Elephants are some of the world’s most majestic animals. They are wise, compassionate and play a vital role in maintaining a healthy and balanced ecosystem. Because of these qualities, and many more, it comes as little surprise that the elephant is afforded a god-like status in Indian culture. As living embodiments of the Hindu deity, Ganesha, elephants are afforded a number of protections. Not only has the use of elephants in circuses been banned, but they have been named the official heritage animal of the country. However, despite this elevated status, many elephants are still subjected to lives of abuse and torture.

Gods in Shackles is a documentary that seeks to expose the cruelty and abuse experienced by temple elephants in the Indian state of Kerala. These elephants are kept in captivity for the duration of their lives and used for large cultural festivals. In these festivals, elephants are covered with ornate headpieces and paraded through loud, packed squares while carrying three or four people. Sometimes they are even used as street props and will offer people “blessings” in return for a fee.


These poor animals live their lives in chains and are subjected to physical abuse. Like other elephants exploited for entertainment, these elephants exhibit stereotypic behaviors, symptomatic of their extreme mental distress.

This incredible documentary is meant to raise awareness for the plight of these sacred animals and to provide hope that change is possible. The ultimate goal of the film is to raise enough funds to create a rehabilitation center and sanctuary for these exploited elephants. Many Indian states do not use live elephants for their celebrations, but have found other ways to honor their heritage and the sacred elephant. However, if people do not understand the abuse that these temple elephants experience, then a positive change cannot be made.

Gods in Shackles is currently in the post-production phase and needs our help! You can make a donation to their IndieGoGo campaign here. The stories of these elephants need to be shared and by helping this film through post-production you will not only be aiding the makers of the film, but countless elephants as well!