Kambala is a traditional sport of racing a pair of buffaloes in a muddy and water filled race tracks. The buffaloes are controlled by the racer. The buffaloes racing in Kambala are trained specially for the race and are not used for other work. The Kambala has a history of over 1000 years making kambala a sport with a rich historic background. Kambala is famous in Udupi and mangalore district.

After the Supreme court ban on Kambala  Moodbidri Kambala held on 11th November 2017 was the first Kambala to take place. I used my Nikon d7100 with 18-105mm VR2 lens to photograph the Kambala. As the Nikon d7100 is a crop frame sensor my photographs got filled with noise as I went in the evening and the light was inadequate.

“Hagga” category of race where the racer controls the buffaloes using the rope.

Origin of kambala

The origin of Kambala is widely believed to have started with a simple competetion for joy thanking the Gods . As he buffaloes were not used in agriculture they were made to race against each other for leisure leading to birth of Kambala. But there are different accounts of origin of Kambala as stated below.

Panning shot of Kambala.

Started by the Hoysala kings to test the use of Buffaloes in war:
There is legend stating that the kings of the Hoysala dynasty were surprised by the speed and strength of the buffaloes. It is said that in order to check whether the beast can be tamed and used in war they started to host Kambala races were they could check how the beast behaves and performs.

Water splash during “Kene halage” category race.

Prayer to gods for warding off evil spirit and giving good crops :  Kambala is said to be originated as a part of a fest of paying tribute to the gods for the crops by the villagers. The fest for thanking the gods resulted in large crowds with music and dance. It is said that kambala was a small part of the fest for enterntainment which later gained prominence and became a seperate sport.

“Adda halage” category where the racer stands on the horizontal plank.

Alupa kings patronaging for entertainment: It is said that the Alupa kings patronaged Kambala for entertainment purpose. They organised the kambala held at Mangalores Kadri temple. The Kadri Kambala is also called Arasu Kambala meaning Kings Kambala for the same reason.

Racer covered by the splash of mud water. The image has become yellowish due to the lights at night.


Types of  Kambala. 

Traditionally there were two type of Kambala. Pookare Kambala and Bare Kambala. Pookare is a pillar like structure  made by using arecanut  tree. It is rounded by steps facing 4 directions from top to bottom in different levels which is made by Arecanut tree planks. The Pookare Kambala is started by keeping a Pookare in the field overnight and worshipping it before the race to ward of evil spirits. Bare means banana plant. And bare kambala gets its name from this word.

The Bare kambala was stopped long back (around 900 years ago). Pookare kambala is the Kambala which takes place now.


Runner covered with water jet in  Kenehalage.

The kambala is further classified into Jodukere and Ontikere kambala. Onti means 1 and Jodu means a pair. In Ontikere kambala only one track will be there. In Jodu kere kambala there will be a pair of  tracks and in each track a pair of buffaloes will be running. At present mostly Jodukere Kambala takes place.In olden days the winning buffaloes were felicitated with coconuts and bananas.


The water jet splashing in Kene Halage event.

I will be writing about Kambala in parts as a series. I will be writing more about Kambala in my next blog.

The buffaloes being bathed after the race.




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