Kambala – Uttara Kannada’s Unique Sport

**Disclaimer: This festival doesn’t promote animal cruelty. However, if you are someone who needlessly likes to complain and decide how villagers should live their life, this blog is not for you. **

Kambala is an annual sporting festival that is famously associated with the buffalo race, where many people dress up and have fun. Kambala has held annually in coastal regions of Karnataka, India. It was originally known as karaga and later, switched to “Kambala”. Earlier, it was celebrated as two types; 1) Bale Kambala, 2) Pookere Kambala. Although bale Kambala was discontinued 900 years ago you can still enjoy pookere Kambala every year.

Kambala is celebrated after the monsoon and harvest season is over and the farm animals need a way to wind themselves off. Kambala mainly sees buffalos racing on a track, backed by a strong farmer, who assists them on a wooden plank behind the pair of buffalos.

There are many common beliefs about it. some say that it was brought to origin as a time pass for royals. Some say that it was founded by the farmer community and they conduct it to please Lord Kadri Manjunatha, for a good harvest. Another common belief is that Hoysala kings started this festival to find out the speed of buffalos, whether they can be used in wars or not. And they were surprised to see how swift could buffalos be. So, people kept this tradition alive and passed it on to the feudal lords of the Tulu region.

Hundreds of buffalos are specially trained and groomed for the Kambala festival 2021.

Time for the celebration of the Kambala festival:

Kambala festival starts in November and lasts till march. You can visit kambala festival in Baradi Beedu, Bolantur, Kolatta, Majalu, Puttur, Kamalakettu and Uppinagadi.

Normally Kambala festival starts at 8 a.m. and continues for as many as 24 hours, depending on the number of buffalo pairs, taking part in the race.

The genre of the buffalo race:

Buffalos run in pairs, along with a strong farmer on top of the wooden plank, who surfs them and guide them to steer clear. Rules are simple, the pair of buffalos, that is swifter than all, would win and gets the money. Buffalos are trained and raised specifically for the sporting festival. It takes a lot of time, money, and effort to prepare buffalos for the sporting festival.

A pair of buffalo is tied to the plow and the person who anchors it continuously steers them with a stick to make them run faster. Two parallel muddy tracks are made slushy with water. And 2 pairs of buffalos run parallel. And the fastest one wins. The Festival could continue overnight until the grand finale is held, and declare the final winner of the particular area. The racing track is approximately 120-160 meters in length and 8-12 meters in width.

This festival is full of a cheering crowd. Excited onlookers and supporters charge up the place with anticipation and enthusiasm. The Festival could continue for two days with different races being held, at the end of which, a pair of swift and sturdy buffalo is declared the winner.

Kambala festival starts with an inaugural ceremony and a parade of participating farmers with their buffalos. A total of 46 races are held annually in the Kambala festival.

4 different categories of Kambala

Kambala festival is categorized into four major categories called Negilu, Adda halage, Kenne halage, and hagga.

  1. Negilu is for the entry-level race or buffalos with no prior experience. In this category, buffalos are tied onto a lightweight wooden plank which is a replica of the plough used for fields.
  2. The second category is hagga where well-experienced buffaloes take part and are tied onto the rope.
  3. In the third category Adda halage, most experienced buffalos take part, and they are tied onto a wooden plank on which the farmer would stand while they race.
  4. The last category is kene halage, in which buffalos are tied onto a round-shaped block on which farmer stands on a single leg and it has two holes through water keeps gushing while they race.

Top tips for you to visit Kambala:

  • Kambala’s schedule is released some time during Durga Puja. You can find details about it on the local media and on some private websites. Keep in mind that many of these information pages will be in Kannada so make sure that you know people who can translate the dates for you.
  • When you visit Coastal Karnataka towns like Mangaluru, Udupi, and Moodabidire on the given dates and ask your hosts or hotel staff to help you find a Kambala event that you can go to.
  • Most Kambala events are free to attend. The races start around 8:30 in the morning and end next morning.
  • If you are a sports lover, and craving to find something entertaining; you must visit Kambala. Kambala is a spectacular sports and entertainment event for the people who live there.
  • It’s also a big hit with tourists and photographers.

Kambala is also a great time to explore the culture of Uttara Kannada. Many of these race spots also have ages old temples, forts, beaches and other places of interest. It is always a good idea to plan a complete tour and find the best travel experience in Karnataka.

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