Kambala - the buffalo race

When the fields are fush with water there is one sight not to be missed, the kambala or the buffalo race that is unique to Dakshina Kannada. This is a unique sport of this region.

The historically famous Kadri Kambala race is held annually at Kadri Kambalaguthu. Historians date the roots of this race back to more than a thousand years. At that time Kambala was the event when farmers paid tribute to their gods for protecting their crops. There used to be lot of celebration and games as part of this festive atmosphere. Some say Kambala also marked the beginning of sowing operations for the second round of crops. Traditionally, there were two types of kambalas, Pookere Kambala and Bale Kambala. Bale Kambala was discontinued some 900 years ago.

Kadri kambala

The Mangalore Kambala, popularly known as the Mangalore Hobali Kambala, is an annual feature at the Kadri Kambala fields here. Run in a paddy field by pairs of buffaloes, egged on by a strong-musled ryot in an atmosphere so taut that it can be slashed by a knife, the kambala event is closest to horse race. According to people associated with the sport, it flourished under the royal patronage of kings and famous households in Mangalore. In the olden days, the buffaloes were brought in procession to the accompaniment of `dolanalike' (drum dance).

Below is a popular quote on the race.

"Hold your breath. Silence rules the air as thousands watch in stunned anticipation! The man is crouching behind the buffaloes on a slive of wood attached to the animals. Not a muscle moves. Only the wind is playing on his lock of hair. For him the race is all that matters. Suddenly the scene explodes, the man springs up, his hand cocked, his whip held high and the huge animals lunge forward, bellowing, their hooves churning the muddy waters and sending their wet spray in the hot air, their eyes wide, wild and white - man and beast engaged in one spurt of activity and one aim - victory."

According to Times of India, there are more than 45 Kambalas held annually, starting from November to March in the distrct. Nearly 18 are held under a Kambala Samithi and the rest are held under the suspices of temples and with political patronage. The increased interest in Kambala has given rise to a similar sport known as `kare'. The difference is that the traditional Kambalas are not held on Amavasya and Sankramana days. A recent addition has been tug-of-war for men and women in the slushy paddy fields.

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