Kambala, the annual buffalo race which has a history of over 300 years, received the President’s consent to exempt the sport from Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Karnataka Amendment) Ordinance, 2017 on Monday, making it legal in Karnataka which is a massive victory for both the state as well as Kambala enthusiasts.

Following protests by the public and Kambala organizers in the Udupi as well as Dakshina Kannada districts, the State Assembly on February 13, passed the bill which exempted Kambala and bullock-cart racing from the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. The bill was sent by the Karnataka Government for President’s consent but was returned for some suggested modifications. However, since the Karnataka Legislative Assembly was not in session at that time, the government passed an ordinance with the said modification before it was approved by the President of India.

The new legislation permits only those events in which animals are not subjected to any “unnecessary pain” as well as suffering. The bill also stated that the sport is vital for “preserving and promoting traditions as well as culture among the people in the state”.

The Ministry of Home Affairs said, “In pursuance of the proviso to clause (1) of article 213 of the Constitution of India, the President of India hereby approves the promulgation of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Karnataka Amendment) Ordinance, 2017 by the Governor of Karnataka”.

image source: timesofindia.indiatimes.com
image source: timesofindia.indiatimes.com

When Jallikattu received a nod, earlier this year, Kambala too was subjected to the same controversy and while after being ordered by the locals, Jallikattu, despite it being harsh on the animals involved, was given a green signal, we were expecting the same in the case of the annual buffalo race.

For those who are not aware of the culture associated with Kambala, here is all you need to know about the sport.

What is Kambala?

Kambala is a traditional annual buffalo race that is organized by Karnataka’s Dakshina Kannada as well as Udupi districts’ farming community.

This area is called Tulunadu (Land of Tulu Language).

This annual event kick starts in November and the grand finale is held in March every year.

A pair of buffaloes is tied to the plough while a person anchors it with beating the Buffaloes using a stick to run faster.

Buffaloes are not born runners, But in Kambala, they are forced to run as fast as 100 metres in 12 seconds by the anchor.

There are two parallel muddy tracks for competing pairs of buffaloes run and the fastest one wins.

The racing tracks normally measure about 120 to 160 meters in length and are 8 to 12 meters wide.

Earlier, the winner of the Buffalo race used to get coconut but now gold medals, as well as trophies, are awarded.

In a well organized Kambala, around 120-150 pairs of buffaloes participate and more than 15000 people become the spectators.

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image source: oneindia.com
image source: oneindia.com

Negilu: This is the entry level race where lighter plough is tied to the Buffaloes.

Hagga: A rope is tied to the Buffaloes

Adda Halage: A horizontal wooden plank is tied to buffaloes while the farmer stands over it for anchoring.

Kane Halage: This is the ultimate race of Kambala in which only experienced buffaloes and anchors take part. A rounded wooden plank is tied to buffaloes while the farmer stands on the wooden block with one leg.

The rounded wooden plank has two holes through which water gushes out during the race and the height of the muddy water splashed determines the winner.

Care And Safety Of Buffaloes

The Buffaloes are well-fed and cared for throughout the year as this sport tests the speed as well as swiftness of animal, moreover, some owners even build separate swimming pools for the Buffaloes.

Be it any sport, accidents do occur and in the case of Kambala, buffaloes may skid or topple, there is also a possibility of the farmer who runs along might fall and get hurt, sometimes resulting in serious injuries, therefore, an ambulance is kept ready nearby too.

Kambala, the age-old tradition of buffalo race has been a cause of concern for animal lovers as well as activists. The celebration of Kambala was rightly so stopped in Karnataka after an order was passed by the Supreme Court, dated 7th May, 2014. Jallikattu was the main focus of the order, a bull taming sport in Tamil Nadu. But Kambala, like jallikattu, was also banned last year after PETA approached the Karnataka High Court, stating animal cruelty in bull taming and buffalo racing, which despite it being a tradition is true to every sense.

What’s next

India has been subjected to several changes in the last couple of days be it financial, law-related or related to the never ending debate of tradition/culture vs reality. Regardless of Bill talking about animal safety, it’s safe to assume that very soon, the bill is going to be criticized by a wide population, especially animal activists who have been protesting against such form of sports to be banned in the country.

The dilemma of balancing between preservation of tradition and ensuring safety for animals is one of the most difficult one to solve in India, for that matter, many other countries. But there is also no denying the fact that animal rights need to be prioritized, despite the legalization of the sport.

The responsibility, now, comes down to the those who will be implementing the law as they would have to make sure that the promise of animals safety is followed.