Almost before drawing breath, we meet two troupes of Indian magicians. One appears in the court of the Emperor Jahangir, early seventeenth-century Mughal ruler and aficionado of magic. In the first of twenty-eight tricks, this troupe of seven performers sprout trees from a cluster of plant pots before the emperor’s eyes, the luminous foliage heaving with fruits and songbirds. Four hundred years later, a group of jadoowallahs (street magicians) charm a hand-to-mouth living from the urban sprawl of modern-day New Delhi. In a small park, they levitate for audiences and magically escape the binds of knotted ropes. With similar – but less spectacular – effect to that woven by the performers of a Mughal court, they spirit a shrub-like tree out of what seems like thin air.
Alexandra Roginski reviews 'Empire of Enchantment: The story of Indian magic' by John Zubrzycki
Empire of Enchantment: The story of Indian magic
by John Zubrzycki
Scribe, $32.99 pb, 416 pp, 9781925713077
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Alexandra Roginski is a Melbourne-based writer and historian. She is the author of The Hanged Man and the Body Thief: Finding Lives in a Museum Mystery (Monash University Publishing, 2015).
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