As we made our way from Mangalore into the interiors, to a village called Idhu, there was a slight doubt in our minds about whether we would get to see the Kambla event (a popular traditional ‘buffalo race’ held in the districts of Mangalore and Udupi). All attempts to reach the phone number given were futile, the village was nowhere to be found on the map, and there were no posters in town. The doubt lingered till somebody on our bus confirmed that the Kambla indeed was taking place.
Off to the race ground
At present, 45 such races are held every weekend from December to March each year, mainly under the umbrella of the Kambla Samiti. Some are also organised by local patrons. Originally a part of the traditional harvest festival, they became popular as a rural sporting event over the years. The objective of the main race is pretty simple — the fastest pair of buffaloes wins. The pair of bulls is held together with a wooden plank near the neck and the reign is in the hand of the farmer, who sprints with them in water-filled muddy tracts, egging them on to push their limits.
From start to finish
The lifecycle of the race begins with the process of selecting the animals fit enough for the race. Those chosen are trained for years with due attention paid to their diet. As we walked around the premises, we saw the animals chomping away as their attendants gave them oil massages. The oil, we were told, actually acts as a pain-relief agent and helps keep the animals relaxed between the events. The event is all very official. Right from the selection of the right pairs of bulls to the pre-race preparations and the actual event, everything is choreographed like clockwork.
The races were going on in full gusto makeshift restaurants churned out delicious Mangalorean snacks and did brisk business, as Kambla goes on through the night.
Mangalore is 350 km from Bangalore connected via flight, rail and by road from major cities.
For Kambla in Idhu, take a bus to Moodbidre and then a rickshaw.
Kambla races are held in various districts of Mangalore, namely; Puttur, Moodbidre and Karkala.