Moorkoth Vengakandi Shankaran, better known as Gemini Shankaran, a pioneer of Indian circus, died in Kannur city of Kerala on Monday, The Indian Express reported. He was 99.

Shankaran was the owner of circus companies such as Gemini, Jumbo and the Great Royal Circus. He started his career as an artist in Boss Lion Circus in Kolkata and was an expert in the horizontal bar and flying trapeze, according to The Hindu.

He also authored a book about his life in the circus titled Malakkam Mariyunna Jeevitham (a life of somersaults), according to The Indian Express. He was awarded a lifetime achievement award by the Indian government.

On Monday, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan expressed his condolence and said that Shankaran played a major role in popularising Indian circus around the world, reported The Hindu.

“At once a noted circus performer and then owner of various circuses, he has travelled with his circus to various places outside India,” Vijayan said in a statement. “He focused on developing the circus by incorporating foreign artists and their circus arts into the Indian circus.”

Several social media users also expressed their condolence on Shankaran’s death.