A topic of recent controversy has been the event of Jallikattu in Tamil nadu with arguments over whether it was a culturally relevant way to practice bull taming, while others insisting it was inherently cruel- or just maybe a bit of both. On the other side of the south of India is the event Kambala- which is a annual race of buffaloes held in the coastal areas of Karnataka.
An overnight bus from Bangalore will take you to Mangalore. After freshening up and a bit of rest a hired bike to cross 65km and you’d arrive at the event location, Venoor. The entry is free and you’d do well to not expect seating. Mangalore and the coastal areas are warm to say the least, even in winter. Tracks are ploughed into a muddy paddy field that is made slushy with water.The event itself runs for 24-36 hours continually with this location having 4 racing formats. However the one we saw was that of a single pair of buffaloes driven by their owner and timing is compared later to see the fastest of the lot.
Note : It may be better to visit in the early evening since this one type went on for a whole 3 hours we were there so there wasn’t much variety in the experience.
The buffaloes were given a bath before and after the race in a nearby stream. Each group seemed to have their own cheering squad too- with an assortment of instruments in tow.
Other than Kambala itself, the town of Venoor by the Phalguni river was once the seat of Jainism and has several Jain temples sprinkled around to prove it.
Kallu Basadi was the first visited since it was made of rock cut stones. The presence of a large courtyard caused it to be called Dodda Basadi.
Note : Most of the temples visited had their inner sanctuaries closed. It’s possible they are only open in the early mornings for prayers since they are not major tourist destinations. Here we only covered a bunch of places since we didn’t aim to cover them all but there are more Basadis that may be interesting to explore.
Gomateshwara statue : This was built by Thimmanna Ajila, the direct descendant of Chamundaraya, who build the Gomateshwara statue at Shravanabelagola. It is 38 ft in height and on the banks of the Phalguni river.
Chowta palace/aramane : This was something that’s easy to miss, and we did miss it, since you see 2 cars at the entrance and get confused. Apparently it is still occupied by the descendants of the Chowta Jain dynasty.
The Chowta queen is sometimes recognised as the first woman freedom fighter of India having fought the Portuguese army during 1530-99 and earned the title Abhaya Rani.
Savira Kambada Basadi (1000 pillar temple) in Moodbidri : is, as its name suggests, a temple with 1000 pillars that honors the thirthankara Chandraprabha. It has a 60 ft tall monolith pillar in the courtyard of the temple.
Day 2 of the trip took us to a few more spots of interest in Karkala which too was 60 km away from Mangalore.
Note : One could choose to stay in Moodbidri which is the point of deviation from Mangalore to both Karkala and Venoor. However we chose to return to Mangalore since it was only 60km away.
Chaturmukha Basadi : so called because it has 4 symmetrical faces, that are like 4 independent temples just fitted together like pieces of a puzzle. It has a picturesque location atop a small hill surrounded by dense coconut palms on all sides. From here one can see the Gomateshwara in the Karkala basadi which was the next stop.
Gomateshwara, Karkala basadi : The statue of Gomateshwara is 41.5 ft tall built on a platform atop a rocky hill, itself called the Gommata Betta. It’s the second largest in Karnataka. Conversely one can see the Chaturmukha Basadi nestled amidst the coconut palms from the temple that houses the Gomateshwara.
Kere Basadi – The Anekere pond in Karkala was once constructed to provide water for irrigation to the township. And was the place for the king’s elephants to bathe. Until recently, the basadi was only be accessible via a wooden boat where the temple priest doubled up as the boatman. Today however there is a small road that leads directly to it. The pond is a idyllic spot with waterlilies, ducks and reflections of the surrounding coconut palms in the still water. Note: the inner sanctuary is only open for 2 hours a day from 8-9 am and 6:30-7:30 pm.
Koti Chennaya theme park :Koti and Chennaya were legendary twin brothers who fought against oppression by wealthy landlords and are today elevated to the level of divine entities to the extent that this park is primarily to describe their weapons and their stories. It also has utensils, idols,murals and oil paintings describing the life and times of the Tulu people from an older era.
A quick stop on the Pavanje bridge over the Nandini river gives you a beautiful view of the mangroves in all their lush finery were a fitting end to what was a trip that provided a glimpse into the culture and history of the Tulu people.