Tuesday, April 19, 2011

276. Kambala: Kambula

Kambala is a traditional ritualistic sport of Tulunadu, involving race of domesticated water buffaloes in specially prepared slushy fields. Nobody can surely say when this ritual sport was introduced in the history of this land.However the ritual and the sport has been designed to activate and invigorate the buffaloes that take important role in the agriculture as well to prepare the agricultural field for rich harvest, which was considered as wealth and prosperity (‘poli’) in the days of early civilization.
Preparations for  buffaloe race in Kadri Kambala Mangalore, December 2010
It is said that there are more than 200 locations in Tulunadu known for staging buffaloe races in the Kambala fields.Many of these Kambala field areas have become defunct during the course of history but the name Kambala attached to them have survived as toponyms.

Shekar Ajekar has compiled available historical data and calendar of Tulunadu Kambala events in an internet edition (Kannada) in www.ajekar.co.cc.
There is a specially decorated post (or pole) erected in the the Kambala fields and it is traditionally known as 'Pookare' kamba, attributed with special magical powers. The pole is decorated usually with flowers or other material such as leaves or  coconut fronds. The post is erected to pray for the proper conduct and success of the Kambala race ceremony as well to ward off evil spirits in the process.In other words, 'pookare' represents  a decorated victory pole. The Pookare post is considered to have special magical powers to ward off evil spirits as well as to increase prosperity of the persons conducting the ceremony.In the olden days,  kings  used send their servants stealthily to steal the famous 'Pookare ' posts belonging to their rivals in order to acquire the the prosperity amassed by the latter.
Kare: Kair , totem tree.
The importance attached to 'Pookare' post suggest that it is a vestige of ancient totemistic  tree worship cult, which latter evolved into totem poles and later into 'pookare' poles. The  memory of  ancient totem tree cult is explicit in the word Poo+kare wherein 'poo' represents the decorated, flowery aspect and 'kare' is a modification of 'kair'  the symbolic  totem or victory tree of many of the ancient  tribes. The word 'kair', of African origin, means victory.It can be noted that the identity of 'kair' tree represented different arboreal species in different tribal cultures: North Indian 'kair' tree was different from Tulunadu 'kayar'. And  among the Munda(la) tribal people (and also Kadambas) 'Kaim' or 'Karm' ( also known as Kadamba.) has been the totem tree. In the last case, note the word analogy between Kair and Kaim/Karm.
Pookare victory poles have evolved along with the civilization and the modified 'pookare' poles in pairs, usually ornate with mango leaves, or with areca-nut fruits were being used  at the entrances for auspicious ceremonies. Similarly, banana plant trunks are used as welcome poles at the entrance to the ceremonial halls.In modern days, multiple  pookare poles decorated with colourful fabric designs coupled with electric lamps are used extensively in modern stage crafts by set designers like Dr Mohan Alva.

Emotion runs high during this event, as is in a 'korikattada kala' (cock fight battle field, a popular pastime in Tulunadu).  It is a game of manliness and grit, besides show of pomp and pride. Procession of participating buffaloes with their owners is a sight to enjoy.To run in a slush is a tough job, that too managing  buffaloes running in different angles or trying to skip the race.

Nowadays, in Kambala races the buffaloes are treated not very harshly, thanks to protests from animal lovers.However, in the olden days, the merciless beating of buffaloes by enraged driver , was a pitiable sight.    Oozing of blood from the body of these animals was paining to see.  There is a saying in Tulu: "ಒಂಜಿ ಕಂಬುಲ ತೂಯೀನಂಡ  ಏಳು ದೀಪ ತೂವೋಡ್ಗೆ" (Onji kambula tuuyinanduda eelu deepa tuvodge! - meaning: If you see a 'Kambula' event, you have to see seven earthen lamps, obviously, lit before a God's temple and home temple. This wise saying might have originated from the belief that it is considered a sin to see the inhuman treatment meted out  to these mute animals. 
Origin of the word: Kambala
What does the word Kambala signifies? Does it refer to the sport, the agricultural field or the buffaloe race? Let us analyse the word Kambala.
Kambala (Kannada) is popularly known as ‘Kambula’ or ‘Kambola’ in Tulu.
Kambola= kan + pola. (p>b transition occurs while the two words fuse together).
Kan= soft, tender, good, appropriate etc.
Pola=agricultural field.
Thus, ‘Poli’= agricultural produce. Agricultural produce was equated with wealth and proseperity in those days.
Kan: The ancient word ‘kan’ may appear strange to some readers. The word ‘kan’ has survived in modern Tulu in words like ‘kanni’ which also means soft, tender, young or virgin. The Tulu word ‘kanda’ has been explained as soft or good and appropriate area (kan+Da) for agriculture. The word kanda adapted into Sanskrit aquirred meanings such as a piece or piece of land or an expanse of land (=continent) in due course.The word ‘kanni-ponnu’ refers to virgin girl. The word ‘kanni-panti’ means tender grass.
It can be seen that the word 'kanni' ( as in kanni-ponnu) has been adapted into Sanskrit as 'kanya', the virgin.
Similarly, kaNNu (=eye), kan+nu represents delicate organ in the body.
Kannada: Incidentally the word Kannada may be explained as kan+naDa or soft agricultural land, wherein the adjective soft alludes to the black soil that is found expansively in northern Karnataka where Kannada was groomed during the early history.
Therefore, the word Kambola or Kambula refers to soft slushy field prepared for the sport of buffaloe race. Further, the essential sequence of the evolution of this word might have been   like this:
Kampola.>Kambola.> Kambula .> Kambala.>Kambla.


 Some people have tried to explain the origin of the word Kambala as derived from 'kampa-kala '. or kampa+ala. In fact, the word 'Kampa'  is genetically related to 'Kambala'. 'Kampa' or 'gampa' also means slushy, muddy field. The origin of the word Kampa is kan+pa, wherein 'kan-' represents soft or slushy and  the suffix  '-pa' represents an areal attribute. (For examples of usage of '-pa' as spatial suffix, check place names like Bajape, Alape, Didupe, etc).

Vishwanath suggests that there is one more angle to look at the etymology of 'Kambla'.  Consider: Kamba (a Post or Pole with 'Nishana' (Aiming Point by means of a banner or flag) for judging height )+ la (water, i.e. water spurt during race by different buffalo pairs). 
 Poles are planted somewhere in middle of the race track length.  These poles on either sides are connected with a rope with buntings or flag. This 'nishana' is meant for pairs of buffaloes tied down with a 'palayi' (wooden pane) with holes.  The driver of buffaloes thumps as hard as possible on this pane when he nears the 'nishana'.  Water spurts so high but may not reach the mark.  One who reaches the mark early is declared a winner.  Race of buffaloes without the panes is judged by the speed.

-With Hosabettu Vishwanath.

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Books for Reference

  • A Comparative Study of Tulu Dialects By Dr. Padmanabha Kekunnaya. Govinda Pai Reserach Centre, UDupi. 1994
  • Koti Chennaya: Janapadiya Adhyayana. By Dr. Vamana Nandavar. Hemanshu Prakashana ,Mangalore.2001.
  • Male kudiyaru. Dr B. A.Viveka Rai and D.Yadupathi Gowda, Mangalore University,1996.
  • Mogaveera Samskriti By Venkataraja Punimchattaya. Karnataka Sahitya Academy.1993.
  • Mugeraru:Jananga Janapada Adhyayana. By Dr Abhaya Kumar Kaukradi.Kannada & Culture Directorate,Bangalore & Karnataka Tulu Academy, Mangalore,1997.
  • Puttubalakeya Pad-danagalu. Ed: Dr B.A.Viveka Rai,Yadupati Gowda and Rajashri, Sri Dharmasthala Manjunatheswara Tulu Peeta. Mangalore University.2004
  • Se'erige. Ed:Dr K.Chinnapa Gowda.Madipu Prakashana,Mangalagangotri,2000.
  • Studies in Tuluva History and Culture.by Dr P Gururaja Bhat (1975).Milagres College,Kallinapur,Udupi.
  • Taulava Sanskriti by Dr.B.A.Viveka Rai, Sahyadri Prakashana,Mysore 1977
  • TuLu naaDu-nuDi By Dr.PalthaDi Ramakrishna Achar, Puttur.
  • TuLu NighanTu. (Editor in Chief: Dr U.P.Upadhyaya, Govinda Pai Research Centre,Udupi. Six volumes. 1988 to 1997
  • Tulu Patero-A Philology & Grammar of Tulu Language by Budhananda Shivalli.2004.Mandira Prakashana Mangalore. p.317. (The book is in Tulu Language using Kannada script)
  • TuLunadina ShasanagaLa Sanskritika Adhyayana. By Shaila T. Verma (2002) Jnanodaya Prakashana,Bangalore, p.304.(Kannada)
  • Tuluvala Baliyendre. Compiled by N.A.Sheenappa Hegde,Polali,Sri Devi Prakashana,Parkala,1929/1999

A Coastal estuary

A Coastal estuary
Holegadde near Honavar,Uttara Kannada dist, Karnataka

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