Kambala is an annually held buffalo race in the Tulunadu region of the State. The Coastal Districts, Dakshina Kannada and Udupi in State and Kasaragod of Kerala are the collective region of Tulunadu. Kambala is seen as a cultural exhibition and sport in these regions.
Kambala in the past was traditionally organised to celebrate the season of plowing. Kambala was then celebrated with joy and happiness before planting of seedlings and then the sport was a non-competitive race where a pair of buffaloes was run one after the another in the slush field.
Tuluvas had and still have a strong belief that the race pays tribute to Mother Nature/God for protecting the farmers from diseases.
In the past the winning pair was rewarded with coconuts and bananas. The evolution of the sport saw a change and now traditional rewards are replaced with Gold, Silver and Cash prizes.
The word Kambala is derived from two Tulu words “kampa” and “kala” meaning a “slush field.” This sport has a history of more than 1000 years. The sport evolved centuries after centuries.
Kambala is the race between two pairs of buffaloes in two parallel slushy tracks and jockey runs besides these buffaloes. The modern competitive Kambala started by the local Tuluva landlords of the twin districts and now has grown to become the most loved sport of the region.
Kambala now has over 90 races, this includes both competitive races conducted by Kambala Samithis and traditional races of traditional households.
The winner is decided based on different aspects in different categories but it is mainly decided on the basis of speed. The pair that completes the race first is considered the winner.
The Kambala is organised by the Kambala Samithis and there are 18 of such samithis. Kambala season generally starts in November and lasts till March. Kambalas usually happen on the weekends and last 2 days. The most popular Kambalas are Miyaru (Bajagoli), Moodabidri, Mangaluru, Puttur etc.,
The Kambala happens mainly in four categories. “Negilu”, a category wherein a small light wooden plough is tied to the back of the buffaloes and the jockey holds the plough during the race. This race is designed for both senior and junior buffaloes. “Hagga”, a category of the race, the buffalo pair has a rope tied directly to them and these buffaloes normally possess more speed than other categories and this race is designed for both junior and senior pairs. “Adda Halage”, a wooden plank is placed on the track and is tied to a pair of buffaloes. Racer stands on this wooden plank while the race is in progress. Winner is judged on the aspect of speed that is finishing first.“Kene Halage”, a round-shaped wooden plank is involved during the race. The racer stands on the wooden block on a single leg. The wooden plank has 2 holes in it and water gushes out through it while running. Faster the race higher the water pops, the winner is judged based on how high (nishane g neer) the water gushes out. 2 strips of white cloth are tied across the track, and these clothes measure the height (kolu).
Kambala faced a ban for the first time during the 2016-17 season in response to a petition by PETA. After a long argument and counter arguments, the ban was lifted in 2017.
Kambala is now a globally well-known and very popular sport. Kambala Academy trains the young jockeys and enthusiasts to learn the race. Few youngsters are now household names in South Canara and became popular overnight creating histories. The sport is growing popular and crazier than ever before especially with digital platforms coming into picture that reaches the sport to larger audiences. There’ll be no mistake in saying that the Kambala is witnessing its “Golden Age” now.