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Old 26th December 2006, 23:54   #1
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Smile Kambala: The ancient sport of buffalo racing

Gee, I was almost tempted to put this under Motorsports section, but then the motor was missing. So, here it goes.

These days I don't get to travel too far, but that doesn't mean I have nothing to write about. To write this travelogue, I didn't have to travel too far, just 35Kms. Since Team-BHPian TheMAG was visiting from Bangalore, it kind of turned into two man TeamBHP meet at the race track.

My native place (South Coastal Karnataka) has many ancient traditions dating back to 4th century. One such tradition is Kambala, the sport of buffalo racing. Some how I had never seen one, probably because it is held during winter and I was rarely here during that time of the year.

Now that I live around here, I was determined to cover one of the major Kambala events this time with my camera. I chose Arasu (King's) Kambala at Mulki for this purpose.

After meeting up with TheMAG and his friend, me and couple of my cousins reached the Kambala track at around 5:30PM. This is nothing but a pair of well prepared wet and slushy mud track on the paddy field.

The Kambala track


The place was like a carnival, festive environment, and we could spy on the buffaloes getting ready for the track.

Eat your Vegetables...er...hay, says the trainer


Unlike Gaurs which are often mistaken as bisons, these are the only relatives of Bisons in India, notice the resemblance to African/American Bisons. These baffaloes enjoy rich diet, lots of exercise and regular oil massages.

Check out the body hair on this well bred Baffalo


One of the top favourite is getting into the track, notice the shiny black skin.


The trials have started.


Since we came just in time before the race, all the good seats were taken, all the good stands were taken. I could hardly pick a good vantage point to place my tripod. After some hunting around, we settled along the track on one side. One major problem was people kept walking between the track and the camera. I missed quite a few action shots because of this.

If you are not into photography, skip to the next paragraph. Meanwhile I discovered the difficulties of photo shooting a Kambala event. I was shooting with Olympus E500 mounted with 50-200mm F2.8/3.5 telephoto zoom lens (effective 100-400mm). I knew I couldn't use auto focus, Rudra had already warned me about that. By the time AF locks (if at all it does), the object would have moved away by the time I click. But I realised that AF didn't work even on stationary objects since the light was too low. So I had to pick a frame, focus that frame manually and then wait for the object to move into that frame, and click away. If I am lucky I may get a sharp picture. The low light also affected the shutter speed I could use. At 100-200iso setting, I could only get blurry pictures. First I thought of using high F-stop to get longer DOF, more chances for sharper photos, but the light defeated that attempt. So I always shot with maximum aperture, ISO at 800 and shutter priority at 100. Rest I hoped to brighten with CS2.

Meanwhile my dad came and joined us. He was not very happy with the camera placement. Few minutes later I heard the PA system paging me to come up to the balcony. My dad who knew the organisers had pulled some strings. So we all ended up on the balcony with the best view of the track.

The race basically involves a pair of buffalo driven by man running along with it. These guys are very strong runners who can keep up with the running buffaloes. Don't think what's the big deal, try walking on that slushy pool of a track, let alone run. Your leg can get stuck in the mud any moment, it can even result in serious injury. Throughout the run, they will be beating the buffalo with the whip, very hard. But they say buffalo has the thickest skin, I hope it doesn't hurt as much as it appears.

Sometimes the runner can't keep up.


This guy fell off almost halfway, had to walk the rest with a sheepish grin.


There are different types of races, most run free, some drag a small tiller, or sometimes drag a wide plank with a hole in it.

The tiller has the following affect on the race, look at how high the muddy water is flying.


A closer look of the race with tiller.


I didn't get to see the plank race, since I had to leave after 3 hours. My dad and cousins were getting restless.

This is the head-to-head race.


The head-to-head is very time consuming since it takes many many attempts to get both pairs to start off at once. When one pair is ready, the other is not. The synchronisation takes too long. After watching two head-to-head race, we decided to call it a day.

Here is an animation of the action at the track.


For more info on Kambala, check these links:
Kadri Kambala - the buffalo race
Kambula - udupipages.com
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Old 27th December 2006, 00:33   #2
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Wow! Thats some travelogue!
But one question about AF, don't you have the sports AF track mode, where objects doing upto 50kmph/hr can be tracked with AF autoadjusting?
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Old 27th December 2006, 08:07   #3
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Originally Posted by tsk1979 View Post
Wow! Thats some travelogue!
Thanks.

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Originally Posted by tsk1979 View Post
But one question about AF, don't you have the sports AF track mode, where objects doing upto 50kmph/hr can be tracked with AF autoadjusting?
I have continous AF which works similarly. But with the light I had, even single AF didn't work, the lens would start hunting. Actually Rudra had predicted it and he suggested the MF method. With a long lens and max aperture, my DOF was really shallow, then combine it with MF. Therefore, most photos are soft, I don't think I really got any sharp photos.
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Old 27th December 2006, 08:29   #4
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@Samurai,
"A closer look of the race with tiller" is a wonderful piece of photography, doesnt mean others arent, for me this stands out.
btw, isnt 50-200 effective 75-300!
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Old 27th December 2006, 08:34   #5
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Hello Samurai sir...
It just feels great to see the pics of race... Thats so popular in our side of the planet..A great write up too.............I am from mangalore and have been a frequent visitor to Kambala race......But never got an oppurtunity to capture it in film....have saved the images in my Pc.....Amazin pictures i must say...Where exactly are you from Sir?
Early this year there was one in mudbidri...and one more in mangalore too....Well knew about the Mulki kambala...But my BE sem exams playin the spoilsport.......Hopin to catch the next one Early next year....And catch up with you too some time...
rgrds,
angelfire

Last edited by angelfire : 27th December 2006 at 08:35.
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Old 27th December 2006, 09:29   #6
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@Samurai,
"A closer look of the race with tiller" is a wonderful piece of photography, doesnt mean others arent, for me this stands out.
btw, isnt 50-200 effective 75-300!
Thanks Rocky. The effective focal length depends on the camera system, it is 1.6x, 1.5x and 2x for Canon, Nikon and Olympus respectively.

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...But never got an oppurtunity to capture it in film....have saved the images in my Pc.....Amazin pictures i must say..
Thanks, technically it is still not film.

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Early this year there was one in mudbidri...and one more in mangalore too....Well knew about the Mulki kambala...But my BE sem exams playin the spoilsport.......
The second link I have provided at the bottom of the first post has the timetable of all the Kambalas of this season. You can still catch it.

Last edited by Samurai : 27th December 2006 at 11:30.
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Old 27th December 2006, 10:10   #7
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My BLR-MLR travelogue + Kambala pics (featuring our very own Samurai in photographic action) coming up today!

Slated to be the most eagerly awaited entertainer of the year after Casino Royale.
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Old 27th December 2006, 10:33   #8
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Very interesting read Samurai... and the photography is beautiful. I'd heard of these races but thanks to you got to see it in detail .

Off topic but imagine such a track for head to head off road 4x4 racing
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Old 27th December 2006, 11:32   #9
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Off topic but imagine such a track for head to head off road 4x4 racing
You mean like a drag race for 4x4 off-roaders, that's a great idea.
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Old 27th December 2006, 11:38   #10
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wow looks like indians came up with drag racing first.
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Old 27th December 2006, 18:57   #11
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The buffaloes have a mind of their own. After the race is over, they are still in the zone, they tend to run into any direction they feel like. Often you can find them running back into the track, and into the oncoming traffic just like our roads.

Here one of the pairs tried running back into the track, held back by half a dozen people, while the next race is on.
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Old 27th December 2006, 22:39   #12
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Quote:
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You mean like a drag race for 4x4 off-roaders, that's a great idea.
I see a KL-07 Dicor headed to the track soon. I'm sure a TN registered Scorpio won't be too far behind.
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Old 27th December 2006, 23:17   #13
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Fantastic photography. The colours are truly amazing. Great stuff.

@ v1p3r - great idea. I am game any time
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Old 27th December 2006, 23:43   #14
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Samurai - great photography! Finally all that hard work with the manual focus paid off!
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Old 28th December 2006, 15:57   #15
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Fantastic photography. The colours are truly amazing. Great stuff.

@ v1p3r - great idea. I am game any time
Thanks Sideways, if there is enough interest (read as atleast two offroad draggers), I can even make enquiries about arranging it.
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