The Circus Is In Town: Show Starts At Exhibition Ground In Bhubaneswar Tomorrow

Bhubaneswar: For nearly a century and a half, the Circus has been an essential part of Indian cultural legacy. The circus was a rare annual spectacle that people in towns and villages looked forward to. Besides the animals; jugglers, acrobats, fire-eaters, sword-swallowers, dare devil motorcyclist and jokers drew crowds in large numbers under the big top.

The bright red tents could house 3,000 people and over 100 animals at a time. So highly regarded was the circus that politicians like Jawaharlal Nehru, VK Krishna Menon and Indira Gandhi brought visiting dignitaries and ambassadors to shows. The government gave railway concessions, reduced ground rentals and also waived away the entertainment tax fee. Many Indian circuses even went on successful foreign tours, and circuses also featured in many films, both English and vernacular. TV serials on Circuses were also made.

Children could see lions and tigers from a distance of five feet. Exotic birds and animals like hippopotamuses, zebras, cockatoos etc. featured in the performances, besides the elephants and horses.

India has given birth to some of the most well-known and outstanding circus artists in the world, and over time, a number of circuses have distinguished themselves as the best in the nation. A circus training academy was set up in Kerala, which has now been closed.

From over 300 circuses two decades ago, India now has only a dozen. The ban on wild animals and performance of children sent many circuses to bankruptcy. Initially, only wild animals were banned with the exception of elephants, horses, dogs and some foreign birds, but today no animals are allowed to be used.

It was the children who had kept the circus alive. They loved to see the animals and since they couldn’t visit alone,  they were accompanied  by their parents. Nowadays, there are very few children who visit circuses.

Bhubaneswar has seen performances of some of the greatest Indian Circuses which include, Great Bombay Circus, Gemini Circus, Rambo Circus, Great Rayman Circus, Raj Kamal Circus, Jumbo Circus and Empire Circus in the last fifty years.

The Ajanta Circus has come to town. Show starts from June 8 evening at Exhibition Ground, Unit 3, in Bhubaneswar and they will be here for about a month. Even though the glitter has faded, the spirit of the Circus is still alive.

The tickets have been priced at Rs 100, 150, 200 and 300. And the timings of the shows are 1 pm, 3 pm and 7 pm.

For many elderly, a visit to the circus will be a nostalgic trip down memory lane, and will awaken childhood memories. Children should be taken to the shows, they will be filled with awe and delight. The circus has come to town after nearly a decade, maybe this is the last chance to see the big top.

Odisha too had its tryst with the Circus. The Aul Royalty owned a successful Circus company with many animals and performers. Unfortunately, while on a foreign tour, the ship carrying the troupes and animals sank in the Bay of Bengal. I have seen many photographs of the Circus at the Killa Aul Palace.

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