Experience Mayong – The Land of Sorcery
Nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas and roughly shaped like a bird with outstretched wings, is the state of Assam. It is the focal center of Northeast India and is famous for its pristine natural beauty, forests and acres of tea plantations. It is however, a lesser known fact, that Assam is home to subtle alchemy, necromancy, and other magic practices. A range of hills bifurcates the state into the Brahmaputra Valley and the Barak Valley and the former is one of the most extensive Black Magic hotspots of the world.
Forty kilometers away from Guwahati, the village of Mayong bears testimony to the glorious history of Assam. Known among the people of Assam as the Land of the Black Magic, the genesis of its name is subject to widespread speculation. While some say that it is a derivative of the Sanskrit word for illusion, ‘Maya’, others are of the belief that the name originated from the term ‘Mayhong’ which means the land of elephants in Manipuri. Its name notwithstanding, the black magic capital of the world fosters awe-inspiring tales of men disappearing into thin air, people being transformed into animals, and beasts being magically tamed. Visitors are treated to wondrous sights like that of a witch doctor casting spells and making a bell-metal fit itself at the back of a man sitting upright, seemingly defying the law of gravity.
Descendants of the ethnic Tai people, the “Ahoms” form the largest mongoloid community of Assam and Northeast India. Their culture is a syncretic blend of the original Tai culture, the ethnology of the indigenous Tibeto-Burmans and Hinduism. Since 1228, the Ahom identity gradually became Assamese and now forms the most significant inhabiting coterie of the state.
Throughout the course of the Ahom era, which lasted over 600 years, the practice of magic was nurtured in Mayong, and accounts of human sacrifices during their reign manifested.
Records of history, often verbal, and almanacs have been passed on through generations. It is largely believed that centuries ago an emperor from Nepal, then a part of the extended subcontinent, brought magic to the Brahmaputra valley. Fourth, and fifth centuries witnessed the development and evolution of the tradition and faith of the ancient society, based on the Vedic Dharma.
Since then witchcraft and wizardry have survived the test of time, getting deeply intertwined with religious and spiritual beliefs. A few handpicked traditions of Buddhism and Hinduism intermingled, and the famous Goddess Kamakhya became the epicenter of a society which was influenced tremendously by supernatural activities.
The story thereafter
As you delve deeper into Mayong’s history, escapades of a bygone era resurface. Stories revolving around the desire of various emperors to capture the state of Assam and their ultimate failure to do so, birthed the legend of black magic in the land. Stories like that of Ikhtiyaruddin Yuzbuk Tughril Khan, a sultan of Bengal who tried to invade Assam in 1256-57 are still told. It is said that he and his men perished upon entering this magic land, and it instilled particles of fear and danger in the atmosphere. Almost a century later, in 1337, emperor Muhammad Shah sent 100,000 well-equipped horsemen to Assam and the mystery of their disappearance is still much talked abvout.
Assam’s most vanquishing battle, ‘The Battle of Saraighat’ that occurred in 1667, was the last futile attempt by the Mughals to extend their empire into Assam. When Aurangzeb summoned orders to subdue the Ahoms, the fear of Assam’s reputation as a land of the occult proved to be an obstacle to the Mughals’ victory. The result remained true to the land’s character and the soldiers couldn’t save the Mughal generalissimo from defeat. Such occurrences gave the townsfolk a feeling of consolation and obliterated any trace of insecurity about being conquered by an outside force. Through the magic of Mayong, the people of Assam sought solace in their own native land.
To be allured by the verboten is at the very core of human nature, and nothing seems more fascinating, albeit taboo, than the supernatural and the occult. Stories about ‘piras’ (a low stool used to sit on) getting stuck to peoples’ back when they try to stand up, hands getting stuck to the mouth while eating, and making food ingredients such as ‘chillies’ dance in front of dining guests are widespread. Tales of bizarre feats are also prevalent – the spell caster can stop moving objects such as a charging bull or even a car driven at hundred miles an hour, just by raising a hand. A sorcerer can apparently even immobilise tigers if the villagers’ cattle fell prey to the predator. Fables of black mantras(hymns), which bring misfortune to the person in whose name they are recited, are quite popular.
However, black magic doesn’t always have to be synonymous with evil. Mayong is also known for the use of spells and incantations to heal people suffering from diseases, hymns for safe childbirth, and even love spells. In order to preserve the hymns there are unbound manuscripts made of bark or paper, usually handwritten in an archaic form of Assamese. The indigenous people of Mayong remain discrete about their art, and spells have been passed down to generations orally.
With the advent of science and technology, the influence of black magic is no longer ubiquitous in the present century. However, the people of the land refuse to let this significant part of their identity and culture wither away. The practices of black magic continue to provide an air of serendipity to the land. Sometimes, however, it leads to scrutiny and results in fear among prospective tourists who plan to visit the state. Such pessimism is put to stop as soon as one encounters Mayong’s lush environment, getting enchanted by the exquisiteness that Assam is renowned for. With the river Brahmaputra at the backdrop, elegantly making its way through the land, the soft lighting of the sunset accentuates its inhabitants who remain proud of the melting pot of culture that is their state, Assam.