The Kambala season is here in coastal Karnataka and buffaloes and their ‘runners’ are back on race tracks to participate in this traditional event. The Karnataka Tourism Department has already released a schedule of events for December.
What is Kambala?
Kambala is a buffalo race held in the winter months when farmers harvest their paddy crops. The race is held on two parallel tracks filled with mud and water. Each pair of buffaloes will also have a jockey, or ‘Kambala runner’ to control and command the animals on the track. The contestants sprint along waterlogged muddy fields holding a rope attached to two buffaloes. The events are organized between November and March every year.
It is considered that the race is a festival that originated in the farming community of Karnataka. The festival is dedicated to Lord Kadri Manjunatha, an incarnation of Lord Shiva.
Kambala and the Farming Community
This sport is celebrated to please the Gods for a good harvest. It was also a form of entertainment or recreational sport for the farming community. The winner of the buffalo race is always rewarded with a coconut and other things.
The other speculation regarding the origin of Kambala is that the buffalo race originated as a sport for the royal family’s amusement or pleasure.
According to Karnataka.com, the festival was started by the Hoysala Kings to see if the buffaloes could be trained and used in war. The royal family was astonished to see the speed of the buffaloes and started racing them against one another.
As such, this originated as a sport for the royals. Later the tradition was taken on by the feudal lords of those regions and finally, it was continued by the ordinary people.
According to the schedule for this year, the Kambala season began on November 5, 2022. A total of 24 Kambala contests will be held till April 8, 2023.
If you remember, in 2020, a buffalo racer in India whose lightning pace along a muddy field evoked comparisons to Olympic legend Usain Bolt beaten at his own game.