Kambala, the buffalo race!!

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Kambala is a traditional buffalo race in the district of South Canara. This is a very old tradition where the two pairs of buffaloes controlled by a person is made to run on paddy fields. This was seen as a form of entertainment for rural people after harvesting season. Today, it is an organized event in the form of contest under the banner of “Kambala Samiti”. The race is normally held between the months of November and March at many places in South Canara. 

While Kambala was running for long time, I got interested only recently thanks to the “advertisement” from PETA!! Subbu was able to get schedule of Kamabal and we planned to visit on December 3rd, at Kottara, Mangaluru city. This was the newly formed Kambala ground. 

Kambala track

Normally Kambala starts at 8AM and could run for more than 24 hours depending on the number of buffalo pairs. When we reached the place at 9AM, the inauguration was just happening. While people were busy at the stage and at ground, we went around the place to have a feel of the place. Many buffalo pairs had arived and were resting at designated places. Most of them looked very strong and sturdy. It takes lot of effort and money to raise the buffaloes for the sport. Had Kambala not been there, they would have been sent to slaughter house long back. 

The rules of the game are simple. Two buffalo pairs controlled by a person run on a muddy track. Whoever comes first gets into the next level. Most likely, it is run on knockout fashion. The winner gets the money.

Photographing Kambala is quite an activity. Most of my shots were taken from the front and at ground level. This is also the difficult place to take photographs. The buffaloes are let free at the end of the race and they charge the people who are standing in the line!! So, it is important to run aside when the buffaloes finish the race. Though volunteers  are there to control the buffaloes, one need to be alert if he is standing at the ending point. 

How fast is the race? It is comparable to 100 meter race in athletics. It gets over in less than 15 seconds. That is quote commendable as the buffaloes and the person have to run on muddy water. Both buffaloes and the person look very strong!!

Will the person always be able to match the speed of the buffaloes? Not always. Sometimes he loses control!!

A zoom lens is required to get close up shots. The zoom of my lens was not good enough and I had to wait to buffaloes to come near me to get the shot!! So, I had to be agile and jump to the side before the buffaloes come. It does not look bad as it sounds!! But my wife was not very happy when I told about it. “You are getting crazy”, she told.

Very close!!
To get water droplets, the shots were taken above the shutter speed of 1/1000 sec. A good zoom lens (around 200mm) helps to take close up shots.

We underestimated the energy in Kambala race. We went there only for photography and had allocated few hours. But at the time progressed, we found ourselves fully engrossed in the game. It would have been an amazing experience if we there for the complete race.

The Kambala schedule for 2017-18 is pasted below. Might be useful if you are planning.

Last point
Kambala got embroiled into controversy when Peta claimed that the animals were tortured. My observation in Kambala was otherwise. Animals were very well treated by the owners. It is not a fight but a race. No violence at all.

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