Kambala, the traditional rural sport, as gone beyond the idea of mere buffalo race and has become a representative of the tradition and culture of the soil.
Although the rural sport had to face the ire of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), it is now emerging in totally new form abandoning even the slightest from of cruelty to animals (buffalo).
At Kambala Samrakshane Nirvahane Tarabeti Academy (Kambala Conservation, Maintenance and Training Academy) in Meeyaru, near Karkala, the only academy training youth to become `jockeys,' the unconventional stick covered with sponge is the new addition to the existing syllabus.
At the Academy, formed with the twin objectives of inculcating the required skills to sustain the rural sport and to adhere to the restrictions imposed by the court, the aspiring jockeys are told how the stick with the sponge, which replaces the whip, would not hurt the animal.
Academy Convener Gunapala Kadamba said prior to the start of Kambala season, rigorous training is imparted to the aspirants for 12 days from October 21.
The training includes Yoga, different types of exercises, running race, Kambala practice, the preparation of rope and the decoration of bamboo sticks used in the sport. The training also includes tying the buffaloes and giving bath to the animals after oiling them.
Prof Kadamba, the brain behind the academy, says the training begins from the food and the nutrition given to the buffaloes.
He said already 122 youth had been trained so far and 70 of them were actively engaged in the field.
For the training session 2018, 27 youth had been shortlisted from as many as 155 applicants. Main coach Sarapadi John Cyril D’Souza, who is assisted by four physical education trainers, says after the 12-day training, a youth can earn up to Rs 7 lakh in four months.
"Unlike in past, postgraduate degree holders and marketing people are also making a beeline to get trained in the academy," he added.
Ganesh, who is training to be jockey, said the Academy was investing nearly Rs 30,000 to Rs 35,000 on each candidate. Earlier, it was seen only as an agriculture sport. These days it is a sport offering a livelihood. "It is a pride to be part of the rural tradition," he added.
The training begins from 5.30 am and goes on until late evening. The training is followed by cultural programmes on all 12 days. The Academy's contributions was recognised by state government and was presented with `Kreedaposhak award', an year ago. The award money of Rs five lakh was spent on the activities planned in the Academy, added Kadamba.
He said the Academy had tied up with the Bidar University to launch a research study on Kambala. The study will also look into the technical aspects of the sport.
The buffalo race is not only for entertainment but it is a test of the beast as well as man's agility, he added.