MAGICAL MEN OF MAYONGFeatured

Written by PRASHUN BHAUMIK
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This village is no hogwash rather more Hogwarts. It’s a pity that Rowling did not find out about Mayong before she created her glorious Harry Potter and the world of magic. For in Mayong too she would find people turning into birds or animals appearing from nothing, or so it is believed. Or better still, like the Cloak of Invisibility gifted to Harry Potter by Dumbledore, village Mayong offers a Cloak of Invincibility if not invisibility. For us who inhabit the world of Muggles all this may seem far too magical and unreal, but for those living in Mayong, it is nothing but reality.

This village is no hogwash rather more Hogwarts. It’s a pity that Rowling did not find out about Mayong before she created her glorious Harry Potter and the world of magic. For in Mayong too she would find people turning into birds or animals appearing from nothing, or so it is believed. Or better still, like the Cloak of Invisibility gifted to Harry Potter by Dumbledore, village Mayong offers a Cloak of Invincibility if not invisibility. For us who inhabit the world of Muggles all this may seem far too magical and unreal, but for those living in Mayong, it is nothing but reality.

Not far from Assam’s capital Guwahati is this tiny hamlet eerily quiet and silent. There’s something in the air in this untouched, secluded village of Mayong, it holds one of the oddest magical backstories on the planet. Flanked by the mighty Brahmaputra and the Pobitora wildlife sanctuary where wild rhinos roam, Mayong is steeped in the secrets of black magic.

Legends and myths surround the mystery of this place. Stories abound on how the village got its name. Many believe Manipuri people hailing from the Maiibong clan lived in this area once upon a time and that’s how it may have got its name. Others claim that the name is actually derived from ‘Maa-erongo’ or part of the Mother. Every aspect of Mayong seems entwined in a haze of stories. And so the name too shrouded in so many folk tales. When all of the northeast states were one under a common name Assam, it is believed that Manipuris from the Maiibong clan used to inhabit this area and therefore; the name Maiibong became Mayhong with time.

Mayong is a hilly area once full of elephants. In Manipuri an elephant is called Miyong. Hence, a few believe that Miyong became Mayong over the years. And then there is the legend of Ma Kali’s body parts. It is said that the sacred parts of the Shakti Goddess were scattered in the area and the older generation called it Maa-r-ongo, (parts of the goddess), which then became Mayong. In fact, Assam is famous for its Kamakhya Temple in Guwahati where it is said that the Goddess’ yoni had fallen when she was cut up into bits to stop her from destroying the world.

The cultural significance of the place stems from the fact that it is the capital of magic and witchcraft in India. A visit to Mayong brings you face to face with some rare tricks which may look like unnatural practice to modernity but are enough to shake one from within. This place also celebrates a unique festival called the Mayong- Pobitora, which celebrates the fusion of magic and wildlife.

Interestingly, people don’t actually know how this magic came to this little place or how black magic became so popular or who was the first person to practice it. But still, much like our mythical stories, the art and craft of black magic have been passed down over generations.

If you ever visit this village, you would hear a lot of weird and unbelievable stories about people turning into birds or animals been made out of nothing. According to most of the people in the village, these stories are actually true.

Many old scriptures have been discovered which also talk about this place as the land of black magic and witchcraft. It is believed that there are some scriptures which contain mantras that can make someone absolutely invincible. But unfortunately, till date, no one has been able to decode these scriptures.

It is believed that once upon a time people from far off places used to come here to learn the dark secrets of black magic. Today, the village still has a community of 100-odd magicians, but most of them are forced to work on the farm as farm hands.

Those who practice these dark acts are referred to as a Bez or Ojaa, and it is often believed that these people often have ghosts as their assistants. According to folklore, there lived a sorcerer by the name of Chura Bez in Assam. Word of his magical powers spread far and wide, and with good reason. Chura Bez was known to be able to disappear into thin air just by muttering the Luki Mantra. “I was a young girl then, but my grandfather’s stupendous feats are fresh in my mind’s eye. Now you see him, now you don’t – we would rub our eyes in disbelief as he suddenly became invisible, ” recalls his 75-year-old granddaughter, Nareswari Devi in an interview to a national daily.

The Bez of Ojaa also uses the black arts to treat diseases as they seem to have a deep knowledge of Ayurveda. From palmistry to curing back pain, these people can do it all. They can cure your back pain with minutes by just placing a copper plate on your back and chanting some magic mantras.

Today if you visit Mayong you would find a lot of a lot of people who have the ability to perform some unbelievable magic tricks. These people believe that through these mantras one can achieve almost everything. It is said that if one can master all the mantras, then one can turn a person into an animal, turn a leaf into a fish and even fly and vanish. Sadly, this town has failed to receive the kind of attention that it should have. And due to lack of funds and opportunities, this art is slowly losing its popularity and if no attention is paid then the day is not far when it might lose the very thing that makes it special.

According to legend, witches and the saints of black magic took shelter in the Mayong woods years ago. Stories also abound about how in 1337, Muhammad Shah’s army of 100,000 horsemen perished at the hands of witchcraft in a location near Mayong. Excavators have found swords in Mayong that resemble those used to sacrifice humans in other parts of India.

Mayong today is just as dark and eerie, but slightly more open, with the occasional traveller passing through town. The locals of Mayong offer palm reading to these visitors and claim to be able to predict the future with the help of broken glass and seashells.

Witch doctors are also abundant in Mayong. Local healers treat pain by placing a copper dish on the source of the injury and wait for the dish to “eat away” the pain. If the pain is too severe, the dish will overheat and shatter onto the ground. The witch doctors also help catch thieves and retrieve stolen or lost things. The witch doctor places a flower in a metal bowl and according to locals, the bowl starts moving along the ground, completely on its own, until it reaches the lost or stolen items.

Every year, a handful of Indians travel to Mayong either to practice black magic and learn the secrets of witchcraft. The adjacent Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary with the world’s densest population of Indian rhinos is also an added attraction. In fact, the animals and magic of Mayong often go hand in hand. This can be seen at the annual MayongPobitora Festival, which celebrates the fusion between wildlife and sorcery.

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