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Kambala: Coastal Karnataka’s Traditional Buffalo Race

Context:

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.

Relevance:

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


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