India’s circuses are increasingly performing in front of virtually empty stands. No wonder the industry is worried about its future.

The trouble began in 1997 when protests against the use of animals gathered momentum. In 2011, a court ordered a ban on child labour, which ruled out young performers

In August 2016, India’s only public circus academy was shut down. Soon afterwards, the use of wild animals in circuses was banned.

And while the show still goes on, circuses seem to be living on borrowed time.

“The history of the circus in India has always been a continuous struggle for existence,” observed a member of the Circus Federation of India a few years ago.

For stuntman Manoj Kumar, it’s one continuous struggle.

“It’s easy to run away from hardships. Every minute we are exposed to challenges in life. The one who is fearful gets nothing in life, the one who stands and fights will have the world at his feet.”  

He is one of the last performers of the daredevil circus act known as the Globe of Death at the Great Golden Circus, Mumbai. The act involves motorcycle riders looping constantly around the inner surface of a mesh sphere, using their momentum to keep themselves from falling.

Kumar’s inspiration, however, is different from the often-cited financial need – he fell in love with Mikal, one of the stuntwomen at the circus.


The video above by 101 India tracks how Kumar, formerly a manual labourer, learned death-defying stunts in three months.

Bhanumati, a trainer at the same circus, has her own story of how she and her husband Ramata met years ago as performers.


Some circuses have roped in foreign artists to attract crowds. Rajab, Yidi, Salum and Yasim are Tanzanian acrobats and star performers at the Great Golden Circus.