Gods in Shackles – What Elephants Can Teach Us About Empathy, Resilience and Freedom

SANGITA IYER FELL IN LOVE WITH THE COW ELEPHANT LAKSHMI AS SOON AS SHE SAW HER

With a foreword by the world-renowned chimpanzee conservationist, Dr. Jane Goodall (DBE), Gods in Shackles: What Elephants Can Teach Us About Empathy, Resilience, and Freedom is a moving memoir that follows a biologist, journalist, and award-winning wildlife filmmaker Sangita Iyer, who finds her purpose in advocacy for the Asian Elephants in her childhood hometown of Kerala, India. Gods in Shackles book touches on themes ranging from conservation and climate change to religion, philosophy and emotional well-being and how Elephants relate to each of these.   The book is slated for release on February 8, 2022, and will be available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and everywhere books are sold. 

Dr. Jane Goodall

Elephants are self-aware, conscious beings. They can feel and grieve the loss of both Elephants and humans. Elephants are supremely intelligent, with a brain size 3 times as large as the human brain.  They are social animals, who live in tight knit families.  Just like humans, their priority is protecting their young.

But they are being ripped apart from their families, subjugated using brute force and constantly abused, so they can be exploited in the so-called “cultural festivals”. Despite their physical and emotional traumas, these captive Elephants give nothing but love and compassion even to those who inflict suffering.

In 2013, Iyer visited her childhood home in Kerala, India, where more than 500 captive Elephants, owned by individuals and temples are forced to perform in lengthy, crowded, noisy festivals. Deprived of food, water and rest, these animals they claim to revere are exploited for tourists and money. This sparked the creation of her award-winning documentary of the same name and a new purpose in life for both Sangita and the Elephants. 

The book contains crucial scenes that could not be included in her ground-breaking film, Gods in Shackles, and it connects the readers with the emotions Elephants feel.

“By exposing the suffering of Elephants, my most sincere intention is to help people realize that manmade cultural shackles are preventing us from evolving consciously. Our attitudes and misguided beliefs are responsible for our own suffering, as well as the suffering of other beings – both human and nonhuman.” says Sangita Iyer

When Sangita found herself in the presence of these divine creatures and witnessed their suffering first-hand, she felt a deep connection to their pain. She too had been shackled and broken for too long-to her patriarchal upbringing in India, to the many “me too” moments in her work life that were swept under the rug, to the silence. Now she would speak out for the Elephants and for herself. And she would heal alongside them.

Kerala Festival Elephants

“If humans can collectively unleash the shackles that confine them—the shackles of culture, material wealth, and status quo, or whatever they may be—we can become compassionate enough to heal all sentient beings. But first, we need to heal our self by reconnecting with our origins—the wilderness and its inhabitants, so that we can foster a peaceful coexistence,” says Sangita Iyer

Climate Change angle:

Climate change is an existential threat that impacts people around the world, as what happens in one nation reverberates across the planet. We have natural climate mitigators in the tropical forests of India, and saving them in India would benefit the whole planet …

Journalist/biologist/Nat Geo Explorer, author and Founder of Voice for Asian Elephants Society Sangita Iyer is sounding the alarm about the need to protect Asian and African Elephants because of their critical role in mitigating climate change.

Watch this 6-minute video produced by Sangita that world premiered on Nat Geo TV India, and then uploaded on YouTube. Meet the Gardeners of the Earth There are more such short films here

And you can watch Sangita’s short clips here (4 minutes long): https://vimeo.com/657252565

“Elephants are the largest living land mammal, and they play a grand role in preserving this magnificent web of life that we are all a part of. Elephants create productive ecosystems, and they coexist harmoniously with all living beings, allowing the forests and its inhabitants to thrive.” notes Sangita.

Book Reviews

“As I read Gods in Shackles – What Elephants Can Teach Us About Empathy, Resilience and Freedom, I was shocked, saddened and angered by the cruelty towards the Elephants who are forced to take part in religious ceremonies – cruelty that is described in this extraordinary book.  And I was amazed and moved by the courage shown by its author Sangita Iyer.  She loves Elephants, yet despite the emotional pain she suffered when she saw the abuse meted out to them, she forced herself to visit as many of the temples as possible to record and expose their pain to the world. And when an accident left her crippled and in agonizing pain for weeks, she never gave up. Moreover, she realized that her pain, and the pain of the Elephants, reflected the suffering of so many abused people around the world. ” – Dr. Jane Goodall (DBE), Founder, the Jane Goodall Institute

“We are desperate to feel that we are not alone in the universe. We are not. A whisper is all around us, the constant song of life communicating with itself. In Unshackled, Iyer links our own resurrection as individuals and as a species to this shared song. ” — Richard Louv, author of “Our Wild Calling” and “Last Child in the Woods”

In these pages, Sangita Iyer offers us both love and imaginative hope. Hope becomes more realistic when we view the four horsemen of the apocalypse – climate disruption, biodiversity collapse, extinction and the decay of human hope – as a single existential threat with shared solutions. To find that path, to take action, we must first listen to the song that surrounds us, as Sangita has done in her own life. — Richard Louv, author of “Our Wild Calling” and “Last Child in the Woods”

“When a person stands up for injustice, the plight is infectious. Sangita’s passion is infectious. The good people of this world came her way and helped because they believed in what she was doing. Sangita made Gods in Shackles and the VFAES happen, and bravo to her. I would thoroughly recommend this inspiring and uplifting book. The subject matter is brutal, but it gives me hope that humans can still make the world a better place if we change our ways, if we make a stand. Education and solidarity are the way forward. Excellent read and fantastic journey!’ – Carla Kovach, Author of the bestselling, DI Gina Harte series

“Thought provoking, and very upsetting at times, particularly that these tortures are under the semblance of religion. This wonderful book is deep and full of facts and emotions. I particularly resonated with the frequent parallels to the Elephants’ plight and Sangita’s personal life experiences both physical and mental. Sangita. is a determined, cause driven passionate advocate whom I admire enormously.” – Rula Lenska – Renowned British Actress & Model

This phenomenal trailblazing book reminds us that humans need to self-heal in order to fully play our role in forming a synergistic co-existence with Nature and animals. What we do to another species reverberates back to us. There is an urgency therefore to end the weeping of Elephants, an evolving of humans so that we all hold out hands with respect and tender love. Then Elephants, all animals, will be free from shackles and chains. In this outstanding book Sangita Iyer is the worthy voice of Elephants, the translator of their wisdom, of the mapping of their consciousness itself and how it relates to us mere humans. – Margrit Coates, World Renowned Author, Healer and Interspecies communicator

“Through this engaging story Sangita Iyer helps us recognize how interdependence, community, diversity, and being open to adaptation and emergence creates transformative change for a sustainable future.” Dr. Liza Ireland; Associate Faculty, School of Environment & Sustainability, Royal Roads University.

You can pre-order this wonderful book at Gods In Shackles.