Kambala, buffalo race | India

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Kambala is a traditional buffalo race held every year in the Indian state of Karnataka, in the region known as Tulu Nadu. Born as a form of entertainment for the rural people, it has evolved into a competitive form over time.Races can last no stop from 24 to 48 hours and take place into two a hundred meters long tracks filled with ground and water. Each time two couple of buffaloes - controlled by a wood stick and a whip by their respective riders – compete in speed along the track in order win the race trophy (in the past coconuts and bananas, now gold coins and little amounts of money).

Besides its sporty nature, the kambala has numerous religious, political and social implications and is today much discussed in India because it represents, according to many, a way to perpetuate the feudalism and the traditional system of division into castes. Given the high turnout and the extensive media coverage, the race is a useful propaganda opportunity for local politicians, who often happen to be sponsors of the event, as well as racing tracks and buffaloes' owners.

Moreover, years of strong protests from the animal activists led to a temporary ban of the competitions in 2014, before they were declared legal again in 2017. However concerns over the health of the buffaloes remain, even with local kambala associations continuosly stating that the animals are receiving the best care: quality food, walks in the fields and even coconut oil massages.
 


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