“If I can open it up, then it will be magic, but if I can’t, it will be tragic,” he told the crowd.
His family and onlookers waited on the boat for him to surface. Other spectators watched from the shore, expecting a spectacle of the kind made famous by the legendary American escape artist Harry Houdini, but he failed to reappear.
Lahiri’s body, limbs still tied with steel chains, was washed up about 1km away from the site of the attempt.
“He was a great stunt artist and this is a big loss for the Indian magic community,” said Madan Bharti, a historian of Indian magic.
Sumit Kharbanda, president of the Indian Brotherhood of Magicians in Delhi, said Lahiri had performed the same stunt successfully at least a dozen times. He was reportedly almost attacked by a mob in 2013 when he performed the same stunt and spectators believed he had cheated.
“He used to practise in swimming pools and rivers,” said Kharbanda. “All magic has to be perfect and it takes a lot of practice, but even with practice, things can go wrong. This was a very dangerous performance. I don’t know if it was a breathing issue or just not being able to undo the locks.”