Now, this is reality TV at its best. This month, Indians were glued to their television as India’s leading tantrik or black magician Pandit Surinder Sharma tried repeatedly to kill atheist Sanal Edamaruku first with a death-causing tantra and then later with the “ultimate destruction ceremony” on live TV. This display was the result of a high-ranking government official Uma Bharati (former chief minister of the state of Madhya Pradesh) accusing her political opponents of using tantrik to cause disasters in her life.
In what may be one of the single most productive uses of television in India’s history, the live attempt to kill Edamaruku probably did more to combat ignorance than non-stop showings of Nova. Pandit Surinder Sharma is apparantly the tantrik to the stars and powerful with many , top politicians as clients. He had simply appeared on the show to debate black magic versus science. He began showing items that could cause death quickly and Edamaruku challenged him to kill him on television. The tantrik tried repeatedly, mumbling “Om lingalingalinalinga, kilikili…” and other such words.
When Edamaruku remained disturbingly alive, he insisted that he had prayed to a powerful God, but when Edamaruku said he was an atheist, the tantrik insisted that he would have to do the ceremony at night. That is what brought about the live show.
The encounter took place under the open night sky. The tantrik and his two assistants were kindling a fire and staring into the flames. Sanal was in good humour. Once the ultimate magic was invoked, there wouldn’t be any way back, the tantrik warned. Within two minutes, Sanal would get crazy, and one minute later he would scream in pain and die. Didn’t he want to save his life before it was too late? Sanal laughed, and the countdown begun. The tantriks chanted their “Om lingalingalingalinga, kilikilikili….” followed by ever changing cascades of strange words and sounds. The speed increased hysterically. They threw all kinds of magic ingredients into the flames that produced changing colours, crackling and fizzling sounds and white smoke. While chanting, the tantrik came close to Sanal, moved his hands in front of him and touched him, but was called back by the anchor. After the earlier covert attempts of the tantrik to use force against Sanal, he was warned to keep distance and avoid touching Sanal. But the tantrik “forgot” this rule again and again.
Now the tantrik wrote Sanal’s name on a sheet of paper, tore it into small pieces, dipped them into a pot with boiling butter oil and threw them dramatically into the flames. Nothing happened. Singing and singing, he sprinkled water on Sanal, mopped a bunch of peacock feathers over his head, threw mustard seed into the fire and other outlandish things more. Sanal smiled, nothing happened, and time was running out. Only seven more minutes before midnight, the tantrik decided to use his ultimate weapon: the clod of wheat flour dough. He kneaded it and powdered it with mysterious ingredients, then asked Sanal to touch it. Sanal did so, and the grand magic finale begun. The tantrik pierced blunt nails on the dough, then cut it wildly with a knife and threw them into the fire. That moment, Sanal should have broken down. But he did not. He laughed. Forty more seconds, counted the anchor, twenty, ten, five… it’s over!
I must confess some curiosity as to the legal impact if Edamaruku had dropped over dead. he clearly assumed the risk of the supernatural. Yet, the show was clearly on guard to avoid any mischief with the tantrik touching Edamaruku. Given the high embarrassment that the exercise caused tantriks, it would be foreseeable that someone could try to quicken death with the use of some extrinsic chemical. Ultimately, these black magic spells are clearly designed to induce heart attacks and illness from fright. It does not work very well on the educated or unbelievers.
What is most remarkable is that a nuclear power has powerful politicians who believe in tantriks. Bharati cited the facts that she lost her favorite uncle, hit the door of her car against her head and found her legs covered with wounds and blisters.
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