3 December 2017). "Buffaloes whipped again enough evidence against Kambala: PETA | Mangaluru News - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 25 October 2021.
  21. ^ "Grandeur marks Pilikula Kambala". The Hindu. 22 December 2008. Archived from the original on 25 January 2013. Retrieved 7 December 2012.
  22. ^ a b "Federation says Koraga people made to beat drums during kambala". 15 December 2011. Retrieved 7 December 2012.
  23. ^ "Ajri Kambala". Kundaprabha (weekly). 4 December 2012. Retrieved 7 December 2012.

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