UPSC Exam  >  UPSC Notes  >  History for UPSC CSE  >  Nitin Singhania Summary: Indian Circus

Nitin Singhania Summary: Indian Circus | History for UPSC CSE PDF Download

Introduction


  • The circus tradition in India dates back to the late nineteenth century—although India has of course a much more ancient tradition of traveling entertainers, comparable and parallel to those of Asia and Europe, and who often cross-pollinated with them. 
  • But the first Indian circus, according to the definition of the art form created by Philip Astley in 1770, didn’t appear until 1880. Nitin Singhania Summary: Indian Circus | History for UPSC CSE


The Great Indian Circus


  • The first modern Indian circus was created by Vishnupant Chatre, an accomplished equestrian, and singer.
  • Chatre was born in the village of Ankakhop (now part of the city of Sangli), in the province of Maharashtra, southeast of Bombay (the present Mumbai).  Vishnupant Chatre
    Vishnupant Chatre
  • Chatre was in charge of the stables of the Rajah of Kurduwadi, where he occasionally performed "feats of horsemanship"—in the tradition of old English riding masters such as Philip Astley. 
  • As legend has it, Chatre and the Rajah went to see a performance of the Royal Italian Circus of Giuseppe Chiarini in Bombay. The peripatetic Italian director (whose company was generally based in North America) was on one of its many world tours, and visited Bombay for the first time in 1774. 
  • Chiarini was a remarkable equestrian, and Chatre was duly impressed by his performance, and also by his show. 
  • During a conversation with Chatre and the Rajah, Chiarini bluntly stated that India was not ready to have a circus of its own and that it would take at least ten years before it could happen; Chatre was piqued. 
  • Thus Vishnupant Chatre decided to organize his own circus, of which he would be the star equestrian, and his wife would become a trapeze artist and an animal trainer. He probably used some of his pupils in the equestrian department as well. 
  • The first performance of Chatre’s Great Indian Circus was held on March 20, 1880 in the presence of a selected audience—among which was the Rajah of Kurduwadi, who may have helped him in starting his venture. 
  • Following the model of Chiarini, Chatre’s Great Indian Circus went on to travel extensively, first in the vast regions of North India, then further south, to the large east-coast city of Madras (today’s Chennai), and down to the Island of Ceylon (today’s Sri Lanka). 
  • In 1884, Chatre embarked in a tour of Southeast Asia, and, according to Indian circus lore, he then crossed the ocean to conquer the United States. But here, Chatre had badly overestimated his powers: He was indeed unable to measure up to the giant American circuses, neither in size nor in quality, and he returned to India in defeat. 

Keeleri Kunhikannan


Keeleri KunhikannanKeeleri Kunhikannan

  • Back in India, Chatre continued his travels. When his circus visited the city of Thalassery (Tellicherry), on the Malabar Coast in the Indian state of Kerala (South West of India), he met Keeleri Kunhikannan (1858-1939), a martial arts teacher, who also taught gymnastics in Hermann Gundert’s Basel Evangelical Mission School 
  • Thus Chatre asked Kunhikannan, who showed a keen interest in the circus, to train acrobats for his Great Indian Circus—which Kunhikannan began to do in 1888 at a kalari (Indian martial-arts facility) in the village of Pulambil. 
  • In 1901, Kunhikannan opened a bona-fide circus school in Chirakkara, a village near the city of Kollam. In 1904, one of Kunhikannan’s students, Pariyali Kannan, created his own company, the Grand Malabar Circus, whose life lasted only two years. 
  • But this was only the first of several circuses emanating from the Chirakkara’s circus school, and soon, Kerala would be known as the Cradle of the Indian Circus. 
  • Over the years, Chirakkara's school gave birth to such companies as the Whiteway Circus (created in 1922 by Kunhikannan’s nephew, K. N. Kunhikannan), the Great Rayman Circus (created in 1924 by another disciple of Kunhikannan, Kallan Gopalan), the Great Lion Circus (also founded by K. N. Kunhikannan), the Fairy Circus, the Eastern Circus, the Oriental Circus, the Gemini Circus, and the Great Bombay Circus.
  • To these, one must add the Kamala Three Ring Circus of K. Damodaran, who had begun his career traveling from village to village with a small two-pole tent in the early 1930s, before ending with a giant American-style six-pole, three-ring circus, the very first—and only one—of its kind in Asia.
  • The Chirakkara’s circus school didn’t train only future circus entrepreneurs: Many of Kunhikannan's pupils became circus stars in India, and sometimes internationally. 

  • The most famous of them is perhaps Kannan Bombayo, the legendary ropedancer, who graduated from Kunhikannan’s school in 1910, was a star performer in the United States in the 1930s, and was subsequently featured in several major European circuses.

  • After Kunhikannan’s death in 1939, one of his disciples, M. K. Raman created the Keeleri Kunhikannan Teacher Memorial Circus and Gymnastic Training Centre, still in Chirakkara, and the tradition established by Kunhikannan has continued to this day. (In 2008, the Indian government announced that a Circus Academy would be created in Thalassery in Kunhikannan’s memory.)


  • Kannan Bombayo on left
    Kannan Bombayo on left
  • After Kunhikannan’s death (1939), his student M. K. Raman continued his legacy.
  • 2010, the Government of Kerala started a Circus Academy in Thalassery in honor of Keeleri Kunhikannan, who has been conferred the epithet of ‘The father of Indian Circus’.


Major Circus Companies in India


  • Indian circus companies failed to compete with American & European competitors but remained a major source of entertainment till late 1990s.
  • Major Indian circuses are:

1. Three Ring CircusThree Ring CircusThree Ring Circus(i) Started as a two-pole circus by K. Damodaran in the 1930s.
(ii) Gained popularity in South India.
(iii) Later became first & only six-pole three-ring circus of Asia.

2. Great Royal CircusNitin Singhania Summary: Indian Circus | History for UPSC CSE(i) One of the oldest circus troupes in India.
(ii) Started as Madhuskar’s Circus in 1909. Later- taken over by N.R. Walawalker & renamed as Great Royal Circus.
(iii) Toured successfully through Africa, Middle East & South-East Asia.

3. Great Bombay CircusThe Great Bombay CircusThe Great Bombay Circus(i) Started in 1920 by Baburao Kadam.
(ii) Initially known as Grand Bombay Circus.
(iii) 1947, K. M. Kunhikannan, nephew of Keeleri merged his circus company with Grand Bombay Circus & renamed it as Great Bombay Circus.
(iv) Became one of the largest circus companies of India, with a troupe comprising of 300 performers & 60 animals.

4. Gemini CircusNitin Singhania Summary: Indian Circus | History for UPSC CSE(i) Came into existence at Bilimora in Gujarat (1951).
(ii) Helmed by M. V. Shankaran, an ex-army man, who became popular as Gemini Shankarettan.
(iii) 1964, it became the first Indian circus to attend International Circus Festival in USSR.
(iv) Held shows at Moscow, Sochi and Yalta.
(v) Was the backdrop of many Indian movies like Raj Kapoor's Mera Naam Joker.

5. Jumbo CircusNitin Singhania Summary: Indian Circus | History for UPSC CSE(i) “The Pride of India”
(ii) Largest Indian circus of modem times.
(iii) Started in Bihar (1977).
(iv) It was later acquired by the Shankaran family and included Russian acrobats & performers.
  Damoo Dhotre

Damoo DhotreDamoo Dhotre(i) One of the most popular Indian ringmasters of all time.
(ii) Bom in Pune in 1902, he joined Isako’s Russian Circus as a proprietor.
(iii) In 1939, he moved to France with Bertram Mills Circus & then to the world-famous Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus in the USA.
(iv) Their show was known as “The Greatest Show on Earth.”
(v) Later served in the US Army from 1943 to 1946.
(vi) Known as “Wild Animal man” & was granted US citizenship in 1960. (vii) Returned to Pune after serving Circus Industry for 40 years & died in 1973.

Circus: A marginal Industry


  • Since the late 90s, the circus industry is declining due to a variety of reasons.
  • 300 Indian circuses in 1990 came down to just 30 in 2017.

Reasons for the decline
(i) Trade is kept as a guarded secret by Indian circus companies & have made it a hereditary affair so good managers don’t enter the circus business.
(ii) Indian circus companies feel that circus acrobatics require intensive training from childhood.
(iii) Supreme Court’s ban on hiring children below the age of 14 in 2011, limited the resource pool of circus companies.
(iv) Government of India banned the use of wild animals for entertainment in 1997, which decreased the attraction of the audience.
(v) Circus- seen as a dangerous profession. So, families are unwilling to let their children choose it as a viable professional career.
(vi) Access to world-class gymnastics & other forms of entertainment, interest in traditional Indian circus, was lost.

Possible Remedies


  • Indian Circus Academy at Thalassery in 2010 on the verge of closure due to less number of trainees & financial constraints.
  • Possible remedies for revival:

(i) Increased emphasis on safety regulations & strict enforcement of the same would improve perception of circus as a career opportunity.
(ii) Government protection for the circus performers and companies.
(iii) Security and compensation for artists after retirement should be provided.
(iv) Presently circuses are under the ambit of the Department of Sports and Youth Affairs. It should be brought under the Ministry of Culture for its revival.

The document Nitin Singhania Summary: Indian Circus | History for UPSC CSE is a part of the UPSC Course History for UPSC CSE.
All you need of UPSC at this link: UPSC
162 videos|652 docs|359 tests

FAQs on Nitin Singhania Summary: Indian Circus - History for UPSC CSE

1. What is the Great Indian Circus?
The Great Indian Circus refers to a circus company in India that is well-known for its performances and entertainment shows. It has gained popularity for its skilled acrobats, animal acts, and various other acts that captivate the audience.
2. Who is Keeleri Kunhikannan?
Keeleri Kunhikannan is a prominent figure in the Indian circus industry. He is known as a legendary circus artist and a master of various circus acts, including acrobatics and animal training. Kunhikannan has made significant contributions to the development and promotion of the circus culture in India.
3. What are the major circus companies in India?
Some of the major circus companies in India include The Great Indian Circus, Gemini Circus, Rambo Circus, and The Great Bombay Circus. These companies have been entertaining people for decades with their skilled performers, extravagant shows, and thrilling acts.
4. Why is the circus industry considered a marginal industry?
The circus industry is considered a marginal industry because it faces several challenges and struggles to sustain itself in the modern era. Factors such as changing entertainment preferences, decreased government support, rising costs, and animal rights concerns have led to a decline in the popularity and profitability of circuses.
5. What are some possible remedies for the challenges faced by the circus industry?
Some possible remedies for the challenges faced by the circus industry include diversifying the acts and performances to cater to changing audience preferences, adopting modern technology and incorporating new forms of entertainment, focusing on animal welfare and incorporating more animal-friendly acts, collaborating with other entertainment industries, and actively promoting and marketing the circus culture to attract a wider audience.
162 videos|652 docs|359 tests
Download as PDF
Explore Courses for UPSC exam

How to Prepare for UPSC

Read our guide to prepare for UPSC which is created by Toppers & the best Teachers
Signup for Free!
Signup to see your scores go up within 7 days! Learn & Practice with 1000+ FREE Notes, Videos & Tests.
10M+ students study on EduRev
Download the FREE EduRev App
Track your progress, build streaks, highlight & save important lessons and more!
Related Searches

Objective type Questions

,

video lectures

,

Nitin Singhania Summary: Indian Circus | History for UPSC CSE

,

practice quizzes

,

past year papers

,

mock tests for examination

,

pdf

,

Semester Notes

,

MCQs

,

Extra Questions

,

Nitin Singhania Summary: Indian Circus | History for UPSC CSE

,

Important questions

,

study material

,

Free

,

Sample Paper

,

Previous Year Questions with Solutions

,

shortcuts and tricks

,

Summary

,

Nitin Singhania Summary: Indian Circus | History for UPSC CSE

,

Exam

,

ppt

,

Viva Questions

;