mud racing Karnataka

Buffaloes, the ultimate stars of Karnataka’s Kambala race

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In coastal Karnataka and north Kerala, Kambala is in the spotlight for the fantastic speed records set by two jockeys.

Buffaloes and their owners are usually the ultimate stars of Kambala, the traditional slush-track buffalo race held in coastal Karnataka and north Kerala from November to March. But this time, the jockeys stole the show: two of them were so fast, they were compared to the world’s fastest man, Usain Bolt. Srinivas Gowda and Nishant Shetty from Dakshina Kannada district, who clocked stunning speeds running with the buffaloes, became celebrities overnight.

Gowda raced past the 100-mt mark in 9.55 seconds, and Shetty beat this record clocking the distance in 9.51 seconds. They got the attention reserved for filmstars, with fans taking selfies with them and exulting over their six-packs, their fitness and workout regimes.

Kambala has a century-old history in these parts. Initially, it was about getting the slushy paddy fields ready for sowing — the running buffaloes thoroughly churned the soil. Back then, it was not a race.

But today, with commercial crops replacing paddy or fields converted for other uses entirely, Kambala is all about the race and the attractive prizes to be won. Buffalo owners spend large amounts to care for the animals. An owner in Udupi district has even built a swimming pool for his buffaloes.

With the race now in the spotlight, the Kambala committee is considering setting a uniform length for tracks everywhere and using modern technology to precisely record the times set by the buffaloes.

(Images and text by H.S. Manjunath)

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