An eerie silence envelopes Assam's Mayong village, well known for its magic and sorcery, as one drives towards it from the nearby city of Guwahati. With a history that is bound to scare the daylights out of believers and make others gape in wonder, the peaceful ambience somehow looks like a cloak of mystery.
Situated near the Pobitora wildlife sanctuary, about 40 km from Guwahati, Mayong has often been called India's magic capital. Astounding tales of a man disappearing into thin air, or being turned into an animal, or a fierce tiger being tamed and serious illnesses being cured lie in the treasure trove of almost every family.
Today Mayong's fascinating stories are attracting tourists, prompting the government to develop this place as a tourist hotspot.
Naba Deka, who works in a resort in the wildlife sanctuary and hails from Mayong, says lots of curious visitors come to the village to enquire if people still practise magic.
"It's (magic, sorcery) not practised as much as before. These are modern times. People don't believe in magic or spells as much as they used to. Children go to school and shun these things as superstitions," Deka told IANS.
"I, for instance, have not learnt magic. But my ancestors have. Magic spells were taught to children by the kobiraj (teacher) as soon as they attained a particular age. Only some of these spells were written, most of them passed by word of mouth," he said.
When asked if he believes in magic, Deka smiled. "There are spells to turn a leaf into a fish, or an evil man into an animal. But magic cannot fight against nature's fury; so there is no spell against the annual floods (in the Brahmaputra river),".
Legends - like those of Chura Bez who could disappear into thin air just by muttering the 'Luki Mantra' and sedate an angry tiger with his 'Baagh Bandha Mantra' - anecdotal accounts and magical texts abound in Mayong's esoteric history.
Septuagenarian Basanta Nath, a magic practioner of the village, is a strong believer in magic.
"People these days dismiss magic as superstition. But when you see things for yourself, you believe. Nowadays, when people fall ill, they generally prefer to go to the doctor instead of us. But there are still people who come to us with their troubles," Nath said.
"People from far off states like Punjab, Haryana and West Bengal, other than from Assam and the surrounding places, come to Mayong to learn magic," he added.
Believer or not, courtesy its fascinating history, and also its beautiful surroundings - Mayong sits in the lap of nature, near the Brahmaputra, and has rich wildlife - the government is promoting it as a tourist destination for its culture, flora and fauna, along with the Pobitora wildlife sanctuary, which has a high concentration of the one-horned rhino.