A brilliant and erudite book that unearths fascinating sources and vividly enchanting tales about the history of Indian magic.
India's association with magicians goes back thousands of years. Hindus believe that the god Indra used magic to defeat evil, and the Atharva Veda (c. 1000 BCE) contains hundreds of exorcisms, healing hymns, and charms. Jugglers, yogis, and fakirs dazzled the courts of Hindu maharajas, and Mughal emperors.
As Britain extended its dominion over the subcontinent, such magicians became synonymous with India and even travelled to Britain, sometimes remaining for decades. Western illusionists, threatened by these 'primitive' practitioners, appropriated Indian attire, tricks, and stage names; Indian magicians fought back, earning the grudging respect of their European peers.
This heavily illustrated book tells the extraordinary, untold story of how Indian magic descended from the realm of the gods to become part of daily ritual and popular entertainment across the globe. Drawing on ancient religious texts, early travellers' accounts, colonial records, modern visual sources, and magicians' own testimony, Empire of Enchantment is a vibrant narrative of India's magical traditions, from Vedic times to the present day.