Mayong – Conjuring Magic to Reality
‘Bhoot pret se mukti
Charam dard ki samapti.
Har kathinayi ka ilaj rakhti
Mayong ki kale jaadu ki ye shakti’
(Be it getting rid of ghosts or pains. Mayong’s power of black magic can end all woes)
These lines reminded me of our Deori gardener, Manik dadu who used to be the official storyteller during my childhood days. As both my parents were away at work , I grew up listening to that old man’s stories about his encounter with ghosts and incurable diseases which his village priest would get rid off by using black magic.
With every passing kilometre of the half-an-hour journey from Guwahati, a story from my childhood trickled into my mind and added on to my thrill. Dadu had told me that Mayong is as old as Mahabharata, when Bheem’s son Ghatotkach would draw magical power from this place to battle the Kauravas. But history also says that the prologue of Mayong was etched by the Manipuris who were the descendants of this mystical village. While some say that Mayong got its name from the word ‘maya’ (illusion) or magic others say that Mayong derived its name from Maa-er-ong, meaning the parts of the Sati Goddess.
As I stared out of the window, the sky camouflaged itself in the very dark colours like that of the hills that we were passing by. Despite the scenic beauty of the approaching Pobitora wildlife sanctuary, which didn’t fail to bewitch me I couldn’t help but eavesdrop the conversation that the fellow passengers were having.
The Assamese lady sitting beside me was loudly complaining to another woman, who seemed to be having a harsh back pain, about how her neighbour had stolen her jewellery. But then her tone dropped to that of pride as she calmly announced that all she had to do was report it to a priest, who put a leaf in a bowl of water. To my utter surprise she said that the leaf swirled around the bowl only to stop and point at her neighbour, thus confirming her doubt.
Before I could control my mouth I barged into their conversation with a loud ‘No, not possible’. The two ladies eyed me with amusement and proudly replied that as fictitious as it sounds Mayong will soon fill me with the universal truth, which it is famous for.
Though we had reached our destination, I tagged along with those two ladies. The other elderly lady, was walking with a hunch and had come to Mayong to get treated for her back ache.
Not only did the women invite me to their house but they also promised to share every magical tale with me. Over the plate full of Narikol and Xutili pithas (coconut and sticky rice cakes) they filled me up with the mysteries and realities of the land of magic.
According to the legends, there was a man called Chura Bez, who could vanish into thin air by just reciting the Luki mantra. Others could disapparate and apparate to various places by chanting the uran mantra. One could also make two individuals fall in love with the Mohini mantra and heal all pains by just sticking a copper plate on the respective ailing region of the body. When the pain would Originate, the plate became hot and suck out all the soreness, fall on the ground and shatter into bits.
On hearing this I thoughtfully looked at the hunched woman who was getting ready to go to the witchdoctor to get her excruciating back ache treated.
A loud crack of thunder sounded in the background and snapped me back into reality and ended the eerie ambiance that the stories had conjured up. I looked outside to see that nimbus clouds had engulfed the sky and a light drizzle had bathed the trees clean.
I spent the night in a nearby lodge to experience the eeriness of this place to the fullest. The next morning greeted me with the intoxicating smell of the petrichor and I visited the ancient ruins of the temples in the Burha Mayong village. As Mayong experiences the highest rainfall in the month of January, the ruins were covered in climbers like a shroud protecting it from getting further eroded.
Before boarding my afternoon bus to Guwahati I went on a safari through the evergreen Pobitora wildlife sanctuary. It is here that I got to see the one horned rhinoceros which Assam boasts about. To top it all our driver also took us to the banks of the Brahmaputra river whose glistening waters often floods up the village.
As my boarding time drew nearer, I walked through the village for one last time. Men and women sat outside their huts with copper plates, herbs, cowrie shells and glasses, waiting to help anybody in need of their magic
As I got into the bus, I caught a glance of that hunched lady who to my astonishment was no longer hobbling around. She now walked straight with no sign of pain at all.
As the bus pulled away from this land of black magic, another line from yet another inspiring figure from my childhood faded into my mind.
“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”
― Roald Dahl
— Written by Sriparna Ghosh