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Father of Kerala Circus
...and the father of Indian circus education
Keeleri Kunhikkannan is popularly known as the father of Kerala Circus. He joined as a gymnastic teacher in the Basel Mission school of Gundert. The turning point was of course when Chatre’s Indian Circus came to Tellicherry and Keeleri met Chatre and a deal was struck. Keeleri would teach students gymnastic feats for circus and Chatre would employ them. It was in 1888 in the Pulambil area that the first lessons were given. The eminent students were Pariyali Kannan, Poovadan Kunhambu and Poovadan Govindan. It was in 1901 that he again started the circus training school at Chirakkara, Tellicherry. Pariyali Kannan, Irimban Kannari, Kunnath Yeshoda, Vendi Madhavi were his first students. On February 2nd 1904 in Chirakkara the first circus company of Kerala, Parayalis Malabar Grand Circus was inaugurated. Unfortunately it could not continue and it had to wind up in 1906. It was in 1910 that he trained Kannan Bamboyo who later became a world renowned artiste. In 1922 Keeleri’s nephew started the White Way Circus and in 1924 another disciple of his, Kallan Gopalan, started the Great Rayman Circus.