Re: REQUEST: The Hindu cult of Thuggee?

Posted By Bharat Bhushan (
Wed, 09 Apr 1997 13:22:20 MET

Hi Joe,

Thugi tradition lived and thrived in the Central West part
of the India (which is still called Vidarbha). The two main
cities of vidarbha and where Thugs operated are Jabalpur and
Nagpur. Nagpur used be capital of whole central-west India
(ie during British Raj) and then it was incorporated into
Maharastra of which Bombay is capital.

So, Thugs were called Pindari. They were worshipers of Kali. They
operated in groups. The most common method to loot and kill
people was to find a rich group of people going for marriges,
pilgrimage, or other religious and social occation. Thugs were
also skilled in the art of cooking and music. They would
get mixed with the group of people who they wanted to loot and
kill. They would entertain the people with by or cook
food for them. As the Pindaris noticed that their victims
had been enjoying the music or dance, one of the member
of Pindari would get up and say to other - "Bring the Tobaco".

Yes, "Bring the Tobaco" was the codeword for Pindaris. The
codeword meant "It's time to kill". Then all of the Pindaris
would move behind (or get closer) to the strong male members
of their victim. Then would be passed another codeword, I
don't remember from the stories I have read.
As soon as the second codeword had been passed, Pindaris
would take out their "arms" and within few seconds all
the male and strong victims are dead. Females, aged, and childern,
would be tied down to trees but would be left unharmed.
All valuables of victims (gold, jewlaries, cash, cloths, etc.)
would be collected.
Yes, there would be some Pindaris who had already taken
the responsibility to dig a large grave and bury the deads.

You might have been thinking "what the hell was that "arm" that
killed a person in few minutes. The "arm" was the most fascinating part
of the Thugi stories that have been aroung for generations.
The arm Pindari used was a meter long very strong silk scarf. There
would be a large copper coin tied in the middle of the scarf. The
Pindari would take out the scarf and wrap it around the neck of
the victim in such a way that the copper coin would just on the top
of neck-bone. After wrapping the scarf (within seconds), the
Pindari would try to tie it up with a very strong force and give
it a big "pull". The smooth silk scarf would block the front
part of the neck so the victim could not breath and copper coin would
break (because of pull) the neck-bone. And the victim in dead within few
minutes. The arm was very neat and clean.

Then came forward some local Indian social reformers and British
police. They decided to wipe out all Pindaris.
Pindaris had an image of Cult leaders (and sort of Robinhood)
and had big infuence on the people living in the areas where
they operated.
But ruthlessnes of British police and in-depth analysis
of Indian social reformers won the battle. All Pindari groups
were busted out. All the Pindaris were either got killed or
jailed. Those who escaped might have started doing petty crimes
but never formed a group.

When the operation to wipe out Pindaris started, the British police
decided to show how horrific the end of Pindaris would be.
To show this, they killed Pindaris in a very ruthlessnes ways.
To kill a Pindari a trained elephant was used. The head of Pindari
would be put on a piece of stone (very similar to French Gilotine)
and elephant would be instructed to step on the head of the Pindari.
First few groups of Pindaris those were caught in encounter were
excecuted in this horrific way. This did make an impact on the
moral Pindaris. Either the resistance in encounters became
milder or they surrendered without any resistance.

People of Jabalpur still remeber the name of a British
police officer - William Sleeman. There is a
village near-by Jabalpur. The name of village in Sleemanabad,
which has been named after William Sleeman.

I hope this information would be helpful.

Best wishes,

- Bharat

Bharat Bhushan

Hardenbergplatz 2, D-10623, Berlin, Germany
Phone: 00-49-30-25499358 (work), FAX: 00-49-30-25499202