Circus Legend Gemini Chose Gujarat For His Debut

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Circus Legend Gemini Chose Gujarat For His Debut

| Updated: April 26, 2023 17:03

The week began on a sad note with the passing away of Indian circus pioneer Moorkoth Vengakandi ‘Gemini’ Sankaran, who died late on Sunday, April 23. He was 99 and ailing for the past few days.

Anyone who’s even remotely interested in the history of Indian circus will know ‘Gemini’ Circus. Not many are aware, however, that Gujarat has a big role to play in the rise of Sankaran and his Gemini Circus. After working with various circus groups across the country, Sankaran purchased Vijaya Circus Company in 1951. He renamed it the ‘Gemini Circus’.

“Gemini debuted at Bilimora in Gujarat on August 15, 1951, on India’s Independence Day,” noted Malyalam Manorama in its tribute to Sankaran. Sankaran was born in 1924, at the village Kolassery near Thalassery in Kerala’s Kannur district. As a boy, he trained under noted circus artiste Keeleri Kunhikannan for three years. He later joined the military and served in World War II.

Sankaran reportedly started at a Kolkata circus company, the Boss Lion Circus, where made a name for himself as a trapezist.


Among Gemini’s famous patrons were India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru – his daughter and former PM Indira Gandhi reportedly even helped Sankaran by making the Railways available for transporting animals for a Bihar show – along with Martin Luther King Jr, Edwina Mountbatten, Yuri Gagarin and Valentina Tereshkova.

When environmental laws changed to restrict the use of animals in circuses, Sankaran reportedly worked closely with forest officials to ensure the large troupe of animal performers that he owned found homes in Wayanad’s forests.

Several have condoled his passing. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, according to PTI, hailed Sankaran for playing a major role in popularising Indian circus worldwide. “He played a major role in modernising the Indian circus and included foreign performers and their tricks,” Vijayan said.

M V Sankaran, also known as #Gemini Sankaran, who transformed a boy’s dream of the old-time #Circus into founding and owning India’s top circuses like Gemini and Jumbo, died at 99 yrs of old-age ailments at a hospital in #Kerala Kannur on 23 Apr.23. We pay homage to him.

Father of Indian circus, lord of the ring, Gemini Sankaran passes away at 99. Some years ago, I had a meal with him, which in itself was an experience. Well laid table, full cutlery service, course following course. Most of all it was conversation.

This article was originally published on The Wire on April 25, 2023.

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