Magic a Greek word etymologically meaning sorcery or witchcraft. As one of the forms of primitive religion, magic is a set of rituals aiming at influencing people, animals and imaginary spirits and thereby obtaining some expected results. Such a conception of magic is based on the belief in some sort of supernatural relation between man and his environment. It is also the supposed use of unnatural or superhuman power by an individual to try to control human thoughts and actions or natural events. In a lighter vein, magic refers to some sort of entertainment in which the performer bamboozles the audience with some tricks only known to him. Here, neither the audience nor the performer believes in any supernatural power.
Bangladesh has a magic performing heritage which, like all other countries, has its indigenous roots. The bedeys had the practice of 'curing' headaches and toothaches by methods akin to magic practice. In the rural or sub-urban areas 'experts' exhibited various magical skills. Prior to Partition of Bengal (1947), one Ganapati Chakravarty had the fame of showing various magic skills. His escape from kangsa-karagar (metal cage) was very popular among the people. But the most famous performer was pc sorcar, who made himself an international figure in the field of magic display.
The people turn to magic as a form of insurance or psychological support for the future or anything, which is uncertain in spite of all precautions taken against the failure of expected results. Natural events occur as cause and effect relations without magic. But people resort to magic to grow crops or heal illness and count magic as an added support to practical measures already taken before.
In modern times, when much progress is remarkably discernible in logical and scientific way of thinking, the belief in magical powers still prevails in many ethnic groups. A good number of educated individuals also believe in magical activities practised together with astrology, palmistry, fortune telling, horoscope and the like. Magic also plays a role in the art of modern advertisement of products. Modern entertainer magicians perform tricks that bewilder the audience. Skilled performers pluck money out of air, transfer coins from one pocket to another, transform eggs into birds, produce flowers from a waving handkerchief etc. They may even create an illusion of floating a man in the air or make him disappear for some time. Professional magicians exhibit their performances on television, in theatres, restaurants or other places of amusement.
A magician's tricks are based upon a variety of techniques from science and arts. Sophisticated application of the basic principles of physics, chemistry, optics and psychology is necessary. Careful use of words in ovation to hypnotise the audience according to the will of the performer is an important factor in magic.
After the independence of Bangladesh quite a few magicians made the magic shows popular in the urban areas by improving the art to a sophisticated level. Some women also did well in performing the art. The most outstanding magician of Bangladesh is Jewel Aich, who entertain people both at home and abroad. It is largely due to his unique effort that magic shows in Bangladesh are no more confined to village fairs, circus parties and school campus. [Mozaffar Hossain]