Mangalore: Is the Splendour of Kambala Losing Out to Commercialism?

April 26, 2010

The Kambala season, during which time the Tulunadu sport of buffalo races is held, concluded with the last race of the season at Talapady, on Sunday April 25.

The cruelty of buffalo-handlers at the races has been increasing over the years. 

A few entrepreneurs feel that taking their pair of buffaloes to compete at a race is a matter of prestige, while for a few Kambala is an avenue to make money. 

The pairs of buffaloes owned by a few dignitaries are allowed to deviate from time schedules and the rules of Kambala which is fast becoming a money-spinner like cricket. 

It gives an open license to a few to organize a day-long cock fight following the Kambala in the neighbourhood. That is what the Kambala enthusiasts say about the changing perspective of the sport over the years.

The district Kambala committees were formed when racing of buffaloes got the status of a sport with a set of rules and regulations.  It was a revolutionary step indeed as it was an unorganized folk art. 

“Kambala enthusiasts will lose interest if the Kambala is not completed in a day as the rule set by Kambala committee.  The organizers of Kambala also need to take note of this”, says the organizer of Barady Kambala who was instrumental in framing rules for the sport.  

The chief Kambalas are Shirva Nadibettu, Barady Beedu, Katpady Beedu, Mulky, Aikala, Miyar, Adve – Nandikoor, Moodbidri, Barkoor, Permude (Venoor), Fajeer, Edu, Puttur, Pilikula, and Talapady. 

The dates are set at the start of the Kambala season at venues such as Barady, Karkala, Pilikula, and Moodbidri, while in other venues Kambalas are held as per convenience and demand.  This kind of arrangement demonstrates the ill-will of a few Kambala organizers over the functioning of the district Kambala committee, who have expressed their displeasure over the microphones during the Kambala, held at Pilikula a few months ago. 

It is also significant that Dr Gunapal Kambara, who was the brain behind introducing a third umpire through video recording, was not included in the governing district Kambala committee.

If the Kambala committee is not strengthened, the chances of organizing many Kambalas in a same day are near which would create chaos for enthusiasts of the sport. 

The viewers at the Kambala will be divided amongst various venues.  Many Kambalas stalled due to lack of leadership and finance, while a few take interest in organizing Kambalas. 

It’s not a question of organizing Kambalas every season; instead it has to be organized to get more popularity that could bring worldwide recognition!

As per the recent survey undertaken by Shree Publications from select respondents, they voted Koti–Chennaya of Moodbidri first, Lava –Kusha of Miyar (Karkala) was second. 

The Kambala has been reinvented with flood-lit venues and video recording to get the status of a modern sport. Kondottu Sukumar Shetty has been the motivational force behind the heroic sport of Kambala.

Hundreds of Kambalas are held in Dakshina Kannada, Uttar Kannada, Udupi, and Kasargod districts, which do not have their schedule listed with the district Kambala committee. 

Most such Kambala events are sponsored by temples and convened as offerings while a few are just contests for the prize money. 

However, such Kambalas do not make headlines as the top pair of buffaloes does not compete in these races.  Vandaru and Kadri Kambala are held traditionally since many decades. 

Kambala enthusiasts flock these events although the number of buffalo pairs is limited.  

The Kambala that has been held under the leadership of Mulky- Moodbidri MLA Abayachandra Jain, since the past eight years became popular this year with the ‘Krushi Mela’ organized by the regional farmers association being held at the venue. 

A single pair of buffaloes competed with the same handler in the name of two different dignitaries in violation of the rules of the Kambala committee.  

What do Kambala veterans say? 

“The owners of buffaloes lay emphasis on sports spirit, shunning status, by adhering to time schedule.  The Kambala will lose attraction if the competition does not conclude within the time allotted”, says Dr Jeevandar Ballal, president of Kambala committee.

“I don’t believe in the allegations of animal rights activists that the buffaloes are being cruelly treated in Kambalas.  The buffaloes are cared for by their owners spending a few lacs of rupees.  If the competing buffalo pair does not obey the commands of the handler, occasionally they are beaten but this does not amount to cruelty.  It’s how we discipline our children”, says owner of winning buffaloes pair and president of Adve–Nandikoor Kambala committee.

“I have found that the Kambala rules are being violated in some instances; hence I have not been active in this year with the functioning of Kambala committee.  I was personally involved with a few Kambalas including at Moodbidri and Karkala”, says Dr Gunapal Kadamba, state award winner, past chief secretary of Kambala committee.

“It’s a Tulunadu sport and I have grown along with it.  Although it’s losing its sheen, the Kambala has to sustain for posterity”, says centurion Mardaldev Poojary.


The state administration should extend financial support to every Kambala instead of contributing to a few Kambalas held under the leadership of some status conscious politicians.

The handlers of buffalo races should be entitled for state benefits including health care.

Tourism department should embark on a special campaign globally to attract tourists to view Kambala.

The youth should be trained in the art of Kambala with state funds or other social welfare organizations.

Commercial ventures should promote Kambala with sponsorship like corporate houses do in cricket.  

Kambala organizers should not give scope for betting, illegal supply of alcohol at the venues, and none of the members of Kambala organizing committees should involve in such acts.

In order to foster the Tulunadu sport of Kambala, one has to focus on positive aspects to restore its former glory.  However, the million dollar question is as to who will do this job!

by Shekar Ajekar - Daijiworld Media Network
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Comment on this article

  • kishorechandra hegde, shirva nadibettu /ajekar

    Fri, Sep 24 2010

    Kambala in tulunadu has a religious fervour and it is to be conducted in a traditional way. Its an opportunity for the villagers to be united and enjoy the festivity associated with it. Of late, it is seen that the occasion is being commercialised and has become a competitive commercial sport expanding its horizon to the cities also. Good that the Kambala organisers derive lot of satisfaction in conducting these events in an organised way, paving way for wider acceptibility in the sports world.

  • prakash, MANGALORE/DUBAI

    Wed, Apr 28 2010

    What a stupid comment from Mr.Naresh Kadyan Delhi.Can he see him the size of the buffellows in the picture.does it looks dyeing with weekness or without any food or with torture?.these buffallows are well built and specially prepared for kambala purpose.everybody cannot maintain kambala will be fed whole one year with special foods and the owner will spend  lakhs of rupees for the maintenance .a fulltime caretaker will be order to make the buffallows aggressive they will beat with the special stick which will hurt only the upper skin which is sensitive and it doesnt damage its inner body or parts.this is not torture.then what is the need of rescue and rehabilitation.

  • Simon Francis Lasrado, sullia/Bangalore

    Wed, Apr 28 2010

    Whether Kambala is losing out,the betting game of Korikatta will be remained forever.

  • suresh, Haleangadi

    Tue, Apr 27 2010

    1)One cannot argue food habits of a Tiger (eating meat) with humans eating meat. The tiger kills animal and eats its meat. But tiger has teeth and claws specially for that.
    It can you digest raw meat,
    Tomorrow if a man demands to eat man’s flesh what will you say? Is it ok? Will you support cannibalism?
    2)Trees and plants cannot be compared with animals, of course both are living beings, but there is a difference.
    Trees have very unique ability to grow new branches if u cut one branch it will grow 2 more.
    But in case of poor animal, if you cut the animal it will only die and wont grow new one.
    3) Big fish eat small fish… tiger eat deer.. becoz they do not have choice,But human beings have too many choice.
    If someone like to eat meat let him have it.
    4) Nature has different signs of indicating us to eat fruits and vegetables.For eg. When a mango is ripe its colour changes from green to yellow so that we can identify it,then again it has sweet smell which Prompts us to pluck it and eat it, in return the tree only wants your help to grow more trees.


    Tue, Apr 27 2010

    Kambala is 100% better than boxing or horse race,In some incident boxers are dying in ring only. Abd we are not shooting down buffalo's if its losing in race.

  • Shail, Mangalore

    Tue, Apr 27 2010

    i am also a non-vegetarian, but i like this traditional sports, this should not be banned. but there should be some restriction on beating these animals.

    And further this is unfortunate that now a days we try to show more love on animals only to hate other community of people.

  • Lydia Lobo, Kadri

    Tue, Apr 27 2010

    To those city dwellers or the educated lot who accuse this sport as subjecting these animals to abuse, please think again - how many modes of entertainment do you have ? The TV in your house to enthrall you with Cricket (Test/ODI/T20), Foot Ball, Wrestling, Hockey & other sports. Besides, clubs to engage yourself in various activities. At the same time, think of a farmer who is producing your food by toiling from morning to evening in the fields to get a little produce of his labour. He has either no electricity to watch these sports or means to do that.

    Isn't it too selfish of us to enjoy the luxuries of life sitting in the comforts of the world and curtail this poor man's little pleasure ? Leave him to live his life. Because, if he decides to dictate, he will produce for subsistence and you will have no food to eat !

  • Antony Crasta, Mangalore/Sydney, Australia

    Tue, Apr 27 2010

    Sensible comments, Jossey Saldanha, Thane, for, I am fully with you. I would like to add though that any sport involving animals like horses, buffaloes, bulls, hounds, cocks, etc. is fine, as long as we treat them gently and humanly.

  • Lydia Lobo, Kadri

    Tue, Apr 27 2010


    A tiger kills for its food. Would you ask it to stop because it is cruel to kill ? In that case the tiger must starve itself till death isn't it ? A bigger fish eats a smaller one because that is its food. Won't it be cruel too ?

    A farmer or his family member will precisely know the pain when he has to let go a domestic animal reared by him. Kambala is just a race the animals are pampered and fattened throughout the year for this purpose. So is cock-fight - just a game of pleasure thats all.

    Well, eating meat or stopping it will not bring a man till starvation but its a food chain. Men, including vegetarians, have been destroyers. Vegetarians pluck the fruits of a plant else, the plant would have reproduced. Isn't that a kind of kill too ?

    It is upto people to be veggy or non veggies but incorrect to demand that they stop eating meat. If priority will be given opinions, there will be clash or titans and men will be as extinct as dinosaurs. Therefore, let us live and let live.

  • Lavin Noronha, Paladka/Bahrain

    Mon, Apr 26 2010

    May be having Lalit modi can help to revive this sport. In the years to come we can see INDIAN BUFFELO LEAGUE (IBL).

  • Walter D'Souza, Udupi

    Mon, Apr 26 2010

    Shail, I am non-vegetarian because my parents were non-vegetatian. You might be vegetarian because your parents were vegetarian?

  • Jossey Saldanha, Thane, India

    Mon, Apr 26 2010

    Just because we eat meat does not mean we are cruel to animals. We have been having meat for generations and it is a part of our diet. Some guys love to eat vegetables. How would he feel if the government tells him one fine day – stop eating vegetables as you are being cruel to nature?

  • Rakesh Dsouza, Mangalore, Dubai

    Mon, Apr 26 2010

    Shail, Mangalore.

    I fully agree with your comment. what you have said is 100% correct. No one is ready to leave fish and meat for meals.

  • Manjunatha Bangera, Kasaragodu/Bengaluru

    Mon, Apr 26 2010

    This is a sport. I don't think there is much of a cruelty factor. The animals are fed and looked after very well for by the owners. The owners treat them like their kids. For that matter if u see the horse pulling the cart in the roads with huge load in the cart, that is cruelty. And for that matter, we non-vegetarians are all cruel in one way or the other. Domestic animals are abandoned by the owners once they are old and of no use. We can see lot of animals in the streets with no one to care. That is cruelty.

  • Shail, Mangalore

    Mon, Apr 26 2010

    In public we show sympathy for animals only with comments...but at home one cannot have meals without meat.. for which animals are killed.

  • S. Ryan ,mlore, mlore

    Mon, Apr 26 2010

    All this sports is nothing but cruelty to animals let them do whatever sports they like but pls do not play with animals its nothing but cruelty to animals the organisers and people watching must be beaten and made to run same manner as they do with poor buffalos then they will understand the pain and angony of buffalos they are going through

  • Anil, Kundapura

    Mon, Apr 26 2010

    I dont agree . There is no harm in commercializing the sport, only then it can develop.

    Bull fighting is a pride of Spain and so Kambala can be made Mangalore's pride if properly handled.

  • G.N.Bangera, Mijar/Muscat OMAN

    Mon, Apr 26 2010

    Kambla is good sport for the animal
    to run in ankle deep water but joky beating it after emerging from water can be seen as good sport some joky can not run with animal they fell inbetveen some pull the speed any way this THULU NADU sport we love to see it in TV

  • Inez, Gouda, Netherlands

    Mon, Apr 26 2010

    about 2 very bad ideas mentioned in the article:

    it is very bad for the animals, tourists don't like this, as for the money, use it for the people or for the animals, for a better living.
    2 arguments mentioned in the article:
    Tourism department should embark on a special campaign globally to attract tourists to view Kambala.

    The youth should be trained in the art of Kambala with state funds or other social welfare organizations. )

  • Naresh Kadyan, Delhi

    Sun, Apr 25 2010

    No doubt, a very cruel treatment with the animals, who face heavy pain, stress and injury during should be banned and all animals be rescued and rehabilitated.

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