By all conventional measures India’s formal economy is booming (thanks to 32 mn jobs created in the past 3 years, a healthy stockmarket, abundant liquidity in the banking system, etc). This prosperity combined with the mental hammering that Covid-19 handed out has made India a booming market for tantrics. Before we delve into this boom, let’s be clear about who is a tantric: “Long considered part of South Asian heritage, tantra is an umbrella term for ritualistic practices. However, the tantriks who practise black magic represent a more sinister side to tantra.
“While there are philosophical and learned traditions of tantra, the street-level tantra we see practised most often today is a hodge-podge of languages and nonsense words,” said Dr Projit Mukharji, a professor in the history and sociology of science department at the University of Pennsylvania. “What it shows is that it’s not always premised on any philosophical belief or faith, unlike religion,” he added.
Often, multiple languages are found in the same tantric spell. And spells invoke all kinds of minor gods, supernatural entities, and historical figures across religions — Mukharji has even come across a spell that invokes Mahmud of Ghazni. This kind of tantra also makes use of filthy and derogatory language: instead of making a request or praying to a deity, these spells involve blackmailing the deity into doing the tantrik’s bidding.”
The demand-side dynamics are obvious – affluent Indians don’t just want to know their future, they want to ensure that their future is taken care-off: “Sometimes the tantrik assigns homework to seal the spell: one common practice to prevent male infidelity involves using menstrual blood for rituals. Other rituals to “tame” the mind of a male partner include collecting the “dust of his left foot” without his knowledge and chanting a spell seven times to energise this dust, or chanting a different spell 108 times at midnight — while naked and facing north — for 15 days.
Another tantrik who spoke to ThePrint on the condition of anonymity said that he uses “Kamakhya vashikaran” for clients who face “love issues.” The figures he invokes aren’t from heaven, he told ThePrint.”
Furthermore, much line airline travel, tantrics also offer services to the elite that the riff-raff can’t avail of: “The secrecy also lends an exclusivity to tantra, says Dr Renny Thomas, an assistant professor of sociology and social anthropology at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh.
“The belief in tantric traditions is very prevalent in urban cities like Mumbai and Delhi. Delhi, especially, has lots of new religious figures like gurujis because the elite follow them,” said Thomas. “It’s a class question — to set yourself apart from other people, you follow babajis and gurujis while others follow more non-elite, conventional gods.””
However, just in case you thought that the clients of tantrics are only people from Greater Kailash, Indiranagar and Bandra, you should think again: “…the influence of tantra extends beyond spells into unavoidable superstitions, even among the more scientifically inclined. One example is the custom of blood sacrifice before construction: whether in Odisha, Bihar, Maharashtra, or Goa, construction workers and civil engineers believe that blood sacrifice is a necessary initiation before constructing a bridge or a building.
“Our scientists are given to a whole host of practices seen as ‘unscientific’ in the West,” reminds Mukharji, pointing to the custom of “Ayudha Puja,” in which instruments in scientific institutions — from ISRO to IISC — are worshipped and blessed.””….
Thankfully, tantric spells are keeping up with modern life: the best example is that there are now tantric spells dedicated to helping people navigate court cases. Many tantriks offer spells for legal help, often tailored to the specific judicial system of your country.”
And going by the roaring demand for tantrics, it won’t be long before tantrics offer portfolio management services: “Astrology has also been adapted to this cause, with astrologists reading the planets to offer advice on minute decisions like whether or not to go for an office meeting. Vadehra said her clients come to her with questions about when their gymkhana membership will come, when stock prices will go up, or whether it’s safe to take a flight. Even an atheist asked her whether her mother will be cured of Covid.”
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