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  • Writer's pictureAzera Rahman

Spinning a magical yarn

The village of spells and magic, Mayong in Assam is slowly being turned into a tourist attraction

Mayong wears a heavy cloak of mystery. For a believer, it’s the power of spells and magic, and for others, well, a very fascinating story. Whatever be the reason, this tiny village in Assam — known as India’s magic capital — has been attracting curious visitors, prompting the state government into developing it into a tourist hub.

Situated about 40 kilometres from the city of Guwahati and close to the Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary, Mayong has always spelled fascination among those who were familiar with its history. Astounding tales of man disappearing into thin air, or being turned into an animal, or a fierce tiger being tamed, and serious illnesses being cured, lie in the treasure trove of almost every family.

Sensing its potential, the Assam government has decided to promote Mayong, along with the wildlife sanctuary close by, as a tourist circuit, through fairs and festivals. Biswajit Phukan, a government official in Morigaon, says, “There are a series of efforts, like festivals, to promote tourism through Mayong’s culture, tradition and wildlife.”

Naba Deka, who hails from the village and works in a resort near the sanctuary, says that they have lots of curious visitors in the village, coming to enquire if people still practice magic.

Aagor nesina kotha nai (things have not remained like before). It is (magic, sorcery) not practiced as much. These are modern times. People don’t believe in magic or spells like they used to. Children go to school, and shun these things as superstitions,” Deka says softly.

“I, for instance, have not learnt magic. But my ancestors have. Magic spells were taught to children by the kobiraj (teacher) as soon as they attained a particular age. Only some of these spells were written, most of them passed through word of mouth,” he said.

Does he believe in magic? “There are spells to turn a leaf into a fish, or an evil man into an animal. But magic cannot fight against nature’s fury, so there is no spell against the annual floods,” he says.

Legends - like those of Chura Bez who could disappear into thin air just by muttering the 'Luki Mantra' and sedate an angry tiger with his 'Baagh Bandha Mantra' - anecdotal accounts and magical texts abound in Mayong’s esoteric history.

Septugenarian Hemendra Nath, a magic practitioner in the village, is a strong believer of magic.

“People these days dismiss magic as superstition. Nowadays when people fall ill, they prefer to go to the doctor, instead of coming to us. But there are still people who come to us with their troubles—be it domestic, professional, or any disease,” Nath says.

People from other places also come to Mayong to learn magic, he claims. “People from far off places, like Punjab, Haryana, West Bengal, other than from Assam and the surrounding places, come to Mayong to learn magic”.

Nath’s elder brother, Phani, also a magic practioner, admits that they are not as adept in the art of magic as their ancestors were and “cannot perform big feats”. “But we can still cure people,” he smiles.

Believer or not, courtesy it’s fascinating history, and also its beautiful setting — Mayong sits in the lap of nature, near the Brahmaputra, and also has a rich wildlife — this tiny village continues to attract people and leaves them spellbound.

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