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Kambala: Coastal Karnataka’s Traditional Buffalo Race


Recently, Bengaluru held its first Kambala race, with 159 pairs of buffaloes and their jockeys racing through the specially made slush tracks in the city’s Palace Grounds.


GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Kambala: Coastal Karnataka’s Traditional Buffalo Race
  2. Kambala Ban, Repeal, and Caste Discrimination: Unraveling the Narrative

Kambala: Coastal Karnataka’s Traditional Buffalo Race

  • Folk Sport: Kambala is a traditional folk sport primarily practiced in coastal Karnataka districts, especially in regions with a majority of Tulu speakers.
  • Historical Context: Originally hosted by families in sludgy fields post-paddy harvest, it has evolved with various Kambala Samithis now organizing events.
Organizing Bodies:
  • Kambala Samithis: These organizing bodies host weekly events from November to April in Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts.
  • Community Involvement: Families, particularly from the Bunt community, take pride in participating, grooming buffaloes throughout the year for the races.
Categories of Kambala:
  • Negilu (Plough): Entry-level category using light ploughs to tie buffaloes for the race.
  • Hagga (Rope): Buffaloes raced by jockeys with only a rope tying the pair together.
  • Adda Halage: Jockeys stand on a horizontal plank dragged by buffaloes, offering a unique twist to the traditional format.
  • Kane Halage: Wooden plank tied to buffaloes with water holes, and the winner is determined by the height of water splashes.
Cultural Significance:
  • Prestige and Pride: Kambala holds cultural significance, especially for the Bunt community, with families investing efforts to win events.
  • Symbol of Tradition: Reflects the rich cultural heritage of coastal Karnataka and serves as a showcase of traditional practices.

Kambala Ban, Repeal, and Caste Discrimination: Unraveling the Narrative

Ban by Supreme Court:
  • Animal Rights Petition: Various organizations, including PETA, filed a petition against traditional sports, alleging animal abuse.
  • Complaint Against Kambala: Allegations of cruelty, such as tying buffalo noses with ropes and continuous whipping during races, led to Kambala’s ban by the Supreme Court in 2014.
  • Parallel Ruling: Jallikattu and bullock cart racing were also banned based on Sections 3, 11(1)(a), and (m) of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.
Ban Reversal and Amendments:
  • 2016 Notification: MoEF&CC issued a notification prohibiting bull exhibitions but carved exceptions for events like Jallikattu and Bullock Cart Races in specific states based on cultural practices.
  • State Amendments: Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Maharashtra amended the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act to provide exemptions for these events. A Constitutional Bench upheld these amendments in May 2023.
Caste Discrimination Accusations:
  • Historical Context: Koraga community members, historically considered untouchable, were mistreated before Kambala events.
  • Contemporary Criticism: Critics argue that dominant caste groups control the sport, perpetuating caste discrimination, with lower-caste individuals relegated to menial roles during the event.
Evolution of Kambala:
  • Cultural Heritage: Despite challenges, Kambala remains a vital cultural tradition in coastal Karnataka.
  • Shift in Dynamics: Ongoing discussions aim to address caste-related issues, ensuring a more inclusive and respectful environment during Kambala festivities.

-Source: The Hindu

February 2024