The Great Bombay Circus took down its Big Top in Chennai this week - perhaps for the last time. The circus troupe was established in 1920 - and it seems likely to mark its centenary year by closing altogether.
Circuses around the world are finding it difficult to keep going. India's no exception to that. The ban on the use of many animals has aggravated their difficulties - though two camels still appear in the ring, along with performing dogs (that would cause a riot in some countries!), macaws and cockatoos.
The clowns, jugglers, acrobats and trapeze acts which are now the mainstay of the circus find it difficult to compete with the increasingly VR-aided digital landscape.
I enjoyed my afternoon at the circus. But even the 4pm show on a Saturday - the one you would expect to be the busiest of the week - was well short of full, Many of those attending came bearing cut-out coupons from the newspapers giving them a hefty discount on the entrance price ... though they clearly appreciated the show.
Some of the Great Bombay Circus clowns have been in that role for decades. Alongside them were acrobats from Ethiopia, Nepal and Manipur in north-east India.
The only photography tolerated during performances is on phones - which aren't really up to the difficult lighting conditions. But let me at least share a few images:
Happily there is a much more enticing visual record of the Great Bombay Circus's final rendezvous in Chennai ... the excellent Chennai Photowalk arranged for their members to take photographs inside the arena, and have very generously gifted the circus high quality prints of more than sixty of their best images.
With the permission of Chennai Photowalk - here's a selection of their handiwork ... and you can see the full circus album by clicking on this link:
Andrew Whitehead's blog
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