Circus, a traditional means of entertainment in the folk culture of Bangladesh, has gradually lost its appeal over time due to various types of challenges including a lack of patronage, training facilities, failing to upgrade with the modern technological development and many other reasons.
Covid-19 pandemic has further deteriorated the industry and circus owners in different parts of the country, including the capital, are now struggling to survive.
According to the Bangladesh Circus Owners Association, there are 25 circus teams listed in the country, employing about 5,000 people. However, in addition to these 25 parties, there are more than 100 parties in the country. Altogether, about 20,000 people are still involved in this profession.
Meanwhile, a number of circus troupes have gone extinct in the course of time, despite the fact that several groups have worked to preserve the tradition.
Apart from this, in some cases, the owners of some circus parties are organising events by changing their names and forms for survival, which the circus owners' association thinks a distortion.
Among the teams that regularly perform in the country are The Raihan Circus, The Bulbul Circus, The Great Raushan Circus, The Rajmoni Circus, The Royal Bengal Circus, The Sonar Bangla Circus, The Seven Star Circus, The Capital Circus and The Lion Circus.
Sheikh Aftab Uddin, the head of The Great Raushan Circus, told The Business Standard (TBS) he was run out of money three months ago. Now, he has his back to the wall.
Shahinur Rahman, general secretary of the Bangladesh Circus Owners Association, told TBS the circus has been closed for about 11 months. The circus is what we live on. Everything in the country is now open following the hygiene rules. We also want the permission to perform the circus.
"My father used to do circus performances from the Pakistan period. I have also followed him. Even if I want, I can't go to any other profession," he added.
Circus owners say managing a team is quite an expensive job. The training process is not as easy as Jatra or puppetry and requires a team full of youth with skills and experience and many years of pursuit.
Bangla Academy Co-director Simon Zakaria, who has been researching on circus and folklore for a long time, told TBS traditional circus teams are now in crisis as circus owners will need administrative approval for organising an event.
Another issue is not being able to keep up with the times. And, it is essential for those concerned to take appropriate roles in resolving the crisis immediately.
The circus groups in Bangladesh are mainly family oriented. One owner forms a group with his family members and relatives.
For arranging an even, many big tents have to be pitched and many tools have to be brought. The owner also has to set up giant galleries on his own. If a group cannot perform in one place for at least 15 days, the owner may incur losses.
Circus owners say the circus needs a variety of animals including elephants and tigers. Permission to keep these animals is also not given. Due to this, the popularity of circus has come down a lot.