Mr. T. Srinivasa Reddy of Vijayawada (Andhra Pradesh-India) is a photo artist of high caliber. He is well known for his photographs of tribes in India, rural life and everyday events. He is associated with India Today’s telugu edition. Mr. Reddy’s work has been recognised all through the world. He is before us with a Photo Feature on Kambala, an important event of Karnataka.
--Dr. Pankaj Sharma
Kambala is a rural sport of Karnataka. This is well known for traditional buffalo race. The races are held in the southern coastal area of the state and takes place in muddy waters for a period of about 04 months (December to March) every year. This race is a show of speed and power in the slushy paddy fields. One can see buffaloes racing down muddy terrain which are goaded by farmers on a wooden plank. There is a huge gathering of people at Kambala, cheering the competing animals. The fastest pair among them wins the top prize.
The origin of the Kambala in Karnataka is difficult to trace. It is believed that it started long back as a recreational sport among the farming community with the beginning of harvest season. During this festival, farmers used to pay respect to the gods in order to get healthy crops. There were celebrations and games during the festival time. This was also the time for the second round of sowing of crops. The festival is celebrated with the same feeling at present also. There are two pairs of buffaloes competing among each other. Each pair of buffaloes is controlled by a farmer with a whip. In earlier times, the winning pair was given coconuts and a bunch of plantains. Today, the sport is more organized and has become professional. One can find thousands of spectators in any Kambala race. There are bets on the winning buffaloes with massive amounts. There are around 45 races that are held annually by the coastal area. In this number, around 18 Kambalas are held under Kambala Samithi and the rest take place under the auspicious hold of temples as well as many political patronages.
Though Kambala is an important festival in Karnataka, but the races related to this occasion have been criticized by animal lovers due to the use of whips on the participating buffaloes. They consider this act as barbaric and inhumane. In fact the sentiment behind this occasion is no doubt respectable but the voice of animal lovers is also highly regarded and should be taken seriously. The organizers of Kambala contend by saying, “if the whips are not used on these animals, they will not move”.
--T. Srinivasa Reddy