The world of magic and fantasy unveiled itself in India as feature films like Chota Chetan, Abra Ka Dabra, and Jajantaram Mamantaram took to the screens. And, of course, there is no denying the undying love for the Harry Potter series around the world. Tales of mystique have left us wondering if any such marvels have crossed into reality.
If only more people knew about the land of dark magic in India — Mayong.
The village in Morigaon district of Assam is known as the land of the occult. Over a hundred wizards and witch doctors reside here, locally known as bej/bez or oja. No stone or previously dormant powers are the source of their talents, as opposed to what movie would have us believe. These skills have supposedly tumbled down the family tree as earlier descendants pass on the craft.
Whether it is an unwanted ailment, a misfortune or ghosts in your life, they have a spell for it all. It is believed that they can make a man disappear, turn one into a beast, or whip up an animal out of thin air. Their craft does not shy away from gruesome or gore-filled acts. Evidence suggests that there is some involvement of sacrifice in their practice, but there are many mild ones — wizards are known to cure back pain by chanting mantras while a copper plate is balanced on your back. Friendly locals often narrate tales of magic from the past, about incredible acts they claim to have performed.
While folklore and tales are rampant on the streets of Mayong, it is not merely whispered myths that commit to the occult. The Mayong Central Museum and Emporium of Black Magic and Witchcraft was established in the village in 2002. It flaunts magical remnants, weapons, old coins, scripts, jewellery made from bones and skulls, and tools used for human sacrifice, among other artifacts.
The origin of the village’s name is much debated. While some believe it is derived from the Sanskrit word 'maya' or illusion, some say it is named after the Dimsa word for elephants, some others believe it is due to the residence of the Moirang clan in the area.
Though Mayong is still a well-kept secret in the state, Utpal Borpujari’s document Mayong: Myth/Reality has brought some media attention to the village. The document explores the culture, beliefs and practices related to magic in the area.
While it is easy to dismiss all of it as far-fetched superstition built over the years, it might be interesting to learn that the village has been mentioned in various historical texts, including epics such as Ramayana and Mahabharata. The Alamgir Nama — a documentation of Emperor Aurangzeb’s first 10 years in India — mentions that the Mughal rulers are not fearful of the armies, but the dark magic that dwells in the area.
As fascinating and fantastical as the village is, its relationship to the tantric arts may be a dying art. With more and more people accepting pragmatism and turning away from the superstitious, unfortunately the wizards of the village are losing business. This has resulted in many of them taking up more socially-accepted professions. However, the streets of the village still abound with the tales of sorcery.
Undoubtedly, Mayong has been put in a box as people confine it to the ‘black magic capital of India’. In fact, the village has a lot more to offer in terms of tourism. Banked on the Brahmaputra, it is surrounded by hills and hillocks. It is also adjacent to Pabitora National Park, which has bountiful wildlife, including one-horned rhinoceroses, wild boar, wild buffalos, and elephants. A jeep safari or elephant safari are ideal ways to enjoy the experience. A Mayong-Pabitora festival is held at the entrance of the national park, that celebrates magic and wildlife.
Along with adventure seekers, curious folk and believers of the dark arts, history buffs also flock to Mayong. The village boasts many historic landmarks, ancient shrines and temples. The Land of Pancha Devata is an accumulation of five temples, each dedicated to a different God — Dinesh, Ganesh, Vishnu, Siva, and Parvati. In Burha Mayong, a large stone stands with a marvelous 3.85 metre inscription, the biggest in Asia. Many stone images have also been found here. No matter what you are interested in — especially if that is dark magic — you will have something to explore in the village.
Mayong is a little over 40 kilometers away from the state capital of Guwahati. We would suggest hiring a private car to visit, though public transport is also available.