Saturday, November 3, 2018

Empire of Enchantment: The Story of Indian Magic by John Zubrzycki

Review by Kapil Komireddi for The National:
“Ask the average man for what India is most celebrated, and the chances are ten to one that he ..... will unhesitatingly reply in one word, ‘jugglers’,” the Strand Magazine wrote in its December 1899 issue. “India’s jugglers”, the magazine went on to explain, “have been the wonder of India”. There was scarcely anyone in England who was not aware of the jugglers’ “‘Jadoo’, or magic working”. India’s reputation as a land of the occult wasn’t, as John Zubrzycki reminds us in his delightful and charming new book Empire of Enchantment: The Story of Indian Magic, just confined to Britain.

By the medieval era, magic became so inextricably linked with India – where tricks merged with, and enlivened, religious ritual – that Indian magic manuals, translated into Arabic, were being hawked on the streets of Baghdad by the city’s fabled booksellers during the Abbasid caliphate. After India fell to the British, it became an object of fascination and condescension and a source of fear for Europeans. Countless conjurers travelled to India, convinced that it was the place to find and master pure magic.

read more @ Scribe Publications  and @ The National


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