Buffalo Premier League, Kambala


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!

Shekar Ajekar