Until this month, Srinivas Gowda was relatively unknown outside of the Kambala circuit in Dakshina Kannada. The 28-year-old has now shot to fame after a record-breaking performance at a Kambala racing event in Aikala in the district.
According to the referees at the event, he ran 142.50 metres in 13.62 seconds, considered the fastest run in the traditional buffalo racing sport. People also compared Srinivas's performance to Usain Bolt after calculating that the man from Dakshina Kannada ran 100 metres in 9.55 seconds, which is 0.03 seconds faster than the Jamaican world record holder.
"I did not think I would run this fast. The buffaloes were quick and I followed them," says Srinivas sheepishly when asked about the feat. He was aided by the buffaloes pulling him along but he also had to overcome the struggles of running on a slushy field.
Hailing from Mijar in Dakshina Kannada, Srinivas is a construction worker during the off-season. But from November to March, when Kambala races are traditionally held, he focuses solely on taking part and winning kambala events.
What is Kambala?
Kambala is a traditional slush-track buffalo race which is popular in the coastal districts of Karnataka. In these races, a pair of buffaloes tied to a plough run in parallel slush tracks, with a farmer controlling them.
On February 1, during the Kambala event in Aikala, all eyes were on buffaloes owned by Bada Poojary of Iruvail village. The jockey running with the buffaloes was Srinivas, who had trained for the race for more than a month. “I mainly exercise and swim everyday. Once a week, I practice running on the slushy track,” says Srinivas.
The sport, which has been in the news for its battle with PETA over animal rights, was allowed to continue in 2017. A ban on the sport was lifted after the President gave assent to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Karnataka Amendment) Ordinance of 2017, which excluded Kambala from the sports that were considered to involve animal cruelty.