India TV's Great Tantra Challenge : The Bryant Park Project An Indian tantric tries to kill a rationalist on live TV.

India TV's Great Tantra Challenge

Listen to Rachel's interview with Sanal Edamaruku

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

A little over a month ago, a local politician in India claimed her political opponents were trying to harm her using Tantra. You've probably heard of tantric love, but Tantra is a lot more than that. BeliefNet defines it as, quote, "an ancient, esoteric Indian spiritual tradition, common to both Hinduism and Buddhism." But it's also been linked with nefarious acts of so-called black magic.

So after that politician's accusations, a major national television network there, India TV, had a discussion about "Tantric Power Versus Science." They invited a well known tantric named Pandit Surinder Sharma and the president of Rationalist International, Sanal Edamaruku.

At one point the tantric claimed he could use his powers to kill people, to which Sanal basically responded, "OK, prove it. Kill me right here and now." The tantric took up the challenge and began chanting. What followed was something few Indians had ever seen. The event became such a big deal that India TV broke through the next show and splashed a Breaking News banner on the screen. Then they continued the showdown that evening, on another Breaking News special.

In the end Sanal survived, but the tantric's reputation took a major hit. And people in India are still talking about it. We interviewed Sanal on the show today. (Click the listen link at the top of this page to hear the interview. And read Sanal's full story if you want all the details.) Highlights of the encounter have been posted on YouTube:

BONUS: How A Pitch Becomes A Segment. This segment actually began as a bizarre story pitch I made in the daily BPP staff pitch meeting. Initially nobody knew what to do with it, so we essentially recreated a pitch meeting on the air, where I repeated the pitch. Today's interview with Sanal is the result of that on-air meeting. So what do you think? Did the process work?

See more YouTube clips of India TV's Great Tantra Challenge, including the so-called spell for ultimate destruction, after the jump...