A Muddy, Thrilling Buffalo Race
Suruchi Dumpawar describes an adrenaline escalating event in her article, “Kambala: Buffalo Racing In Muddy Waters.” Koti Chennaya Kambala, may seem like a messy, chaotic, unorganized event, but as Dumpawar states, it is a “highly professional affair.” This unique sport consists of two buffalo racing in muddy water along with sculpted brave men.
A man wearing a red turban and a matching lungi checks the buffaloes’ teeth with the air of a specialist. Checking for bad breadth? No. I later come to know that buffaloes are partitioned into different groups (small, medium and big I guess) according to the number of their fallen teeth. Ingenious, I must say!
The first buffalo pair looks every bit menacing their muscles taut, quivering with excitement and their noses flaring. Agitated by the incessant whipping and war cries of the lone rider (who is called Saarthi) behind them, they rush past us at maddening speed leaving a trail of water flying behind.
Some of the buffaloes cover the length of the track in a mere 10-15 seconds. I realize that running in water keeping pace with galloping buffaloes is no mean feat. Many a men fall in the slush, face down, unable to keep up with their more sturdy counterparts.
But some men make it look really easy and I secretly wish to run in the slush; the muddy water does look tempting in this scorching sun. Maybe I’ll do this in Kadri Kambala sometime where there are races for women and children too sans the buffaloes.
The bands are playing elaborately; the main event has started. The buffaloes are burlier now; they run even faster and splash more water in the process. I want to get some head-on shots of the buffaloes so we join the freelance photographer with his bazooka like lens, who is already standing at the finishing line.
This is as adventurous as it gets! I point my camera on the buffaloes till I feel they are at a safe distance and then scamper inside the crowd for protection.
In the middle of the track some markers are placed at the height of 6.5 and 7.5 feet respectively. The idea is that the splashing water should rise to this height. And for this the Saarthi has to stand on a plank attached to the buffaloes.