Bhagatai (भगतई) – Rural Indian Sorcery


Sorcery is an art of souls, magic, devotion and power. You can find no distinct definition of the word ‘sorcerer’ which shall be accepted worldwide. But despite of the various ways of defining it, sorcery is generally considered a negative aspect of magic. You might know it to be the polar opposite of Wizardry or it might be a different word to define the same thing – magic for you.

What is a Sorcerer?

Do me a favor and close your eyes. (Actually… Close them after reading the whole thing, or how would you be able to read?   😉 ) Imagine that you visit a village in Bihar, India. The streets are deserted, the houses are quiet and a shrowd of stillness engulfs the village. You move forwards, hoping to meet someone but find not a single soul in sight. Then you catch a movement in your peripheral vision and jerk to look at it. You see a bright piece of clothing just beyond the corner and instinctively move forward to look at it. After a couple of steps you stagger to a stop. Finally you discover the people of the village. Every single one of them is there in the village square. You move towards them as you notice every single person present is rock-still, holding his/her breath. You look for a vantage point and perch on a bullock-cart. Now the whole scene lies before your eyes. The whole populace is surrounding the village suquare, where an old man sways squatted on a mat. He is engulfed by incense, & platters of food and delicacies are laid out before him.

Suddenly his swaying stops and the old man goes rigid. He stays frozen for a moment then turns abruptly – to stare you straight in your eyes. You go still, trying but unable to escape the old man’s gaze. Then the most freakish/amazing thing happens. The mans speaks your grandfather’s name. And says to you. “Welcome, grandson of ……….”



That my friends, is sorcery. Pure and absolute. The art still thrives in the rural areas of India like Bihar, Odisha & Jharkhand; and is widely renown. Basically the sorcerer invites a spirit to reside in his/her body for a period of time and enjoy material pleasure like food. The spirit grants the sorcerer knowledge in exchange of the few moments of enjoying life. The sorcerer meanwhile answers questions and solves people’s problem with the knowledge gifted by the spirit.

How does Sorcery work?

1) For a thing like sorcery to work, the first requirement is a crowd of people. The ‘spirit’ doesn’t visit the sorcerer (भगता – Bhagata in Hindi) unless there is a sufficient audience.

2) The sorcerer sits on ground with all the food & incense around him and closes his eyes to meditate. Then there comes a moment when he goes into a trance and starts to sway, shake & wobble. When the trance fades and the sorcerer opens his eyes, they become the eyes of the spirit.

3) After talking with such a sorcerer ‘Bhagata’ in person, I asked him the secret behind it. He smiled and replied that there wasn’t one. He just makes his mind & body ready to accept the spirit and the spirit arrives. According to him, it was like swimming with closed eyes. You swim and swim, and suddenly BAM! The opposite shore is there & the spirit is ready to ‘move in’.

4) The incense & crowded surroundings helps the sorcerer to ‘reach out’ and contact the spirit. When the spirit inhibits his body, the sorcerer only remembers a partial consciousness.

5) When the spirit has finally arrived, music is played in a steady rythm. The sorcerers claim it to help the spirit ‘attune’ to the alien body.

6) Sorcery is a talent of blood. It can’t be learned unless you are born with it.

What are the uses of Sorcery?

The most prominent use of sorcery is curing diseases. It may be noted that most incidents of sorcery are recorded in rural areas of incidents.

1) The act of Sorcery ‘Bhagatai’ is often celebrated as a minor festival. A ‘Bhagata’ is usually related to a particular cast and only they participate in the gatherings. They ask the spirit the solutions of their day to day problems, cures of diseases which they can’t afford to get treated by a doctor and such minor things.

2) A sorcerer is also a holy thing for the people and they seek blessings for family and friends. He is considered a thing of marvel since there are claims that the spirit which visits a sorcerer is the essence of their God.

3) The act of sorcery is also a thing of entertainment for the people. The sorcerer performs various tricks to entertain the people such as eating fire or holding embers.

4) Then there are negative aspects too. Some Sorcerers claim to cause harm to others for money. They call upon malignant spirits which can cause a subtle, gradual and substantial harm to a specific person of family. It appears as bad health, ill luck, accidents and other seemingly natural phenomena.


Sorcery – Real or Fraud?

Just like other supernatural activities, sorcery is also considered a trick of eyes or some detailed play or act. Our science doesn’t allow anything not natural to exist and hence sorcery is often under suspicion.


1) Sorcerers perform acts like holding glowing pieces of coals, and it doesn’t harm them. I am not talking about momentarily holding and then throwing it but holding them for extended periods of time like half an hour.

2) There are many incidents where patients actually get better after being blessed by a Sorcerer. Whether it is purely psychological or the blessings really work, can’t be decided. It is a fact no one can ignore.

3) Sorcerers tend to know much more than their ‘inert’ forms. When a spirit inhibits them, they simply know the names of strangers come to see them, or ancestors of the people around them. This is a fact not to be taken lightly. Sorcerers aren’t vagabonds roaming around gathering information about patients. They are day to day farmers and labors who act as a vessel to the spirit.

The extraordinary knowledge gained by the Sorcerers cannot be ignored.


1) Every single act of sorcery is recorded in only rural areas. 99% of the incidents occur in the poorest and most backward states of India, where only 10% of the population ever passes high schools. This points towards a huge question.

Why do spirits only inhibit illiterate & uneducated village folk?

2) The spirit refuses to arrive in the vessel if there are media personnel or any other official presence around.

3) Not a single Sorcerer is an educated person. Do you smell something fishy too?



Whether they are real or not. Sorcerers are a common thing in rural areas of India and Sorcery still lives in this age of Science.

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