Kambala festival of Karnataka: Here's why it is celebrated and considered important

With the decks getting cleared for the bull taming festival of Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu, there is a growing chorus for organising Kambala, a traditional annual buffalo race in marshy fields, held in the coastal districts of Karnataka.

Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said on Monday that his government was in favour of holding it and asked the Centre to take a favourable stand as it did for jallikattu in Tamil Nadu.

"We are in favour of Kambala, we are for Kambala. We pressurise (sic) the Union government to take a stand in favour of this (Kambala), similar to the way in which it favoured jallikattu in Tamil Nadu," he told reporters.

Spurred by the jallikattu stir in Tamil Nadu, Kambala Committees had met in Mangaluru on Sunday to strategise their agitation, where it was decided to hold a massive protest on 28 January in Moodbidri in Dakshina Kannada district.

Symbolic Kambala, a traditional annual buffalo race in the marshy fields in coastal districts of the state, is also likely to be held as a mark of protest.

Karnataka High Court's division bench, headed by Chief Justice S K Mukherjee, in an interim order in November 2016 had stayed holding of Kambala on a petition by Peta challenging it in view of orders passed by the Supreme Court on jallikattu.

The matter came up on Friday before the division bench of the High Court, which adjourned the case to 30 January.

Support for the folk sport has gained momentum in the social media.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

What is Kambala festival?

Kambala — the rural sporting festival of Karnataka — was once a pastime for the royal family. According to one belief, the festival was started by the Hoysala Kings to see if the buffaloes could be trained and used during wartime. The Hoysala Kings were surprised to see the speed of the buffaloes and started racing them against one another. This then developed into a sport for the royals. The tradition was kept alive till it was passed on to the common men, by the feudal lords of Tulu region.

Another belief states that the festival originated in the farming community of Karnataka and is dedicated to Lord Kadri Manjunatha, an incarnation of Lord Shiva. It was celebrated to please the Gods for a good harvest.

In the earlier days of the festival, it was called Karaga celebrations. Later it came to be known as Kambala celebrations. There are two types of Kambala: Pookere Kambala and Bale Kambala. However Bale Kambala was discontinued 900 years ago, so only the former kind of Pookere Kambala gets celebrated.

The festival is famous for the buffalo race that is held during the celebrations. The two-day celebration starts with an exhibition of the participating buffaloes with their respective farmers. During the festival, when the fields are wet, the buffaloes are made to race on the tracks, led by the farmer. Each team comprises of two buffaloes and a farmer who controls the buffaloes. Two teams are made to race down two slushy tracks to determine the fastest team. The winner of the buffalo race gets rewarded with a coconut among other things.

The buffalo race in Karnataka takes place between November and March every year. The places where it takes place are Baradi Beedu, Bolantur, Kolatta, Majalu, Puttur, Kamalakettu and Uppinagadi.

The festival gets celebrated with much cheer in Mangalore at the Kadri Kambala fields. Hence, it is also popularly referred to as the Kadri Kambala or Mangaluru Hobali Kambala.

Maneka Gandhi, Union Minister for Women and Child Development, has often voiced strong opinion against this festival. Writing for Firstpost, she recently condemned the festival, saying, "In Karnataka, till the animal activists stopped it, there used to be a ritual in which foxes were hunted, imprisoned, beaten and burnt alive. Now that has been replaced by Kambala, where cows are whipped and made to race through flowing water. Many of these animals die due to broken limbs which are too weak to withstand the force of the water and some die due to the intense beatings."

In this festival, due to the high speed at which the farmers and buffaloes run, they may suffer serious injuries, including fractures of the bones.

With inputs from agencies

Published Date: Jan 24, 2017 15:07 PM | Updated Date: Jan 24, 2017 15:12 PM

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