Fulbright Nehru Fellow 2019-2020 I An Affiliate of the UPenn South Asia Center I Fusion Magician
Itinerant magicians, jadoowallas or madaris, have astounded audiences in South Asia since antiquity. They fascinated pre-Mughal, Mughal, and colonial rulers alike. Kautilya said they were useful spies, Mughal kings enjoyed and patronized their performances in the imperial court, and no colonial-era India visit was complete without witnessing the performance of a jadoowalla that would be excitedly recounted to friends back home. Most scholarship on traditional magicians is based on accounts of watching their performances and is focused on North India. This paper uses methods of oral history to uncover some hidden stories of madaris in Maharashtra. It utilizes these to analyze circulations of people, ideas, and performative practices in Maharashtra, India, the world, from the Mughal era to the present. Pune madaris complicate and enrich our understandings of links between peoples and places.