Khandola of black magic

Musharraf Ali Farooqi on an Urdu novel about black magic set during the pre-Partition India


Illustration: Jayachandran/Mint
Illustration: Jayachandran/Mint

There are no studies on how large-scale human massacres in wars and other cataclysmic events can be channelled into occult powers. Historically, human sacrifices have been offered to gratify deities. Catastrophic events, in which humans kill other humans, may similarly have an unseen effect on the world. An Urdu novel about black magic indirectly offers such a possibility in connection with the partition of India, which saw an estimated one million people killed on both sides.

In the black magic practised in the subcontinent, the highest power is acquired when a magician attains the rank of Khandola, becoming an indestructible, eternal being. A Khandola could exist in myriad shapes and forms, and is unbound by the restrictions of time and space. Whether there was ever a black magician powerful enough to attain the rank of Khandola is not known: On earth, Satan is the only Khandola, and all evil in the world derives its strength from him.

In the hierarchy of black magic, there are several stages before one can reach Khandola’s rank. Even advancing to the stages which are a pre-requisite for becoming a Khandola is indescribably difficult. These stages or ranks are defined in the order of ascendance as Bhairon, Padma, Puran Bhagat, Shankha and Khandola. As a magician rises in rank, he must offer increasing levels of human sacrifices. The power of the Khandola could be illustrated from the fact that even the Shankha, which is a rank lower, is so uncommonly powerful that the corporeal body is just one form in which he could materialize. It could appear in the form of an insect, bird or animal, and other black magicians depend on his power to advance their ranks.

As the black magician progresses in the dark arts, the need to acquire even greater power becomes critical: The evil spirits in possession of the black magician could easily turn upon him should he be found lacking in power, and deficient in offering blood sacrifices. The reason a black magician seeks disciples is this constant need to advance in rank by using the agency of his disciples to procure and perform blood sacrifices.

Progressing to advanced ranks in black magic is not possible without the participation and support of masters of black magic. A black magician of the Bhairon rank requires the help of a Shankha to recite the spells that will take him to the next level to become a Puran Bhagat. The Shankha himself needs an exponentially higher number of human sacrifices to become a Khandola.

To those who know about the dark arts, the news of mass murders and large-scale human killings always suggests the possibility that they might have been carried out as part of a black magic ritual.

The popular Urdu novel Kaala Jadu by M.A. Rahat, which is set in pre-Partition India, offers a harrowing account of a man who defied a powerful black magician’s commands after he had committed to fulfilling them in a vulnerable moment arising out of financial need.

It is the story of how a black magician trying to attain the rank of a Khandola solicited the help of a man to plant a demonic creature in a saint’s mausoleum. Some unknown power and the man’s own spiritual connection to the saint alert him to the given task. He realizes the nature of the creature in time, and refuses to plant it. Unbeknown to him, however, he has given himself into the black magician’s power by giving him his word. The black magician, too, is bound to only employ him for the task.

Foiled in advancing his rank, the black magician avenges himself on the man and his family, and the protagonist is driven from one hardship to another, with the black magician and his agents always on his heels. In the end, the protagonist escapes the black magician’s clutches.

The black magician’s ominous words warn of great evil to come. Partition happens soon afterwards.

While Kaala Jadu does not allude directly to the connection between the large-scale human massacre and the manifestation of some powerful evil, it could be interpreted as offering the idea that the hunger for power and the resulting bloodshed during Partition—that was both foreknown and foretold by preceding events—would give rise to a powerful evil that would not be easily put down. We know from black magic that all evil relies on human agency.

Note: Saeed Ahmed Abbasi’s Jinnat Ke Saath was consulted for research on black magic practices for this article.

Musharraf Ali Farooqi is an author, novelist and translator. He can be reached at www.mafarooqi.com and on Twitter at @microMAF.

This monthly column explores the curious world of the myths and folk tales of South Asia.

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