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Title: A Popular Account of Thugs and Dacoits, the Hereditary Garotters and Gang-Robbers of India
Author: Hutton, James
Language: English
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*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Popular Account of Thugs and Dacoits, the Hereditary Garotters and Gang-Robbers of India" ***

















Thugs and Thuggee.

They who reverence ancient descent, and a long line of ancestors, are
bound to regard the Thugs with peculiar veneration. Perhaps, neither
in Asia nor in Europe are there any other families that can date their
origin from such remote antiquity. They are said to be sprung from the
Sagartii, who contributed 8,000 horse to the army of Xerxes, and are
thus described by Herodotus, in the Seventh Book of his History:--

"These people lead a pastoral life, were originally of Persian descent,
and use the Persian language; their dress is something betwixt the
Persian and the Pactyan; they have no offensive weapons, either of iron
or brass, except their daggers; their principal dependence in action is
on cords, made of twisted leather, which they use in this manner: when
they engage an enemy, they throw out these cords, having a noose at the
extremity: if they entangle in these either horse or man, they without
difficulty put them to death."

There is some reason to believe, that in later times the descendants
of these Sagartii accompanied one of the Mahommedan invaders of India,
and settled in the neighbourhood of Delhi. In the latter part of the
seventeenth century, Thevenot makes mention of a strange denomination
of robbers, who infested the road between that city and Agra, and used
"a certain rope, with a running noose, which they can cast with so much
sleight about a man's neck, when they are within reach of him, that
they never fail, so that they strangle him in a trice." These vagrant
plunderers were divided into seven clans or families, called Bahleem,
Bhyns, Bhursote, Kachunee, Huttar, Ganoo, and Tundil, the parent stock
of all the subsequent ramifications. According to tradition, they were
expelled from Delhi by one of the emperors of the house of Gouree, on
account of the murder of a favourite slave. Their victim had long been
aware of their practices, and had connived at them, for the sake of the
handsome gratuities presented as the price of his silence. But, abusing
his power, and making exorbitant demands, he quickly experienced the
fate of those in whose plunder he had so freely participated. The
murderers were therefore driven from the neighbourhood, after being
branded on their posteriors with the current copper coin of the
empire. Five of the clans removed to Agra, whence their descendants
were afterwards called Agureea. A large body of them appear to have
travelled to Arcot, and there founded the proudest and most punctilious
branch of the fraternity. These Arcottee Thugs used to wear checkered
_loongees_, and short jackets, like the Company's Sepoys; they also
carried a knapsack on their back, a light cane in their hand, and
generally a small bag of beetel nut and paun. Their leaders, or
jemadars, frequently assumed the garb and bearing of wealthy merchants,
and had four or five attendants to cook for them, hand the hookah,
clean their pony, and do other menial offices, while the rest of the
gang followed in small parties, not to excite suspicion, but closed up
rapidly when the signal was passed along. The true Hindostanee Thugs,
however, professed to look down upon those of Arcot, and refused to
intermarry with them. The latter retorted, that the others could have
no pretensions to high birth, for at their marriages the matrons, as
they threw down the _toolsee_, were wont to exclaim, "Here's to the
spirits of those (Qulunders), who once led bears and monkeys; to those
who drove bullocks, and marked with the _godnee_ (kunjurs, or gipsies);
and to those who made baskets for the head." But this was explained by
the necessity of assuming disguises, in the first place, to escape from
Delhi, and afterwards for carrying on their terrible vocation. There
was certainly one very low Hindoo class, the _Sooseeas_, but calling
themselves _Naeks_ and _Thories_, with whom the others associated
with reluctance. These chiefly confined themselves to Malwa and
Rajpootana, travelling as merchants, with their leader indulging in a
hackery or palanquin. Sometimes they disguised themselves as Sepoys,
or as treasure-bearers. The most exclusive clan were the Chingurees,
or Mooltanee Thugs, who practised female infanticide to a frightful
extent. They preserved alive only a sufficient number to provide wives
for the members of their own clan. They were allowed to be an ancient
tribe, and were much respected by the inferior associations with
whom they had nothing in common, except the dialect peculiar to all
Thugs. They usually travelled with their families as Brinjarees, with
bullocks and cows laden with goods, and strangled their victims with
a bullock's rope. A colony of about one hundred families was settled
at Hingolee. A very clever and staunch tribe, known as the Jumaldehee
Thugs, settled in Oude, who prudently kept their wives in ignorance of
the true nature of their pursuits, nor did they initiate their sons
till they had reached the age of puberty. When they sallied forth on
their expeditions, they left a certain number of their men at home, to
take care of the women and children, and to these they allotted a full
share of their spoils. The Brinjaree Thugs were especially fortunate
in escaping detection, or even suspicion, by reason of their nomade
habits, which rendered it extremely difficult to trace any particular
crime to them. They were consequently enabled to amass considerable
riches, though they seldom renounced their wandering life. A Thug
approver told the late Major-General Sleeman, that on one occasion he
and his party fell in with a company of merchants from the westward,
who were encamped near Jyepore, and wore exceedingly high turbans.
"What enormous turbans these men wear!" he remarked to a comrade,
using their slang term, _aghasee_. The chief man among the strangers
thereupon stepped forward, and requested the travellers to sit down
with them, adding, at the same time, "My good friends, we are of your
fraternity, though our _aghasees_ are not the same." It turned out that
these supposed merchants were a gang of Brinjaree Thugs, who, having
become wealthy, had given up strangulation, but were not the less glad
to welcome those who still laboured at the pious crime.

In the beginning, as already stated, the Thugs were invariably
followers of the Prophet, but after a time Hindoos were initiated, who
inoculated their Mussulmaun teachers with their own superstitions.
Thuggee now became a divine institution, ordained by the goddess Kalee.
It is curious to observe how the amalgamation of the two religions
took place. Captain Sleeman asked a Thug approver, named Sahib, if he
thought the English would ever succeed in suppressing Thuggee? The
answer was, "How can the hand of man do away with the works of God?"

SLEEMAN.--You are a Mussulmaun?

SAHIB.--Yes; and the greater part of the Thugs of the south
are Mussulmauns.

SLEEMAN.--And you still marry, inherit, pray, eat, and drink,
according to the Koran? and your Paradise is to be the Paradise
promised by Mahommed?

SAHIB.--Yes. All, all.

SLEEMAN.--Has Bhowanee been anywhere named in the Koran?


It was then explained that Bhowanee was supposed to be another name for
Fatima, daughter of the Prophet, and wife of Ali. Sahib acknowledged
that Bhowanee had no power to admit her votaries into Paradise, nor
any influence over the future state, but maintained that she directed
the destinies of Thugs in this world, and that God would never punish
any one for obedience to her commands. Sleeman's Mahommedan officers
indignantly protested against the idea that Fatima and the Hindoo
goddess were identical, and professed an entire disbelief in the
divinity of Kalee. But they were somewhat disconcerted when the Thugs
asked how they reconciled this want of faith with their presence at
Kalee's festivals: they could not say that they were merely spectators,
led thither by an idle curiosity. The Thugs then adduced, as a proof
of the divine origin of their calling, the fact that they had pursued
it with impunity for nearly two centuries. Captain Sleeman having
declared that neither he nor his native officers cared one jot for
their goddess, and that they were determined to put down her worship
in this form, one of them replied, "They may say so, but they all
know that no man's family can survive a murder committed in any other
way; and yet Thugs have thrived through a long series of generations.
We have all children like other men, and we are never visited with any
extraordinary affliction."

It may be here parenthetically stated, that of the Oude Thugs
nine-tenths were Mahommedans; in the Doab, one-fifth; south of the
Nerbudda, three-fourths; in Rajpootana, one fourth; and in Bengal,
Behar, Orissa, Bundlecund and Saugor, about one-half.

Kalee, the goddess who presided over Thuggee, was worshipped also
under the names of Bhowanee, Devey, and Davey. She was the wife of
Mahadeo, or Siva, and first appeared on earth on the banks of the
Hooghly, at a spot afterwards called, in memory of the event, Kalee
Ghaut, now Calcutta. Here stands her most honoured temple, and here is
still celebrated with the most solemn rites her chief festival, the
Doorga Pooja. They who address her with the greatest reverence style
her Kunkalee, or the "man-eater," and represent her as quaffing huge
draughts of blood from men and demons. When alone, she is depicted as
black and hideous of aspect; but in company with her husband, she
is ever fair and beautiful. Once on a time the world was infested
with a monstrous demon named Rukut Beej-dana, who devoured mankind
as fast as they were created. So gigantic was his stature, that the
deepest pools of the ocean reached no higher than his waist. This
horrid prodigy Kalee cut in twain with her resistless sword, but from
every drop of blood that fell to the ground there sprung up a new
demon. For some time she went on destroying them, till the hellish
brood multiplied so fast that she waxed hot and weary with her endless
task. So she paused for a while, and from the sweat, brushed off one
of her arms, she created two men, to whom she gave a _roomal_, or
handkerchief, and commanded them to strangle the demons. When they
had slain them all, they offered to return the _roomal_, but the
goddess bade them keep it and transmit it to their posterity, with the
injunction to destroy all men who were not of their kindred. There
were many exemptions, however, from this rule. The murder of women,
for instance, was positively prohibited, and this prohibition was
seldom or never violated in Bengal, Behar, or Orissa. To the south of
the Nerbudda old women did not always escape, or even young women,
when it was found impossible to separate them from a tempting prize.
Between the Nerbudda, the Indus, and the Jumna, the Thugs had few
scruples of any kind. It was likewise unlawful to murder a Brahman
or a Kaet (member of the writer caste), or a religious mendicant
of any kind, or oilman, potter, carpenter, blacksmith, goldsmith,
elephant-driver, musician, dancing-master, or any one having a domestic
animal with him, or carrying a parent's bones to the sacred river.
But, in later times, these restrictions were either totally evaded or
confined to the first day of the expedition. To the neglect of these
and such-like regulations, the approvers ascribed the decay of the
"time-honoured craft." Davey used to protect them, they said with a
sigh, when they "had some regard for religion." She never forsook them
till they neglected her. They were merely instruments in the hands
of God. "No man is ever killed by man's killing," but through the
will of the Deity. Many "incursions" had been made at different times
against Thuggee, but never on such a scale as that instituted by the
company's officers. "The Company's Ikbal (genius, or good fortune) is
such, that before the sound of your drums, sorcerers, witches, and
demons take flight, and how can Thuggee stand?" In the early ages
of the "institution," Bhowanee used to dispose of the dead bodies
and efface all signs of the murder, but she distinctly warned her
votaries against looking back after they had again taken to the road.
Curiosity, however, at length proved too strong for the sons of Eve,
and one day it came to pass that a Thug looked over his shoulder and
beheld the goddess playing at ball with the corpses, throwing them up
into the air and catching them as they fell; or, according to another
account, she had a dead body in her mouth, the extremities projecting
on either side. After this discovery of her favourite pastimes, Kalee
refused to have anything more to do with their victims, and left it
to themselves to conceal the tokens of their "piety." But she did not
altogether abandon them. Even in her wrath she was gracious to those
who held her name in honour. She accordingly bestowed upon them one of
her teeth for a pick-axe, a rib for a knife, and the hem of her garment
for a noose: yellow and white being the colours she most affected, such
were frequently the hues of the _roomal_. To the last she "everywhere
protected the Thugs, so long as they attended religiously to their
duties." Even when through inattention to the omens she sent for their
guidance, any of them were apprehended and punished, her vengeance was
sure to overtake their oppressors. "Was not Nanha," said an approver,
"the Raja of Jhalone, made leprous by Davey for putting to death Bodhoo
and his brother Khumoolee, two of the most noted Thugs of their day?
He had them trampled under the feet of elephants, but the leprosy
broke out upon his body the very next day." Nanha was so sensible of
his guiltiness, that he did all in his power to appease Davey. "Bodhoo
had begun a well in Jhalone; the Raja built it up in a magnificent
style; he had a Chubootra (tomb) raised to their name, fed Brahmans,
consecrated it, had worship instituted upon it, but all in vain; the
disease was incurable, and the Raja died in a few months a miserable
death.... When Madhajee Scindiah caused seventy Thugs to be executed at
Mathura, was he not warned in a dream by Davey that he should release
them? And did he not, the very day after their execution, begin to
spit blood? And did he not die within three months?... When Dureear,
the Rathore, and Komere and Patore, the Kuchwaha Rajpoots, Zemindars,
arrested eighty of the Thugs who had settled at Nodha, after the
murder of Lieutenant Monsell, they had many warnings to let them go,
but they persisted and kept them till some thirty died. They collected
10,000 rupees, at the rate of 125 rupees from every Thug. What became
of their families? Have they not all perished? They have not a child
left. Rao Sing Havildar, the Gwalior Soobah of Nodha, took the money,
but that very day his only son and the best horse in his stable died,
and he was himself taken ill and died soon after a miserable death....
The Raja of Kundul, some ninety coss (180 miles) east from Hyderabad,
arrested all the Thugs in his Raj for some murders they had committed.
For three successive nights the voice of Davey was heard from the top
of every temple in the capital, warning the Raja to release them. The
whole town heard her, and urged the Raja to comply. He was obstinate,
and the third night the bed on which he and his Ranee were sleeping was
taken up by Davey, and dashed violently against the ground." They were
dreadfully bruised and frightened, and lost no time in releasing their
heaven-protected prisoners.

Kalee not only protected the Thugs, but sent them numerous omens as
encouragement or warning. An omen was, in fact, a positive command to
slay the travellers in their power, or to allow them to go unharmed. If
they did not attend to these omens, they became guilty of disobedience,
and had no longer any claim upon the goddess for protection. On
Captain Sleeman inquiring if any evil would befall them if they used
the _roomal_ without reference to the divine signals, Sahib at once
answered in the affirmative, adding, "No man's family ever survives
a murder: it becomes extinct. A Thug who murders in this way loses
the children he has, and is never blessed with more. He cannot escape
punishment." "But how," said Captain Sleeman, "how can you murder
old men and young children without some emotions of pity--calmly and
deliberately as they sit with you and converse with you, and tell you
of their private affairs--of their hopes and fears--and of the wives
and children they are going to meet after years of absence, toil, and
suffering?" The answer was such as might almost have been made by
an ancient Hebrew, had any one asked him if he felt no pity for the
wretched Canaanites he so ruthlessly murdered. "From the time that
the omens have been favourable, we consider them as victims thrown
into our hands by the Deity to be killed; and that we are the mere
instrument in her hands to destroy them: that if we do not kill them,
she will never be again propitious to us, and we and our families
will be involved in misery and want." In precisely such a spirit did
Samuel hew in pieces before the Lord, Agag, king of the Amalekites.
The Thugs were by no means insensible to domestic feelings, or even to
the charms of social and friendly intercourse. At home their conduct
was irreproachable. Their villages were usually models of cleanliness
and neatness; their lands were industriously cultivated, their wives
and children treated with all kindness and affection. When Laek, an
approver, heard of his brother's arrest, he repeated with much feeling
an Hindustani verse, which has been thus rendered into English:--"I
was a pearl, once residing in comfort in the ocean. I surrendered
myself, believing I should repose in peace on the bosom of some fair
damsel--but, alas! they have pierced me and passed a string through my
body, and have left me to dangle in constant pain as an ornament to
her nose." Their wives frequently were quite unconscious that their
husbands were murderers, though they may perchance have suspected them
of being thieves and robbers. The sons also were kept in ignorance
of the entire truth until they had completed their fourteenth or
fifteenth year. In fact, they were gradually trained to the business.
At first they were taken out as if for a pleasant excursion, and had
generally a pony to ride. Presents, too, were given them after each
murder, though they were not made acquainted with the source whence
those gifts were derived. However, before they returned home they
had usually a shrewd suspicion that their treasured prize had not
been honestly come by. Next year they were plainly told that their
parents and relations were highway robbers; but by this time they had
become too fond of the careless roving life and of their share of
the easily-acquired plunder, to listen to the still small voice of
conscience. And thus in the third year they were not horrified to learn
that they were accomplices in murder. By such gentle transitions the
best regulated mind may eventually be attuned to the most atrocious
guilt. A comical reason was given to Captain Sleeman to account for
the omission on the part of a Thug father to initiate his son. "His
father," said the witness, "used to drink very hard, and in his fits
of intoxication he used to neglect his prayers and his days of fast.
All days were the same with him. This lad, Shumshera, was always sober
and religiously disposed, and separated from his father, living always
with his uncle Dondee, who was a very worthy, good man." He, too, was
a Thug, but likewise refrained from removing the veil from the eyes
of the lad. Another relative, however, proved less considerate, and
flattered the young man's vanity by telling him that he belonged to a
very high family of the Jumaldehee Thugs. A sad tale concerning another
youngster was related by Feringeea, a noted leader, who turned king's
evidence. One Aman Soobahdar went out upon an expedition, accompanied
by his cousin Kurhora, aged scarcely fourteen, whom he gave in charge
to Hursooka, his adopted son. After a time the gang fell in with a
party of five Sikhs, whereupon Aman desired Hursooka to keep the boy
well in the rear, so that he might not witness the contemplated murder.
Kurhora, however, becoming frightened, broke away from his companion
and galloped to the front to overtake the others. Just as he came in
sight, the signal was given. In an instant the fatal noose was applied,
a few shrill cries rent the air, and five writhing human bodies lay
convulsively distorted on the ground. At the horrid spectacle Kurhora
"was seized with a trembling, and fell from his pony; he became
immediately delirious, was dreadfully alarmed at the sight of the
turbans of the murdered men, and when any one touched or spoke to him,
talked about the murders and screamed exactly like a boy talks in his
sleep, and trembled violently if any one spoke to him or touched him."
Three or four of the party remained with the poor lad, for he was a
great favourite with them all, but he never recovered his senses, and
died before the evening. Hursooka took his death so much to heart that
he retired from the world, turned Byragee (an ascetic), and passed the
remainder of his days in serving at a temple on the Nerbudda.

Feringeea, the narrator of the preceding mournful incident, was a fine
handsome fellow, greatly admired by the women, and much respected by
his associates. His name was given to him in memory of an attack made
by a party of Feringees (Europeans) under the French General Perron,
on his uncle's village in distraint of certain customs' dues. As his
mother fled from the scene of violence and brutality, she was seized
with labour pains and brought a man child into the world, whom, in
remembrance of the terror and anguish she had endured, she named
Feringeea. On one occasion Feringeea, when he had grown to man's
estate and had become a famous leader, was travelling with his cousin
Aman Soobahdar and a gang of 150 Thugs through Rajpootana, when he fell
in with a handmaid of the Peishwah Bajee Rao, on her way from Poonah
to Cawnpore. "We intended to kill her and her followers," he quietly
remarked to Captain Sleeman, "but we found her very beautiful, and
after having her and her party three days within our grasp, and knowing
that they had £15,000 worth of property in jewels and other things with
them, we let her and all her party go; we had talked to her and felt
love towards her, for she was very beautiful."

But beauty was not always equally powerful to save. At another time,
he came up with a beautiful young Moghulanee, travelling with an
old female servant, mounted on a pony, an armed attendant, and six
palanquin-bearers. The ill-fated damsel, unhappily for herself and her
companions, became enamoured of the dashing, handsome young Thug. In
vain he tried to shake her off, for he feared a scandal might arise
if he, a Brahmin, had any improper intercourse with a Mussulmaunee.
And the exchange of other than Platonic love would have saved her
life. So at last he insisted that they should "take" her, and she was
accordingly put to death. "It was her fate," he said, not excusing
himself, but putting the matter in the right light, "It was her fate
to die by our hands." Captain Sleeman, then asked Madar Buksh, who
actually strangled the poor Moghulanee, if he had no pity for the
beautiful young woman. "I had," he answered, "but I had undertaken the
duty, and we must all have food." As if hurt by the enunciation of such
a base practical motive, Feringeea here struck in, saying, "We all
feel pity sometimes, but the _goor_ (consecrated coarse sugar) of the
Tapoonee, (feast after a murder), changes our nature. It would change
the nature of a horse. Let any man once taste of that _goor_, and he
will be a Thug, though he knew all the trades and have all the wealth
in the world. I never wanted food; my mother's family was opulent, her
relations high in office: I have been high in office myself, and become
so great a favourite wherever I went, that I was sure of promotion; yet
I was always miserable while absent from my gang, and obliged to return
to Thuggee. My father made me taste of that fatal _goor_ when I was yet
a mere boy; and, if I were to live a thousand years, I should never
be able to follow any other trade." The fascination of the abominable
"trade" is almost incredible. There were many instances of Thugs
enlisting into the Company's service, and making excellent soldiers;
and yet, whenever an opportunity presented itself, they would get two
parades' leave, join some of their old associates, commit as many
murders as possible, and then, with satisfied feelings, return to their

Feringeea, after the apprehension of his gang, could have escaped to
other clans in Rajpootana and Telingana, "but," said he, "you had
secured my mother, wife, and child: I could not forsake them--was
always inquiring after them, and affording my pursuers the means of
tracing me. I knew not what indignities my wife and mother might
suffer. Could I have felt secure that they would suffer none, I should
not have been taken." He was finally captured by two striplings, whom
he could easily have overpowered, had he not imagined that they were
supported by a party of police outside the hut, and that all resistance
was therefore idle. At one period of his life, he was in General
Ochterlony's service, and a great favourite with Sir David. His wife
was not aware that he was a Thug. "Her family," he proudly remarked
to Captain Sleeman, "are of the aristocracy of Jhansee and Sumtur,
as you may know." His foster-brother, being informed the day before
his execution, that his foster-mother had been arrested, earnestly
begged, as a last favour, that he might have an interview with her
as she was led to the scaffold. His request being granted, "he fell
at the old woman's feet, and begged she would release him from the
obligations of the milk with which she had nourished him, and the care
with which she had cherished him from infancy, as he was about to die
before he could fulfil any of them. She placed her hands on his head,
and he knelt, and she said she forgave him all, and bid him die like
a man." The sons were worthy of such mothers, heroic in their firm
resolve. There is likewise on record one example of a woman, named
Baroonee, who used to assist her husband to strangle his victims. Once
she saved his life when nearly overpowered, by tightly pulling the
_roomal_ round the neck of the struggling wretch, till he fell dead at
her feet. Mothers frequently compelled their sons to go on Thuggee,
and wives their husbands; and there was one woman in the Deccan, who
kept a gang, though it does not appear that she ever accompanied them.
Among the ancient male leaders none was more venerated than Dada
Dheera, of the Bhursote clan, whose name was oft-times invoked over
spiritual potations, at certain religious ceremonies. Next to him, was
the Mooltanee leader, Jhora Naek, who, assisted only by his servant,
Koduk Bunwaree, once strangled a man possessed of property to the value
of £16,200. Instead of appropriating this valuable prize, he drove the
mule home, assembled his neighbours, and distributed to each the share
to which he would have been entitled had he been actually present at
the murder. For this remarkable display of honour and self-denial,
both he and his wife were canonized. The leadership was usually the
reward of merit. "A man," said one of them, "who has always at command
the means of advancing a month or two's subsistence to a gang, will be
called a Jemadar; a strong, resolute man, whose ancestors have been for
many generations Thugs, will soon get the title; or a very wise man,
whose advice in difficult cases has weight with the gang; one who has
influence over local authorities, or the native officers of courts of
justice; a man of handsome appearance and high bearing, who can feign
the man of rank well--all these things enable a man to get around him a
few who will consent to give him the fees and title of Jemadar; but it
requires very high and numerous qualifications to gain a man the title
of Soobahdar."

It is now time to consider what omens were good, what bad, in the
eyes of this strange fraternity. There does not seem to have been any
particular reason for deciding on the hidden meaning of the incidents
that were supposed to be sent to regulate their conduct. The division
of tokens and prodigies into auspicious and adverse was, indeed,
most arbitrary and capricious, and can scarcely in any one instance
be accounted for. The good were not so numerous as the bad, for even
these habitual murderers gladly clutched at any excuse for evading the
necessity of taking human life. Very promising was it, on first setting
out, to meet a woman, carrying on her head a pitcher full of water:
they then felt assured of a happy return to their homes, especially
if she happened to be with child. Still better was it to hear an ass
bray on the left hand, and then on the right; the expedition might last
for years, it would always be attended with success; it passed into a
proverb--_Sou puk, heroo ek dunteroo_,--"One ass is worth a hundred
birds." Another proverb,--_Baean geedee sona leedee_, intimated,
that "a jackal, crossing from right to left, brings gold." To rhymed
sayings of this kind they were partial, as an assistant to memory.
Here is a more elaborate instance:

     Ratee bolee teetura,
     Din ko bolee seear,
     Tuj chulee wa deysra,
     Nuheen puree achanuk dhar.

That is, being interpreted, "If the partridge call at night, or the
jackal during the day, quit that country, or you will be seized."
Immediate and valuable booty might be expected, if the large hill-crow
were heard croaking on a tree, with a river or tank in sight; but the
reverse was the case, if the bird were seated on a live buffalo or
pig, or on the skeleton of any dead animal. Pleasant, too, was the
prospect, if a cat came prowling to their encampment by night; and
equally cheering to see a wolf, or a shrike, crossing the road from the
right to the left; or a large male antelope, or a herd of small deer,
or the blue jay, crossing from left to right. It was good to hear the
hare calling at night, upon the left, or the loud, continued hooting
of the small owl, when sitting; or the call of the partridge, on the
left, while travelling, and on the right, while halting. If a herd of
deer came in sight, they looked, ere long, to fall in with another gang
of Thugs. The call of the sarus was the most variable of all. It was
very encouraging if heard first on the left, and then on the right, on
opening an expedition, and also on reaching a stage, if heard on the
right; if repeated on the left, a rich prize was at hand, but ill luck
was betokened if it first sounded on the left; equally inauspicious was
the cry heard on the right, on leaving a stage, unless preceded on the
left. The most frequent reference was to Pilhaoo and Thibaoo; by the
former was meant the voice or appearance of omen-endowed animals on the
left hand, by the latter, that on the right. If the Pilhaoo were good,
it was improved by being followed by the Thibaoo; if evil, the danger
was in like manner diminished. Unless both were obtained before setting
out, the expedition was deferred to a later season. On leaving a stage,
the Pilhaoo was full of promise,--the Thibaoo of warning; a rule that
was reversed on reaching a halting ground.

On the other hand, if a turban fell off, or caught fire, the gang
returned home, if at no great distance, and remained quiet for seven
days; otherwise, they offered up _goor_ (coarse sugar), and the owner
of the turban alone retraced his steps. An expedition had also to
be re-commenced, if on the first day or night it encountered the
Ansootare, literally, "tear drops;" that is, a shower of rain falling
in the dry season, or in any month save June, July, August, and
September; nor could any success be anticipated if it thundered, with
little or no rain, when a gang was ready to set out. A very dreadful
omen was the cry of the kite, heard during the interval between the
first watch and day-break. All would then start to their feet, and
betake themselves to hurried flight; though no alarm was entertained
if the cry were heard between sunset and the end of the first watch,
because then "the omen was suffocated under their sides as they turned
in their sleep." Hardly less disastrous was a lizard falling upon
a Thug; any garment that it touched must be given away in charity.
Nothing but ill luck followed the meeting a maimed person, or an
oil-vender, or a woman bearing an empty water-jar, or a leper, or any
one emaciated by sickness; to meet a donkey face to face, was called
Mataphore, or "the head-breaker." It was of evil import to see a
jackal, or a wolf, cross the road from left to right, or a large male
antelope, or small deer, from right to left. If a snake crossed either
behind or in front of the gang, they must kill it or return home;
in either case sacrifices were required. The sight of two jackals
crossing the road together, in front, foretold prison and chains. The
call of one jackal was bad; the general clamour, or "lamentation" of
a pack, still worse; but the short, broken cry of that animal, or the
noise of several fighting, rendered it necessary to take to precipitate
flight. It was ill-omened to hear the call of the kite while flying,
or that mournful sound known as the "weeping" of the wolf, or the low
hooting of the small owl, repeated two or three times; or the loud
responsive cry of two large owls, or the low clicking sound of that
bird, or the slight chirp of the small owl, either sitting or flying.
If any member of the gang sneezed, either on first setting out, or on
leaving a halting-ground, expiatory sacrifices were offered, and all
travellers then in their power were allowed to escape. Were a dog seen
to shake its head, no Thug would dream of executing any design he might
previously have formed.

It was also unlucky to hear cats fighting in the day-time, or after
the first watch at night; or the low gurgling of the large owl, which
somewhat resembles the bubbling of a hookah. If this sound were
observed on first setting out, the expedition was postponed for several
days; if, afterwards, on the left, the gang hurried on, for there
was danger behind; if on the right, they halted, for there was danger
before them. But probably, no omen was more dreaded than the sight, or
the cry, of a hare. Unless a sacrifice was immediately offered, they
were certain to perish miserably in the jungles, and the wild animals
of the forest would drink water out of their skulls: should they
impiously plunder any traveller then with them, they would obtain no
booty. One of the most intelligent approvers ascribed his apprehension
on one occasion to his neglect of this omen. "A hare crossed the road,"
he said, "we disregarded the omen--though the hare actually screamed in
crossing--and went on." On the following day he and seventeen of his
associates were arrested, and only obtained their release after a long

It has been already stated that the Thugs attributed their recent
misfortunes to their want of "religion" in neglecting omens, and
disregarding the restrictions assigned to their homicidal duties. Their
evasions of the latter were sometimes humorous. They were forbidden
to destroy any one accompanied by a woman or a cow. But a party of
fourteen, possessing both these safeguards, once fell into the hands of
a gang at Kotree, in Huttah, and were persuaded by the Thugs to sell
the cow to them, as they had made a vow to present one to the Brahmans
at Shahpore. They did actually fulfil their pretended vow, but not
until they had strangled, without any remaining compunction, every one
of their unsuspecting victims, not even excepting the female. According
to the approvers, the practice of killing women had prevailed only
five years, and became one great cause of their ruin. The principal
reluctance to woman-slaughter was entertained by the Hindoos--the
Mussulmauns, perhaps, from their larger experience of the sex, showing
little inclination to spare them. On a certain occasion a Hindoo lady,
called the Kalee Beebee, was met by a gang as she travelled in a dooly
(a sort of litter), accompanied by twelve dependents. The Thugs having
discovered that she had £400 worth of property with her, her death was
insisted upon by the Mussulmauns, and as strenuously objected to by
the Hindoos. Thereupon a violent quarrel arose between them, which was
only appeased by the former perpetrating the deed by themselves. The
Hindoos, however, did not refuse to share in the plunder, save only the
lady's personal ornaments and clothes. One of them, a Brahman, named
Purusram, was shunned by his own brother until he expiated his guilt
by feasting several hundred Brahmans at a great expense. Another member
of the gang, also a Brahman, "got worms in his body, and died barking
like a dog." A third died miserably, and the families of all became

A more horrible instance of woman-slaughter appears to have escaped
unpunished, at least for a time. The Moonshee, Bunda Alee, in company
with his wife, an infant daughter, and six servants, was taking to her
bridegroom another daughter who had attained to a connubial age. On
the journey he fell in with a numerous gang of Thugs, the leaders of
whom contrived to ingratiate themselves with the Moonshee's party, and
all travelled on together. One evening towards dusk some of the Thugs
seated themselves, as usual, with the Moonshee at his tent door, and
began to sing and play on the sitar. One of them presently took up the
Moonshee's sword, which was lying on the ground at his feet, as if
to examine it. The signal was then suddenly given, but the Moonshee
sprung to his feet, screamed aloud, and tried to rush into the tent,
but was instantly seized and strangled. His wife, hearing his shrieks,
came running out with the infant in her arms, and shared his fate.
The bride was put to death within the tent. The servants were at that
moment engaged in grooming the horses, and one of them crept under
a horse's belly and lustily bawled out "murder!" but they were all
quickly silenced by the fatal noose. Ghubboo Khan, who had murdered
the mother, intended to adopt the infant, but was dissuaded by one of
his comrades who pointed out that it might lead to their discovery. He
therefore threw the child alive into the hole in which the dead bodies
were already deposited, and the earth was hastily shovelled in upon the
living and the dead. While this dreadful scene was enacting, a number
of Khulasies were, within sight, occupied in pitching the tents of the
European officers commanding a detachment of troops marching along the
road. The Thugs, however, had taken care to play and sing, at the top
of their voice, as soon as the butchery commenced, while others let
loose two vicious horses and chased them with vociferous shouting, so
as effectually to drown the cries of their victims.

The five years assigned as the duration of feminicide was simply a
euphuism; it prevailed through a very much longer period. In 1816 a
party of eighteen men and seven women were strangled near Shikarpore,
but the Thugs spared two boys, one of whom, however, cried so bitterly
and made so much moaning, that a ruffian seized him by the legs, swung
him round, and dashed out his brains against a stone. The dead body
was carelessly left lying on the ground, till a fisherman, passing
that way, happened to see it, and went and reported the circumstance
to the Thakoor Burjore Sing, of Powae. Guided by this clue, the
Thakoor discovered the bodies of all the victims, and, collecting as
many men as possible, gave chase to the murderers. Following their
fresh traces he came up with them while washing themselves in a stream
near the village of Tigura. Forming into a compact body, the Thugs
retired upon the village, being repeatedly charged by the Thakoor's
party, who ran one of them through the chest with a spear and sabred
another. The villagers, however, expecting a share of the booty, turned
out to the rescue of the Thugs and repulsed their assailants. Next
morning they escorted them to the neighbouring village of Simareea,
where they received the like sympathy and protection. This was no
extraordinary occurrence, for the natives generally regarded the Thugs
as a fraternity especially favoured by heaven. They would as soon have
thought of destroying a snake or a wolf, or of opposing in any other
way the decrees of Providence. The police, to save themselves trouble,
and partly also from a secret dread of these mysterious and ruthless
beings, used to declare that the dead bodies occasionally found in
ravines, wells, and dry watercourses had been killed by tigers, and
would burn them in all haste lest the marks of strangulation should
be detected by their superiors. In the Deccan the task of suppression
was rendered doubly difficult by the sullen opposition of the native
chiefs, who sometimes even ventured to maltreat the police officers
of the British Government. The Zemindars, or landowners, were always
ready to give any amount of security for Thugs, against whom there
was no sufficient evidence to justify their punishment. "They knew us
very well," said an approver, "but they had then confidence in us;
they thought we should keep our own secrets, and, if we did so, no
one else would be able to convict us, and get them into trouble. Yes,
there was then something like religion and good faith among us, and we
found friends everywhere. Where could we find them now?" The Zemindars
eagerly afforded them protection, because of the enormous rent they
were wont to pay for their lands and villages. Valuable presents,
also, were frequently made to them, at the same time that the Thugs
engaged not to compromise their patrons by committing murder too near
home. The Khyrooa chief once stood a siege from his lord, the Rajah
of Jhansee, before he would surrender some eight or ten villains who
had thrown themselves on his protection. And the Maharajah of Gwalior
was obliged to send two guns and a small army against the Zemindar,
or "laird," of Bahmanpora, to make him give up some Thugs whom he
patronised; the firing lasted for some hours, and several lives were
lost on both sides. Even those who affected to punish the miscreants,
seldom touched their persons except to extort from them their ill-got
treasures. They would seize one or two of the youngest, tie them up,
and flog them till they confessed, or until the gang, in pity for their
sufferings, pledged themselves to make up a certain sum, leaving two or
three of their number as hostages. They were then released, and allowed
to pursue their profession as before.

In the year 1812, soon after the murder of Lieutenant Monsell, a number
of Thugs were arrested by certain Zemindars and grievously beaten, in
the hope of making them bid high for their release. Their excessive
cupidity, however, defeated its own ends. During their thirteen months
imprisonment, forty of the Thugs perished from the dampness of their
dungeon, combined with the ill-treatment they endured. The survivors
insisted that their comrades were tortured to death by a demon, who
entered the prison every night during the wet season. "I saw him," said
one of them, "only once myself. I was awake while all the rest were
asleep; he came in at the door, and seemed to swell as he came in till
his head touched the roof, and the roof was very high, and his bulk
became enormous. I prostrated myself, and told him that 'he was our
Purmesur (great God), and we poor helpless mortals depending entirely
upon his will.' This pleased him, and he passed by me; but took such
a grasp at the man Mungulee, who slept by my side, that he was seized
with spasms all over, from the nape of the neck to the sole of his
foot." Of the Zemindars, who caused this atrocious suffering, he added,
"not a soul of their families is now left to pour the libation at their
funeral obsequies." How like is this to the glorious old Grecian idea
of the avenging Nemesis! In truth, this was the only sort of justice
administered in India during the supremacy of its native rulers--the
golden age, according to the gentlemen of the Manchester school.

The Thugs made use of a peculiar dialect, called Ramasee, which was
understood by the members of the fraternity throughout Hindostan, at
Mooltan as at Arcot. The signification of the word Thug itself is "a
deceiver;" they were likewise called Phanseegars, from the Hindostanee
word Phansee, "a handkerchief." One Thug could always recognise another
by his salutation _Aulae Khan, Salam_, if addressed to a Mussulmaun; or
_Aulae Bhae, Ram, Ram_, if addressed to a Hindoo, equivalent to "Peace
be with thee, friend!" A few specimens of their phraseology, selected
from Captain Sleeman's Thug vocabulary, may be not altogether devoid of

_Aulae_, or _Bora_, signified a Thug; _Beetoo_, or _Kuj_, everybody
not a Thug; _Bagh_, _Phool_, a rendezvous; Boj' ha, the Thug who
carried the bodies to the grave; _Bhukote_, or _Bhurtote_, the
strangler; _Beyl_, site for murder; _Bykureea_, the scout of river
Thugs; Beyl' ha, one who chose the place of murder; _Bunij_, literally
merchandize--technically a traveller; _Bunij Ladhna_, "to load goods,"
_i.e._, to murder; _Bhara_ and _Ghurt' ha_, dead bodies of victims;
_Bisul purna_, to be awkwardly handled--to have the _roomal_ caught on
the face or head, instead of being slipped round the neck--the contrary
of _soosul purna_: a Thug who was frequently guilty of bungling in
this manner, was deposed from the honourable post of strangler;
_Chookadena_, or _Thibaedena_, to get travellers to sit down and look
up, by pointing out some star or object in the air, so that, the chin
being raised, the handkerchief might be more easily passed round
the throat; _Chumoseea_, or _Shumsheea_, the Thug whose duty it was
to seize the victim's hands; _Chumeea_, the Thug who held down the
struggling victim; _Chandoo_, an expert Thug; _Cheesa_, a blessing
from heaven, a rich traveller; _Dhonkee_, or _Ronkee_, a policeman
or guard; _Dul_, weight; _Duller_, the head; _Doonr_, the shrieks of
a victim; _Jywaloo_, left for dead, but afterwards recovering, which
occasionally happened when there was not time to bury the bodies,
or when it was judged imprudent to stab and slash them after being
strangled; _Kuboola_, a tyro--the opposite of _Borka_--an adept. The
latter could always gather together a band, for he was acquainted with
the rites of initiation and the signification of omens, of which a
_Kuboola_ was generally quite ignorant. It was, consequently, found
unnecessary to sentence the latter to perpetual imprisonment, as they
could do little harm without the guidance of a _Borka_. A _Kuboola_, of
the old Sindouse stock, once attempted to form a gang, into which he
admitted all sorts of vagabonds, weavers, braziers, bracelet-makers,
&c., who killed men and women indiscriminately, and neglected the
most ordinary precautions. The natural consequence was, that they
were soon detected, seized, and punished. On the other hand, one of
the most noted Thugs on record was Sheikh Ahmed, of Arcot, whose gang
consisted of sixty _Borkas_, disguised as recruits. This able leader
had picked up the English words of command, with some knowledge of
the Company's drill, and could even express himself intelligibly in
English. He never displayed his wealth, which was considerable, or
travelled in an ostentatious manner. On the contrary, when sixty years
old and able to command the services of a hundred men, he would wander
about for months with his wife, cooking his own food, going on foot,
and living like a very poor man. His riches were concealed in various
_caches_, regardless of the Horatian maxim, that silver shines only
with reflected light from a temperate and judicious use. However, he
escaped apprehension, and added, every year, with impunity, to his
long catalogue of crime. But to return to the vocabulary--_Koojaoo_,
an informer, or one who extorted hush-money from Thugs; _Khullee_, a
Thug who, from ignoble care-giving impecuniosity, concealed himself on
his return home to avoid his creditors--for the natives of Hindostan
enjoy many of the blessings of an ancient and refined civilization;
_Khomusna_, to rush in upon travellers when there was not sufficient
time for the ordinary preparations; _Kanthuna_, or _Kanth dalna_,
to stab when no opportunity was afforded for strangling--a very
exceptional case--or to slash the suffocated victim, either to prevent
revival, or the swelling of the body when buried, owing to the evolved
gases finding no vent for escape. This gaseous inflation of the
corpse was apt to cause the imposed earth to crack and open, when the
horrid effluvia attracted jackals to the spot, who, by digging up the
bodies, might discover the fact of a murder having been committed,
and so lead to the detection of the murderers; _Kathee kurna_, to
inveigle travellers, or to consult secretly as to the mode of doing
away with them; _Kharoo_, a gang of Thugs; _Khuruk_, the sound of the
consecrated pick-axe in making a grave, supposed to be audible only
to the initiated; _Kurwa_, a square, or oblong grave, for one corpse
or for many; _Gobba_, a circular grave, with a small pillar of earth
left in the middle--it was believed to crack less than the ordinary
grave, and was therefore preferred when the dead bodies were very
numerous; _Kuthowa_, the Thug whose office it was to cut and stab the
dead bodies; _Lugha_, the grave-digger; _Lutkuneea_, a very small
purse, used exclusively by Thugs and professional thieves; _Maulee_,
or _Phoola_, the Thug entrusted with the duty of taking to the village
the money sent by the absent gang for the maintenance of their wives
and families; _Nawureea_, a novice on his first expedition--sometimes
they were compelled to kick the first murdered man five times on the
back; _Nissar_, safe, as applied to any suitable place for lodging at,
murdering, or dividing spoil--opposed to _tikkur_, unsafe; _Paoo_,
an accomplice of Thugs; _Pehloo_, or _Sikka_, or _Roomal_, the
handkerchief. This was, rather, a turban unfolded, or the long narrow
cloth, or sash, worn round the waist. It was doubled to the length
of about thirty inches, with a knot formed at the doubled extremity,
and about eighteen inches from that a slip knot. The distance between
these two knots was regulated by preparing the fatal instrument on
the knee, which was made to do temporary duty for a neck. The use of
the two knots was to give a firm hold. When the victim was fairly
prostrated, the strangler adroitly loosened the slip knot, and made
another fold of the cloth round his throat. Then placing his foot upon
the back of his victim's neck, he drew the cloth tightly, as if--to
use the informant's own words--he were "packing a bundle of straw."
_Pehloo dena_, to instal as a strangler, of which more hereafter;
_Phank_, a useless thing, a traveller without property; _Pungoo_, or
_Bungoo_, a river Thug of Bengal, who murdered on board his _kuntee_
or boat; _Phur_, same as _Beyl_, also a spot for dividing the plunder;
_Phurjhana_, to clean the murder-spot--after a nocturnal murder, some
of the gang were generally left behind to remove any signs of the crime
that might be visible by daylight; _Phuruck dena_, to wave a cloth as
signal of danger; _Pusur_, the direction of an expedition; _Ruhna_,
a temporary grave; _Soon_, a Thug by birth, but not yet initiated;
_Saur_, one who escaped from Thugs; _Sotha_, the inveigler; _Tome_,
an article of extraordinary value; _Tilha_, a spy; _Thap_, a night
encampment; _Tuppul_, a bye-path into which they often inveigled
their unsuspecting travelling companions, as more convenient for
their purposes. A rich traveller was called "a delicacy;" a poor one
"a stick;" an old man "a barber's drum." Some of their signals, too,
were quaint. The necessity of caution was inculcated by drawing the
back of the hand along the chin, from the throat outwards; the open
hand placed over the mouth and drawn gently downwards, implied the
absence of danger. "Sweep the place," signified to look out; "bring
firewood," take your places--that is, the place assigned to each Thug
preparatory to action; "take out the handkerchief with the beetel,"
get the _roomal_ ready, as already described; "eat beetel," or "hand
the beetel," despatch him--this was called the _Jhirnee_, or signal to
fall on; "look after the straw," get the body ready for burial; "the
straw is come out," jackals have dug up the body. Another form of the
_Jhirnee_ was _Ae ho to ghyree chulo_, "if you are come, pray descend."
When the scouts wished to report that all was safe, they called out as
if to a comrade, "Bajeed Khan," or "Deo," or "Deoseyn." If the scouts
saw any danger at hand, or a traveller coming along, they would call
out "Sheikh Jee," or "Sheikh Mahommed," if they were Mussulmauns; and
"Luchmun Sing," or "Luchee Ram," or "Gunga Ram," if they were Hindoos.
Sometimes the advanced guard of a gang, with victims in their power,
would meet with a party of travellers, of whom they considered their
friends in the rear were capable of disposing. In which case they
sent some one back to tell Bajeed Khan, or Deoseyn, to make haste and
overtake them. The others receiving this message understood that the
coast was clear in front, and on meeting the travellers, lost no time
in putting them to death. If a gang happened from any cause to get
separated, they rallied with the cry, _Bukh, Bukh, Bukh_, "come, come,
come." When the leader judged that the time was at hand for selecting
a _beyl_, or site for murder, he would say to the Thug on whom that
duty devolved, _Jao, kutoree manj lao_, "go and clean the brass cup."
When he desired every one to repair to his post, he gave the _khokee_,
that is, he made a great noise of hawking up phlegm from his throat;
if anything then occurred to cause the suspension of operations, he
gave the _thokee_, or spit out the phlegm. Otherwise, he exclaimed
aloud "Surbulund Khan," or "Dulur Khan," or "Surmust Khan," whereupon
the stranglers made ready and only awaited the _jhirnee_. Then the
fatal words were pronounced, _Tombako kha lo_, or _pee lo_, "eat," or
"drink (_i.e._, smoke) your tobacco"--or one of the other formulæ was
used--and the next instant the _roomal_ was round the throat of the
ill-fated wretch.

In order to avoid the suspicions likely to be engendered by very large
bands of men travelling together, the Thugs used to break up into small
parties of from three or four to a dozen or so, communicating with
one another by a series of telegraphic signs, which enabled them to
concentrate at any given point with amazing celerity. Thus, on coming
to cross-roads, the leading files drew their feet along the dust in
the direction they had taken. If they wished their comrades to follow
quickly, they piled up some dust along the toe-line of their footmarks,
on which they sometimes impressed their heel. Where there was no dust
easily procurable, they left two stones, one upon the other, or strewed
a few leaves to indicate the right path: if haste was needful, they
would dispose the leaves in a long line.

Great as was the veneration entertained for the _roomal_, still greater
was that accorded to the _kussee_, or pick-axe. It was consecrated with
peculiar rites. On a day pronounced by the Pundit to be propitious,
the leader betook him to a blacksmith--of course a member of his
own fraternity--and closing the door, constrained him to relinquish
all other work until the axe had been duly fabricated. One of the
four auspicious days, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Friday, was then
selected for the _dhoop_, or offering of incense, which took place
within a house or tent, the shadow of no living thing being allowed
to fall upon the axe. A Thug, renowned for his ceremonial lore, being
appointed to officiate, the consecration was attempted--attempted, for
it did not always succeed at the first trial. The officiating minister
having taken his seat facing the west, received from the leader the
pick-axe on a lordly brazen dish. A pit was then dug, over which the
axe was held, and washed with water, and afterwards in succession
with a mixture of sugar and water, sour milk, and ardent spirits,
care being taken that the various liquids should flow into the pit.
The next proceeding was to mark the axe from head to point with seven
spots of red lead, and again place it on the brazen dish, together with
a cocoa-nut, some cloves, paun leaves, gogul gum, inderjon, sessamum
seeds, white sandal wood, and sugar. Ghee, or clarified butter, was
also put into a small brass cup, standing by the side of the dish. A
fire being now kindled with dried cow-dung and mango, or byr-wood, all
these articles were thrown into it, excepting the cocoa-nut. So soon
as the flames blazed high and bright, the priest, holding the axe in
both hands, passed it through them seven times. Then, stripping off the
rough outer coat of the cocoa-nut, he placed the fruit on the ground,
and taking up the axe by the point, asked of the assembled Thugs,
"Shall I strike?" All having replied in the affirmative, he struck
the nut with the butt-end of the axe, and usually shivered it into
fragments. The whole of the shell and some of the kernel being thrown
into the fire, the axe was wrapt in a clean white cloth and laid on the
ground, pointing to the west, the Thugs facing the same quarter of the
heavens and worshipping. This act of adoration done, they all partook
of the cocoa-nut, and collecting the fragments, threw them into the
pit. Should the Thibaoo now be heard, all was duly performed, and the
axe was a holy thing--no longer a _kodalee_, but a _kussee_. But if the
Pilhaoo first smote upon their ears, or the priest failed to crack the
nut at a blow, the ceremonies must be repeated--all had been done in

On the march, the sacred _kussee_ was always intrusted to a Thug of
approved sobriety and steadiness, who carried it in his waist-belt.
While encamped it was buried in a secure place, with the point turned
towards the direction intended to be pursued. If a better road could
be taken, the axe would be found pointing that way. No human foot was
allowed to tread the ground beneath which it reposed; nor should the
touch of any unclean man or thing ever pollute its purity. If a well
happened to be near, it was thrown into it, instead of being buried;
and when the gang was ready to set out, being duly summoned, it came
of its own accord to its bearer. Nay, more, if a dozen _kussees_ were
thrown into the same well, each would fly unerringly to its proper
guardian. When this startling assertion was made, Captain Sleeman
suggested it was a clever piece of jugglery; whereupon an approver
indignantly exclaimed: "What! shall not a hundred generations of Thugs
be able to distinguish the tricks of man from the miracles of God? Is
there not the difference of heaven and earth between them! Is not one
a mere trick, and the other a miracle, witnessed by hundreds assembled
at the same time?" Another approver capped his rhetorical friend, by
declaring that he had seen with his own eyes this miracle performed in
favour of the Arcottee Thugs, as the reward of their superior piety
and strict observance of omens.

The burnt-offerings were repeated on all holy days, and after any
unusual interval between murders. After being used, it was washed
with solemn rites. There was no more binding oath than to swear by
the _kussee_. If the axe itself were not procurable, it sufficed to
make an effigy of it in cloth or clay. The person attested, held it in
his hand as he swore, and then drank the water in which it had been
previously bathed. A perjurer died an awful death within six days
after his guilt, his head gradually turning round till his face stood
over his back. After all, this is not more strange than the old Hebrew
trial of jealousy, as described in the fifth chapter of the Book of
Numbers; nor more ridiculous than any ordeal in which supernatural
effects were expected from simple and natural causes. If the _kussee_
fell from the hand of its bearer, his death was certain to ensue within
twelve months, or else some dire calamity befel the gang. The immediate
results of the untoward accident were his deposition from his high
office, a change of route, and a fresh consecration of the axe. It has
been before remarked, that no one but a Thug could hear the sound of
the _kussee_, when used in digging graves. It had likewise another
virtue, in common with the _roomal_. "Are you never afraid," asked
Captain Sleeman, one day, of some of the approvers, "of the spirits of
the persons you murder?"

"Never," they replied, "they cannot trouble us."

"Why? Do they not trouble other men when they commit murder?"

"Of course they do. The man who commits a murder is always haunted by
spirits. He has sometimes fifty at a time upon him, and they drive him

"And how do they not trouble you?"

"Are not the people we kill, killed by the orders of Davey? Do not
all whom we kill, go to Paradise, and why should their spirits stay
to trouble us?... A good deal of our security from spirits is to be
attributed to the _roomal_, with which we strangle."

"I did not know that there was any virtue in the _roomal_."

"Is it not our _sikka_ (ensign), as the pick-axe is our _nishan_
(standard)?... More is attributable to the pick-axe. Do we not worship
it every seventh day? Is it not our standard? Is its sound ever heard
when digging the grave of any but a Thug? And can any man ever swear
to a falsehood upon it?"

Next to the leader of the gang, the most important personages were
the stranglers. Before a Thug could hope to attain this honourable
distinction, he must have served on several expeditions, and given
proof of courage and impassibility. The usual gradations were,
employment as a scout, then as a grave-digger, afterwards as a holder
of hands, and finally he might become a strangler. So soon as his
mind was inflamed with this ambition, he had recourse to one of the
oldest and most famous of the brotherhood, and besought him to act as
_gooroo_, or spiritual preceptor, and to accept him as his _cheyla_,
or disciple. If his request were granted, the _gooroo_ led him into a
field, with three or four experienced Thugs, and all placed themselves
facing the direction in which the gang was about to move. Then the
_gooroo_ lifted up his voice, and prayed aloud:--"O Kalee, Kunkalee,
Bhudkalee! O Kalee, Mahakalee, Calcutta Walee! if it seemeth to thee
fit that the traveller now at our lodging should die by the hands
of this thy slave, vouchsafe us the Thibaoo." Should the auspicious
omen be refused, the candidate must wait until another opportunity.
But if the goddess smiled upon his vows, the party returned to their
quarters, and the _gooroo_, taking a handkerchief, and looking towards
the west, tied a knot in one end of it, inserting therein a rupee or
other silver coin. This knot was called _goor ghaut_, or the classic
knot, and was a very artistic performance, the end of the _roomal_
being skilfully folded inwards. The disciple thereupon respectfully
took the handkerchief in his right hand, and went and stood over his
sleeping victim--for a feeble person, and one asleep, was generally
chosen for the maiden trial of skill. When all was ready, the
_Shumsheea_, or hand-holder, suddenly awakened the sleeper with the
cry that a snake or a scorpion was under or beside him. As he started
up, bewildered with sleep and terror, the _roomal_ was slipped over
his neck, and in a few seconds he had ceased to fear either reptiles
or baser men. The deed being satisfactorily accomplished, the _cheyla_
bowed lowly before his preceptor, and touched his feet with both hands,
a compliment he also paid to all the _gooroo's_ relatives and friends
there present. After the Thibaoo had again been heard, he untied the
knot, and presented the coin, with whatever silver he possessed, to his
teacher, who added to it whatever money he happened to have upon his
own person. Of this amount half a crown was expended in the purchase
of _goor_, or coarse sugar, and the rest in sweetmeats. The Tapoonee
feast was then held under a neem, mango, or byr-tree, the _cheyla_
sitting with the Bhurtotes, or stranglers, and receiving a like share
of the consecrated _goor_. At the conclusion of the expedition, the
tyro entertained his preceptor's family, and gave to him and his wife a
present of new clothes. The entertainment was returned by the _gooroo_,
between whom and his pupil an indissoluble connection existed ever
afterwards unto death.

The Tapoonee, to which allusion has just been made, was a sacrifice
offered to Bhowanee after every murder. A half-crown's worth of coarse
sugar having been procured through the instrumentality of one of
their most plausible members--for the purchase of so large a quantity
at a time might have excited strange surmises--it was placed on a
blanket, or sheet, spread upon a clear spot of ground. The _kussee_, or
sacred pickaxe, and a silver coin--by way of _roop dursun_, or silver
offering--were also laid upon the sheet, beside the pile of sugar. The
most experienced of the leaders there present then seated himself on
the edge of the sheet, facing to the west, and on either side of him
were ranged as many Bhurtotes as could be accommodated on the carpet,
but taking care that they should make an even number. The others sat
behind these. The leader next made a hole in the ground, and dropping
into it a pinch of the _goor_, raised his eyes to the sky, and, with
clasped hands, devoutly prayed aloud:--"Great goddess! as thou didst
vouchsafe one lakh and 62,000 rupees (£16,200) to Jora Naick and Koduk
Bunwaree in their need, so, we pray thee, fulfil our desires!" These
words were repeated by the entire assembly; after which the leader
sprinkled a little water over the pit and the _kussee_, and placed some
_goor_ on the hand of every Thug seated on the blanket. Some one then
uttered the _jhirnee_, or signal for strangulation, and the _goor_
was eaten in solemn silence. Not a word was spoken until the whole
of the consecrated pile had disappeared, and been washed down with
a draught of pure water. If any crumbs fell on the ground they were
carefully picked up and thrown into the hole; for should any beast of
the field, or bird of the air, partake of the holy offering, the wrath
of the goddess would burn for years. The silver coin being restored to
its owner, the unconsumed sugar was distributed among the lower and
junior grades of the association. But if any one of the uninitiated,
by chance or design, tasted of that to which the stranglers only were
entitled, he was straightway irresistibly impelled to Thuggee, and
never could the charm that bound him be broken or counteracted.

When necessity, or the weariness of inactivity, or the fascination
of their terrible calling, urged them to leave their tranquil homes,
their wives and families; the leader of the gang, accompanied by four
of his ablest followers, would seat themselves on a blanket around a
long-experienced and venerable sage; while the vulgar herd sat down
surrounding this group at a little distance. In front of the pundit
was placed a brass plate containing a few grains of wheat and rice,
and two copper coins. The leader having respectfully inquired on
what day they should set out, and in what direction, the pundit went
through various ceremonies, too trivial to be particularized, and
then indicated the day, the hour, and the route. When the appointed
period had arrived--it could not be a Wednesday, or a Thursday, or
in the months of July, September, or December--the leader filled a
_lotah_, or brass vessel, with water, and carried it with his right
hand over its mouth and holding it by his side. Some turmeric, two
copper coins and one of silver, together with the head of the pickaxe,
were next tied up separately in a clean white handkerchief, which the
leader pressed against his breast in his left hand. Then turning to
the heaven-selected direction he slowly moved with all the gang to a
field outside the village, where finding a suitable spot, and still
preserving the same attitude, he paused, and in seeming abstraction,
prayed: "Great goddess! Universal Mother! If this our meditated
expedition be good in thy sight, vouchsafe unto us help, and the signs
of thy approbation!" The other Thugs repeated his words, and praised
their patron, Bhowanee. Within half an hour afterwards the Pilhaoo
ought to be heard on the left and the Thibaoo on the right hand. Then,
and not till then, the leader relaxed from his statue-like attitude,
and putting the _lotah_ on the ground, himself sat down, still looking
in the same direction. Thus he remained seven hours communing with
himself, his abstraction being finally interrupted by his followers
bringing him food and informing him that all things were ready. The
silver and copper coins and the turmeric he carefully preserved
throughout the expedition, and on his return presented them to some
poor Brahman, unless great good fortune had attended his party, in
which case they were kept for the opening of the next expedition. If
the _lotah_ had fallen from his hand before the omens were given, he
would assuredly have died within twelve, or at the latest, within
twenty-four months. The preparations being completed, the gang struck
off in the direction indicated by the pundit; but after taking a few
steps they could turn aside as circumstances might seem to recommend.

During the first seven days after their departure the females of their
respective families held no intercourse with those belonging to another
gang, lest the victims intended for their own friends should fall into
the power of the others. The Thugs, themselves, for the like period
abstained from animal food, and even from their favourite _ghee_,
and partook of no other food than fish, _goor_, and _dal_ (a kind of
pulse). Nor did they shave or allow their clothes to be washed, or
indulge in alms'-giving--which, with personal abstinence, constitutes
the Hindoo notion of practical religion. On the seventh day they had a
grand feast, in which green vegetables of some kind made a prominent
figure. If a victim, however, were obtained within these seven days of
probation, all restraints were at once cancelled and abandoned. Should
the expedition last no longer than one year, they frequently denied
themselves the taste of milk throughout, and likewise refrained from
brushing their teeth. Any bad omens encountered prior to the second
halt sufficed to break off the expedition; after that point they could
be averted by expiatory rites. It was considered unfortunate to hear
any one lamenting the dead as they started, or to meet an inhabitant of
their own village, or an oil-vender, carpenter, potter, dancing-master,
a maimed or lame person, a fakir (Mussulmaun religious mendicant) with
a brown waist-band, or a jogee (Hindoo religious mendicant) with long
interwoven hair. But it promised well to fall in with a fair in any
other village than their own, or a corpse, or to see a party of female
friends weeping round a bride as she left her parents' house to go to
her husband's.

As a general rule, the different divisions of a gang used to encamp
near each other at the various halting grounds, and were always in
frequent communication with one another. No sooner had one of them
fallen in with a party of travellers than the intelligence was conveyed
to all the others, and every one was on the alert. Their leaders,
travelling as merchants, gentlemen, soldiers, or peasants, usually
succeeded by their plausible manners in ingratiating themselves
with the strangers. And there was nothing formidable or repulsive
in their outward appearance. On the contrary, they are described as
being mild and benevolent of aspect, and peculiarly courteous, gentle,
and obliging. Unlike most of the natives of India, they travelled
unarmed, with the exception of two or three who carried daggers. It was
therefore an apparently reasonable request on their part to be allowed
to proceed under the protection of those who made a grand display of
their swords and spears and fire-arms.

This request being usually accorded, the united parties journeyed
on together, chatting and prattling with the volubility and easy
familiarity of orientals. Sometimes days would elapse before a
favourable opportunity occurred. There is an instance mentioned of a
gang having accompanied a family of eleven persons for twenty days,
during which they had traversed upwards of 200 miles, and then murdered
the whole of them, though the head of the family had only one arm, and
ought therefore to have been spared. Another gang accomplished 160
miles in twelve days, in company with a party of sixty--men, women
and a child--before they found an eligible occasion. They preferred
committing murder in the evening, when the travellers would be seated
on the ground, mingled with themselves, talking, smoking, singing, and
playing the sitar. Where it could be done without suspicion, three
Thugs were allotted to every victim. So soon as the fatal signal was
given, one seized hold of his hands, the second grasped his legs and
held him down, while the strangler tightened the _roomal_ round his
neck, and only relaxed the strain when life was extinct. Then the
bearers of the daggers slashed the dead bodies, the grave-diggers
quickly excavated a deep trench, the corpses were stripped and thrown
in, the earth was hastily shovelled in and trampled down, and in an
incredibly short space of time all traces were completely effaced
of the terrible tragedy. When the ground was too hard to admit of a
grave being dug, or any other cause intervened to prevent the burial,
the bodies were flung into a ravine, or well, or water course,
or concealed in the jungle. Not unfrequently it happened that no
convenient opportunity was presented for murdering the travellers while
seated. In this case, an experienced Thug would be sent forward to
select a _beyl_, or suitable spot, on arriving at which, if the scouts
reported a clear coast, the gang would close upon their unsuspecting
companions and speedily put them to death. It was more difficult when
the travellers were mounted, though the fleetest charger could not
avail to save his rider. A horseman was always attacked by three men;
one walked at his horse's head, a second a little way in the rear, and
a third by his side, pleasantly conversing with him until the signal
was given, when he suddenly dragged him out of the saddle and, with the
assistance of his comrade, strangled him before he could recover his
self-possession. It was thought a subject for just pride when a Thug
pulled a traveller from his horse and murdered him without aid. Such an
exploit was a patent of nobility, and conferred credit upon the third
and fourth generation. The Thugs, even as approvers, used to glory in
the recollection of their past achievements, and spoke of them with
as much animation as a sportsman exhibits in describing a good day's
shooting or a capital run with the hounds. To avoid confusion, they
would distinguish the grand murders by the number of victims they had
killed. Thus, in the chaleesrooh, or forty-soul affair, thirty-one men,
seven women and two girls were murdered by a collective force of 360
Thugs, who divided among themselves £1,700 worth of plunder. A few
days previously 160 of this gang had disposed of a party consisting
of a widow, a slave-girl and twelve armed followers. The Sartrooh, or
sixty-soul affair, is an excellent illustration of their ordinary mode
of operations. The Thugs travelled with this numerous party, consisting
of fifty-two men, seven women, and a Brahman boy, about four years old,
for twenty days before they consummated their purpose. At Sehora they
persuaded their companions to quit the high road and take one that
led through the jungles. However, they patiently went on with them,
gaining more and more upon their confidence, till they had come to
Chittakote. "There," said one of them to Captain Sleeman, "we sent on
people as usual to select a place for the murder, and they found one
about five miles distant, in a very extensive jungle, without a human
habitation for many miles on either side. We persuaded the party to set
out soon after midnight; and as they went along, we managed to take our
appointed places, two Thugs by every traveller, and the rest in parties
of reserve at different intervals along the line, every two managing
to keep the person they were appointed to kill, in conversation. On
reaching the place chosen, the signal was given at several different
places, beginning with the rear party, and passing on to that in
front; and all were seized and strangled except the boy. It was now
near morning, and too late to admit of the bodies being securely
buried; we made a temporary grave for them in the bed of the river,
covered them over with sand, and went on with the boy and the booty
to Chittakote, intending to send back a large party the next night
and have the bodies securely buried. The rains had begun to set in,
and after the murders it rained very heavily all the day. The party,
however, went back, but found that the river had risen and washed away
all the bodies, except two or three, which they found exposed, and
pushed into the stream to follow the rest."

So recently as 1830 Bhowanee was believed to have saved her votaries
the trouble of burying their victims. A gang after wandering about
Loodhiana, Sirhind, and Umballah, came to Goolchutter, where they
performed their ablutions in the sacred tank and rested three days.
"Having then proceeded two miles towards Kurnal, they overtook two
travellers from Mooltan on their way to Muttra, mounted on ponies. They
were in appearance very poor." So poor, indeed, that it was judged they
would not pay for the trouble of killing them, and they had nearly
escaped until a speculative Thug offered to give £10 for whatever might
be found upon them. "Their death was accordingly determined on, and
they were conducted by the Thugs to Turowlee where they rested in the
Serai ('accommodation for man and beast'), and Cheyne Jemadar invited
the poor wretches to partake of a repast." The travellers, being
religious mendicants, had many anecdotes to tell of their adventures
and travels, and pleasantly beguiled the early hours of darkness. Next
morning they all set out together and had not gone very far before the
_jhirnee_ was given, and the mendicants ceased to beg and to breathe.
But while their grave was being dug, the neighing of horses was heard
coming along the road, which caused the Thugs to flee to a place of
concealment, leaving the corpses on the ground. The horsemen passed
on, and saw or suspected nothing. Then the Thugs came out from their
hiding places, but lo! the bodies had disappeared--but not so their
property which amounted to the value of several hundred pounds. It is
true religious mendicants were exempted from strangulation, but this
was clearly an exceptional case, for Bhowanee had positively commanded
their death by sending favourable omens; she had, besides, rewarded her
worshippers with a rich booty, and even disposed of the dead bodies,
whose souls had gone straight to Paradise.

They were not, however, always equally fortunate. A gang once learnt
from the spies that four travellers with property were trudging along
the road towards Baroda. Instantly, twenty fine stout fellows set
out after them, and after a long chase came up with the travellers
and murdered them. "To the great disappointment and chagrin of us
all," bewailed one of the gang, "no property was found upon them, for
they turned out to be common stone-cutters, and their tools tied in
bundles, which they carried over their shoulders, deceived the spies
into the supposition that they were carrying treasure." At another
time a gang fell in with two Ganges-water carriers, two tailors, and a
woman, and next day they were joined by two very poor travellers, of
whom they tried in vain to disembarrass themselves. They would start
at night without awakening them, but somehow the others _would_ hear
their preparations and insist upon accompanying them. The Thugs then
appointed four of their brethren to detach these unconscious suicides
from the rest of the party and keep them on the high road while the
others struck off down a byepath. This device also failed, for they
became frightened and could be satisfied with nothing less than a
junction with the main body. Their obstinacy sealed their fate. Half a
dozen of the Thugs went on with them in advance, and strangling them,
found upon them only one rupee--worth about two shillings. The others
soon shared the fate of the two poor travellers, but turned out a more
profitable prize, as they yielded among them twenty pounds. A smaller
sum, however, than one shilling will often times tempt a Hindoo to
commit murder, even though he have nothing to do with Thuggee. What
value the latter attached to life may be inferred from the testimony of
one of themselves. "I have never strangled any one," said he, "but have
aided in throwing bodies into wells. Eight annas (one shilling) is a
very good remuneration for murdering a man. We often strangle a victim
who is suspected of having two pice (one farthing)." But it seldom
happened that a murder produced less than two pounds; the average being
probably about fifteen pounds. It is almost comical to read that these
dread beings were sometimes robbed at night by vulgar pilferers, though
they usually set a watch. The same sort of retribution is observable
in the fate of twenty-seven Dacoits, or gang-robbers, who had in their
possession at the time above £1,300 worth of money, gold ornaments,
gems, and shawls. A gang of one hundred and twenty-five Thugs having
met with them, begged to be allowed to travel under their protection.
The Dacoits carelessly assented, and were shortly afterwards all put to

Eager as they were for booty the Thugs appear to have been courteous
and forbearing towards one another, and equitable in the division
of their spoils. Feringeea and twenty-six of his gang were one day
cooking their dinners under some trees by the road-side when five
travellers came bye, but could not be persuaded to stop and partake of
their meal, saying they intended to sleep at Hirora that night, and
they had yet eight miles to go. The Thugs followed after them, and
also reached Hirora, but could discover no traces of the travellers.
Feringeea, therefore, inferred that they must have fallen into the
hands of another gang, and suddenly recollected having passed an
encampment of Brinjarees (bullock-drivers) not far from the town.
On the following morning he accordingly went back with a few of his
comrades, and at once recognised a horse and a pony which he had
observed in the possession of the travellers. "What have you done with
the five travellers, my good friends?" he said. "You have taken from
us our _merchandize_." They apologised for what they had done, pleading
ignorance, and offered to share the booty; but this Feringeea declined,
saying that he had no claim to a share, as none of his party was
present at the _loading_.

The division of the spoils was regulated with great nicety. The
leaders were usually entitled to every tenth article, and to one anna
in the rupee (one sixteenth) of actual money, besides their share as
individuals. If the gang consisted of twenty, including the Jemadar,
the booty was divided into twenty-one equal parts, of which the Jemadar
received two. Five per cent. was then set aside for the stranglers, and
the rest divided into three equal heaps, corresponding to as many equal
sections of the gang. Each section marked a cowree (a shell), and the
three were put into a man's hand without his knowing to which either
belonged, who then placed one on each pile. The sections afterwards
divided among themselves each its own lot.

A feast was sometimes held in honour of Davee, in the course of an
expedition. If the expenses were defrayed by subscription, as was most
customary, it was called a Punchaetee Kotee, and was usually celebrated
during the Hooley or Dusserah festivals. Occasionally a single member
provided the feast; but, to be entitled to do so, he must have been a
strangler, or at least a Thug in the third generation. The feast was in
this wise. Having procured some goats, of whom two must be perfectly
black, without speck or blemish, and a sufficient quantity of rice,
_ghee_, spices, and spirits, they assembled in a room the doors and
windows of which could be closed, so as to prevent any prying eyes from
seeing what was passing within. The floor being carefully swept and
plastered with cow-dung, a square space, measuring a cubit each way,
was drawn in the middle of the apartment, with a mixture of turmeric
and lime. On this square was spread a clean white sheet, whereon was
placed some boiled rice, and on the top of that the half of a cocoa-nut
shell filled with _ghee_, in which floated two cotton wicks lying
across each other, so as to give four lights. If a cocoa-nut was not
procurable, a vessel of the same form was shapened in dough. Upon the
sheet were then laid the sacred pickaxe, the dagger of the gang (the
_misericorde_), and the spirits. The two black goats were next washed
and thoroughly wetted, and placed with their faces to the westward.
If one, or both of them shook off the wet with lusty vigour, it was
a sign that the sacrifice was acceptable; otherwise, the rice and
spirits alone were consumed, and without any further ceremony. But in
the former case, if Mahommedans, they chaunted a sort of grace as they
cut the throats of the whole of the animals; if Hindoos, they struck
off their heads at a blow. The skins, bones, and offal were thrown into
a pit dug for the purpose. When every man's appetite was satiated,
they washed their face and hands over the pit, and filled it up and
levelled it with the ground. Should any profane eye witness any part of
the preparations, or a spark fall on the sheet and burn a hole, or any
animal touch the offal, the leader must expect to die within a year and
all his companions would come to grief.

Besides the land Thugs there was a bold and skilful clan calling
themselves Bungoos, or Pungoos, who practised the same vocation on the
Hooghly river, going up as far as Benares or even Cawnpore, but chiefly
infesting the Burdwan district. Their system and dialect differed
considerably from those of their land brethren. Their leaders assumed
the appearance of the proprietor or captain of a passenger boat, while
some of his gang bent to the oars or towed the vessel along the bank,
and the others, dressed as pilgrims or shopkeepers, took their seat
on deck; these were the stranglers and their assistants. A few of the
most plausible and insinuating members were employed as _Sothas_,
or inveiglers. These wandered on the roads leading to the various
Ghauts, or landing places, and contrived to get into conversation with
the travellers who seemed bound for the river. On arriving at the
Ghaut they would see a clean tidy boat, already partially filled with
passengers and ready to swing off. They naturally hastened on board,
rejoicing at not being detained. The river Thugs always faced their
victims, sitting in a row on one side of the deck opposite to them. So
soon as an opportunity presented itself, the look-out man smote the
deck three times with his hand. Then the helmsman gave the _jhirnee_,
by exclaiming _Bhugna ko paun do_, "give my sister's son some paun."
Up sprang the pretended voyagers, and throwing the _roomal_ round the
neck of their victims pressed it tightly in front, bending their head
backwards, while their assistants held their feet and hands. Though
sometimes one Thug would almost suffice for the purpose, nine of them
have been known to strangle seven men stronger than themselves, and
twelve have overpowered ten. When the convulsive writhings had ceased,
they made certainty doubly sure by breaking the backbone and violently
kicking or punching their victims with their elbows. The bodies were
then pushed into the river through a window made in either side of the
boat, immediately above the water-mark. The greatest care was taken
to avoid shedding any blood, which by discolouring the stream might
lead to suspicion and detection. If a drop were spilt, they returned
home and offered up expiatory sacrifices. Women were invariably
permitted to escape, and all property of a suspicious character was
at once destroyed. Their proceedings, however, were no secret to the
river police, whose silence was secured by rich presents. Their very
existence was thus kept from the knowledge of the European magistrates
until the year 1836, but in little more than twelve months afterwards
161 of the miscreants had been arrested, and the names obtained of
thirty-eight others. There were usually about fourteen to each boat,
and there were eighteen boats regularly occupied in this dreadful
business, besides several engaged for occasional service. The hot and
wet seasons were deemed equally unfavourable, as few travellers were
then abroad; the most productive months being November, December,
January, and February. A party of river Thugs, occupying two boats,
contrived to become acquainted with the _Manjee_, or commander of
a boat laden with tobacco and hemp, and persuaded him and his crew
to stop with them at a _chur_, or sand-bank, and cook their dinners
together. After the repast the Thug leader asked the others to join his
party in fulfilling a vow he had made to the god Hurry Sote. So they
all sang the song of Hurry Sote, when the leader suddenly exclaimed,
"Now, Hurry, give us our plunder!" Five Thugs instantly leaped on the
throats of the Manjee and his crew, threw them back upon the sand and
strangled them. Then their comrades fell upon the lifeless corpses,
broke their backbones, punched them on the ribs with their fists and
elbows, and dragging them into the deep running water let them float
down the stream.

Perhaps a better idea than has yet been given of the nature and extent
of Thuggee, may be derived from Captain Sleeman's Official Report of
an Expedition into Malwa, Guzerat, Kandeish, and Berar, by gangs from
Gwalior, Bundlecund, and the Saugor districts, in 1827-28. The leader
was our old friend Feringeea, who started from Gorha with twenty-five
Thugs and proceeded to Moghul ka Serai, where he fell in with two
Mahrattas. These were put to death about three miles further on.
Arriving at Tuppa, in Indore, the gang was then joined by eleven more
Thugs, who all went on together to Raghooghur, where they met two
Mahrattas and a Marwaree on their way from Saugor to Indore. Here Soper
Sing and fifteen Thugs came up with them, escorting a bird-catcher and
two shopkeepers journeying from Indore to Patna. All six were strangled
in the night and buried in one grave. Next morning Feringeea's party,
with five of Soper Sing's crossed the Nerbudda at the Puglana Ghaut,
and at Samneer murdered three Sipahees, in search of service, at
mid-day, and left their bodies by the road side. The next stage was
Kurajgow Kuringee, whence they accompanied a traveller, who was going
towards the south, for sixteen miles, where they killed him and buried
his corpse beneath the walls of a small Hindoo temple. Thence they
passed through Omrowtee to Larun Kurnajee, and in their camp in a grove
killed a traveller whom they had brought on with them from Bam; and
also a thief found skulking among some tombs, who had one hundred and
ten pounds worth of stolen goods in his possession. At Busum their
numbers were swelled by a reinforcement of fifty Thugs under four
leaders. Going on together in one body they encamped near Nandair,
and there murdered five travellers. Some of the new arrivals having
again left them, the others held on to Rovegow, where they overtook
nine persons, whom they accompanied about three miles and strangled
just before daybreak. At Hyderabad they lodged near the bridge over
the Hoosa Nuddee, where they killed and buried a Brahman and two
Rajpoots with whom they had scraped an acquaintance in the Bhegan
Bazar. Wandering on to Gungakhera they fell in with three Marwarees,
whom they escorted a stage on the Holwa road. One of the travellers
being accidentally thrown from his horse, was instantly strangled, and
his companions of course shared the same fate. As they had not reached
the appointed _Beyl_, they left the bodies upon the ground, a prey to
jackals and carnivorous birds. Their next encampment was at Purureea,
in Holwa, where they murdered a Soobahdar (native commissioned
officer), five sepoys, and a woman. At Doregow they met three Pundits
and with them a Byragee (Hindoo ascetic), mounted on a pony, plastered
over with sugar and covered with flies. Driving away the mendicant,
they killed and buried the Pundits. On leaving Doregow the Byragee
again joined them and went on in their company to Raojana, where they
overtook six cloth-merchants travelling from Bombay to Nagpore. As
the mendicant was much in their way, they pelted him with stones, and
having thus got rid of him they killed the merchants, burying their
bodies in the grove. The next day the Byragee again joined them and
proceeded with them to Mana, where they fell in with two bearers and
a sepoy. Shaking off their troublesome companion, they hastened on to
the spot selected for the contemplated murder, where the mendicant once
more came up with them. Their patience being exhausted, they offered
one of the gang ten shillings extra to kill him and take the sin upon
himself. All four were then strangled, and, to their astonishment,
the Byragee proved the most valuable prize of all; for upon him and
his pony they found many pounds weight of coral, 350 strings of small
pearls, fifteen strings of large pearls, and a gilded necklace. Soon
after they arrived at Omrowtee, between which and Nadgow they got hold
of two men, whom they murdered at their encampment. They were treasure
bearers and had with them £400 worth of silver. These are a peculiar
class of men, excessively poor, but famed for their honesty. They were
never known to betray their trust, and would rather yield their life
than surrender their charge. They bore no weapons, chiefly relying on
the poverty of their garb and external appearance. The Bombay and Surat
merchants used to employ them in conveying specie through Kandeish
and Surat to Indore and Rajpootana, and they generally succeeded in
escaping the notice of mere marauders; but it was a different thing
with the Thugs who took life officially and professionally, content
with a farthing but oftener reaping a fruitful harvest.

From Nadgow the band proceeded to Kuragow, and soon afterwards in
passing through a small dry ravine fell in with four men driving two
bullocks laden with copper pice. The men were instantly put to death,
and their bodies slightly covered with stones and rubbish. After this
affair two of their leaders with their respective followers returned
home, while the others strolled onwards through Burhanpore to Indore,
where they received an accession of strength by the junction of three
leaders with sixty Thugs.

Three Marwarees being here inveigled into a house occupied by a part
of the gang, never again went forth into the road. They remained at
Indore a whole day, but were not idle, for Feringeea prevailed upon
four more Marwarees to accompany him to the encampment of the remainder
of the gang, and they likewise were dismissed to Hades. Soon after
leaving Indore they fell in with four travellers, whom they murdered
in camp that evening. Feringeea's party then diverged from the main
body and passed through Saugor to Chutterpore, where intelligence
was received that a body of armed men were in pursuit of them. They,
therefore, doubled back and came to Kondee, a short distance from which
they murdered two travellers. At Raghooghur they were reinforced by
twelve of their fraternity, and on the following day by thirty more
under Sheikh Inaent: and at Dubohee, near Bhilsa, they were joined by
two more leaders with twenty Thugs. Here they murdered two sepoys.
After this affair fifty of them under Sheik Inaent went on to Baroda,
where they all fell sick and were glad to return to Bheelpore. Their
convalescence was celebrated by the murder of two Bearers. Encouraged
by this success they journeyed to Oodeypore in the Dhar Pergunnah.
Three sepoys and another man were strangled next morning about two
miles from the town. A little further on they overtook an elephant
driver, in the service of the Oodeypore Rajah, and him they murdered
at night at a village called Amjhera. Passing through Mhow, to a
village on the side of Raghooghur, they fell in with three Bearers,
whom they strangled next morning. They then held on through Ashta till
they encountered a Havildar (non-commissioned native officer), a sepoy,
and another, of whom they disposed the following morning. Shortly
afterwards a large portion of this gang returned home, whereon the
Sheikh went off and rejoined Feringeea. Their junction had scarcely
been effected before it was announced that the police were close upon
their track. Many more of the Thugs then started off homewards, and
others retreated to a stream near Peepala, where, notwithstanding their
fears, they made away with two sepoys, another man, and a woman.

A village called Jhundawala was the scene of their next exploit--a
Bearer their next victim. After that they came to Tuppa, and, as they
were setting out next morning, were joined by a Havildar, a sepoy,
and two women, whom they murdered on the following day. Arriving at
Kenjarra they strangled two more sepoys, and four more a few days
afterwards. The gang then broke up, and Feringeea returned to his
home in Tehree. Since he last parted from his wife, unconscious of his
crimes, he had been an accomplice in the murder of one hundred men and
five women. Let not this appalling number appear incredible. In the
kingdom of Oude, a fair sample of native government, there were 1406
miles of road infested by Thugs, and no fewer than two hundred and
seventy-four _Beyls_, or sites of murder; that is, one in every five
miles and a half. Twenty Thugs, admitted as Approvers, acknowledged
that they were present, respectively, at 508, 931, 350, 377, 604,
119, 42, 103, 264, 203, 195, 294, 117, 322, 340, 28, 65, 81, 153, and
twenty-four murders, the least experienced having witnessed twenty-four
murders, and the most 931--thus giving an average of 256 murders to
each of the twenty. The same Beyl was not unfrequently the scene of
several murders. Captain Sleeman mentions a striking instance of this.
When Feringeea was first brought before him a prisoner, in December
1830, he offered, if his life were spared, to give information that
would lead to the arrest of some large gangs who had appointed to
rendezvous at Jyepore in the following February. Some incredulity as
to his power to do so having been expressed, he begged to be allowed
to accompany the "Sahib" a short distance on his official tour of
inspection, when he would afford ample evidence as to his knowledge of
Thuggee. He promised no more than he was able to perform. Two stages
from Saugor on the road to Seronge, Captain Sleeman encamped for the
night in a small mango grove near the village of Selohda. At an early
hour of the next morning Feringeea desired to see him, and pointing to
three different spots declared they were so many graves. "A Pundit and
six attendants, murdered in 1818, lay among the ropes of my sleeping
tent, a Havildar and four Sipahees murdered in 1824, lay under my
horses, and four Brahman carriers of Ganges-water and a woman, murdered
soon after the Pundit, lay within my sleeping-tent. The sward had
grown over the whole, and not the slightest sign of its ever having
been broken was to be seen." All night long Mrs. Sleeman had tossed
about in her sleep, tormented by horrible dreams, probably engendered
by the foul air arising from so many graves--certainly not caused by
the spirits of the departed, and, perhaps, many a ghost story may owe
its origin to some similar cause. Still doubting, Captain Sleeman sent
for the police and a posse of villagers, who after digging down about
five feet came upon the skeletons of the Havildar and his comrades,
and afterwards the others were discovered in succession. Feringeea
then proposed to discover other graves in the neighbouring groves, but
Captain Sleeman could stand no more of such horrors for that morning.
It transpired that the Pundit's horse had been presented to the
proprietor of the village, in which some of the gang actually resided,
and that the others came thither every year and stopped some time
"feasting, carousing and murdering," and yet neither the police nor the
inhabitants appeared to have the slightest suspicion of the real nature
of their pursuits. It must be remembered that they never murdered any
but strangers and wayfarers, and that the villagers and their property
would be perfectly secure. It would be an excess of charity, however,
to suppose that the Zemindar had not a shrewd guess as to the means by
which his horse was obtained. During the three years, 1822 to 1824,
both inclusive, that Captain Sleeman was magistrate of the Nursingpore
district in the Nerbuddah valley, and--as he imagined--cognizant of
every crime and every bad character within its limits, he was perfectly
unconscious that there was a Thug village only 400 yards from the
Court-house, and that only a few miles distant the groves of Mundaisur
contained fully one hundred dead bodies. These groves were a favourite
place of rendezvous for gangs coming from Upper India and from the
Deccan, with the connivance and under the protection of two respectable
landholders, descendants of the pious individuals who had planted those
trees to shelter the unhoused wanderer.

The destruction of life and property since the commencement even of the
present century must have been enormous. It is known that in 1826-27,
two hundred and five men and six women were murdered by different gangs
in Malwah and Rajpootana. In 1827-28, three hundred and sixty-four
males and twenty-one females were strangled in Kandeish, Berar, and
Guzerat. In 1828-29, two hundred and twenty-six men and six women were
thus disposed of in Malwah and Kandeish. In 1829-30, ninety-four men,
four women, and a child perished in Baroda and Bundlecund. In 1830-31
the Bundlecund gangs destroyed fifty-seven males and one female.
In 1830-31-32, one hundred and seventy males and five females were
murdered in Rajpootana and Guzerat. And in 1832-33, forty-one males
were strangled in the Gwalior district alone. It has been estimated
that on an average more than ten distinct cases of murder occurred
in every expedition, and that every Thug went upon at least ten
expeditions, which would assign to each a guilty complicity in fully
one hundred murders. The amount of property of which they despoiled
the public must also have been very great, and occasionally individual
prizes were of no trivial value. Thus in 1826 a party of fourteen were
murdered by a gang of one hundred and fifty Thugs, and a booty secured
worth £2,500. In 1827, seven men were murdered by three hundred and
fifty Thugs, and robbed of £2,200. In 1828, the murder of nine persons
by a gang of one hundred and twenty-five yielded £4,000; and in 1829,
that of six persons produced £8,200, to be divided between one hundred
and fifty Thugs.

It must seem incredible, but it is nevertheless the simple fact, that
this terrible system of murder flourished for nearly two centuries
under those native governments of whose excellence so much has been
said in certain quarters. The division of the vast peninsula into many
separate, independent, and jealous states, no doubt, encouraged the
perpetration of crime by facilitating escape and rendering detection
and apprehension almost impossible. So long as their own subjects or
tenants were not molested, neither princes nor landed proprietors
considered themselves bound to interfere with an institution of
which they entertained a mysterious dread, and whence they derived
goodly gifts and a handsome revenue. Superstition and cupidity were
powerful allies in favour of the Thugs, who, besides, in their palmy
days, exhibited admirable prudence and tact in avoiding whatever
might be offensive to their patrons and injurious to themselves.
They were especially careful not to touch any European, for they
well knew that from such they were more likely to receive lead than
gold, and that search would be made for the missing man; nor, indeed,
was the like facility afforded for familiarity, owing, in a great
measure, as Fuseli would say, to "de d--d ignorance of de language."
All tell-tale property they quickly destroyed, and never committed a
murder near home, or where they were known; nor after a murder did
they ever proceed in the direction whence their victims had come,
lest they should be betrayed by a horse, a bullock, or an ass, being
anywhere recognised. The native custom of sending remittances in the
form of jewels and precious metals without any armed escort, and of
carrying considerable sums upon the person, increased the temptation
of doing honour to Bhowanee. The vast population, too, was always in
motion. Parties of travellers, or lonely wanderers, on foot, or on
horseback, streamed along the roads and bye-paths, reposing in the
intense heat of the day or during the moonless hours of the night
beneath the hospitable shade of a grove of mangoes and other stately
trees, or around the well that owed its origin to pious vanity. And
the very terror felt for their unknown enemies made the travellers an
easier prey, for in seeking to avoid the danger, they frequently ran
into it by inviting the company of the mild, cheerful and intelligent
companions, who were ever ready to converse with them, to walk with
them, and--to murder them. Their existence was first known to the
English in 1799, after the fall of Seringapatam, when a hundred
Phanseegars, or Thugs, were taken prisoners at Bangalore, though even
then they were not suspected of pursuing an hereditary profession. The
first regular information concerning their habits was not obtained
until 1807, when a gang of them was arrested between Chittore and
Arcot. It had frequently been remarked, indeed, that very many sepoys
never returned to their regiments on the expiration of their leave of
absence, and they were struck off the rolls as deserters. But when the
true cause of their absence was discovered, the Commander-in-Chief,
Major-General St. Leger, issued a general order in 1810, warning the
native troops against associating with chance companions on the road,
and advising them to send their money to their homes by means of
_hoondees_, or bills, and not to travel by night. The evil, however,
was of too monstrous a growth to be thus easily checked. And there was
likewise great difficulty experienced in bringing home any particular
crime, even when the perpetrators happened to be in custody. The
merchants and bankers whose property had been stolen were reluctant to
appear in court to give evidence: it was looked upon as somewhat of an
indignity, and the cautious delays of English jurisprudence caused a
waste of time they could ill endure. Their money was gone, and there
was an end of it. It was predestined that it should go in that manner.
The thieves were merely instruments working out the will of Providence.
Against them they bore no malice or vindictive feeling. Even the
relatives of murdered men refused to come forward until they obtained
a promise that they should not be summoned to appear in a distant
court. And in the majority of cases it was impossible to ascertain
who were the murdered persons, or whence they came. A few isolated
cases of conviction did, indeed, occur, as in 1823, when Mr. Molony
arrested a gang of 115 in the valley of the Nerbudda, and convicted
the whole of them; and again in 1826, when a large gang was arrested
in the same valley by Major Wardlaw, and their guilt proven. But these
exceptions rather tended to make the Thugs more cautious than to induce
them to relinquish their ancestral vocation. It was not until 1829-30
that the task of suppression was fairly commenced. The honour of the
initiative was reserved for Lord William Bentinck, who passed certain
acts rendering Thuggee the object of a special judicature, and giving
a wider discretion to the officers employed in its suppression. His
lordship was fortunate in his selection of the special officers. It is
needless to do more than mention the names of the late Major General,
then Captain, Sleeman, Major, now Colonel, Borthwick, Colonel Stewart,
Captain Patton, Captain Malcolm, Captain G. Hollings, and Mr. F. C.
Smith. The best proof of the ability and energy displayed by these
gentlemen is the fact that by the year 1840 the committals amounted
to 3,689. Of this number, 466 were hanged, 1,504 transported, 933
imprisoned for life, 81 confined for different periods, 86 called upon
to give ample security for their future good conduct, 97 acquitted,
and 56 admitted as approvers: 12 effected their escape, and 208 died
a natural death before sentence was passed. The approvers were not
absolutely pardoned, or even released from custody. Sentence was passed
upon them in the usual manner, but respited as long as they showed
signs of repentance and reformation. The utmost caution was used in
sifting their evidence and in confronting them with the accused, but
their testimony was so clear and so thoroughly substantiated that
no reasonable man could entertain the slightest doubt as to their
veracity. So complete was the success of the measures now adopted that
on the 17th of August, 1840, Hoossain Dost Khan, a powerful Talooqdar
(baronial lord) in the Nizam's dominions, previously an avowed opponent
of the British, wrote a letter to Captain Malcolm, from which the
following is an extract:--"Seeing that the best arrangements have been
made in this matter, the whole of the inhabitants of the country, and
travellers, have been emancipated from the fear of Thugs; day and night
they raise their hands in prayer to state that in the days of kings
bygone no such peace and comfort existed. Thanks to Almighty God, the
power of conferring this great boon, a source of great renown has
been reserved for you from the beginning of the world, in order that
this matter should be so arranged. Where are the murdered men? How
can there be any, when you do not even hear the slightest allusion
to Thugs? The whole world are giving thanks for this." It must be
confessed, however, that there was some slight exaggeration in the
worthy Talooqdar's congratulations, for in the course of the next
seven years 531 more Thugs were apprehended and committed for trial.
Of these, 33 were hanged, 174 transported, 267 imprisoned for life and
27 for shorter periods, 5 called upon to put in bail, 125 acquitted,
and 46 admitted as approvers: besides 11 who died, and 2 who made
their escape. It was no easy matter to prevent the last contingency,
so great was their patience and ingenuity. Towards the close of 1834,
twenty-seven prisoners escaped from the Jubbulpore gaol, by cutting
through their irons and the bars of their windows, with thread smeared
with oil and then incrusted with finely-powdered stone. In 1848 also
there were 120 committed, of whom 5 were hanged, 24 transported, 11
imprisoned for life and 31 for a limited period, 7 required to find
substantial bail, 12 acquitted, and 9 admitted as approvers: 2 died,
and 10 remained under trial. Since that year Thuggee appears to have
quite died out. In 1853, indeed, some cases occurred in the Punjaub,
but vigorous measures being at once adopted, under the superintendence
of Captain Sleeman, whose happy lot it was to complete the good work
inaugurated by his distinguished father, its final suppression was
almost coincident with its revival.

The question that next presented itself for the anxious consideration
of the Government was the means of providing for the families of the
approvers. If left to their own devices, or the suggestions of want,
there was too much reason to apprehend that the elder members, who had
already witnessed the taking of human life, might be tempted to revert
to the practices of their forefathers. Accordingly, in the year 1838,
on the recommendation of Captain Charles Brown, a School of Industry
was founded at Jubbulpore, for the purpose of teaching the sons of
the approvers a trade or craft by which they might earn an honest
livelihood. At first their parents were opposed to the idea, but soon
joyfully acquiesced when they came to understand the benevolent motives
of the Government. For a time the old Thugs continued to speak with
animation of their past achievements, but, gradually weaned from their
former habits and associations, they learned to look back with shame
upon their antecedents and studiously avoided any further allusion to
them. By the end of 1847 the school possessed 850 inmates, of whom
307 were employed as guards, brickmakers, builders, cleaners, &c.,
&c.; while the remaining 543 applied their superior ingenuity to the
manufacture of lac dye, sealing-wax, blankets, _satringees_ (a sort of
strong drugget), fine cloth for trousers, _dhotees_, or body cloths,
_newar_ tape of sorts, cotton wicks, stockings, gloves, towels, tents,
and carpeting. In that year the product of their labour amounted to
131 tents, 3324 yards of Kidderminster carpeting, forty-six woollen
carpets, and a vast quantity of towels, tablecloths, plaids, checks,
&c., which realised upwards of £3,500. Of this sum £500 were given to
the Thugs as an encouragement, and to form a capital for such as were
allowed after a time to establish themselves in Jubbulpore on their
own account. And nearly £300 were paid to their wives for spinning
thread for the factory. Much of the success of this institution has no
doubt been due to the excellent and judicious superintendence of Mr.
Williams, formerly a patrol of the Delhi Customs.

Let British supremacy in India cease when it will, the suppression of
Thuggee will ever remain a glorious monument to the zeal, energy, and
judgment of the civil and military servants of the East India Company.
It is easy to direct epigram and innuendo against the idea of a body
of merchants ruling a vast empire with enlightened and disinterested
beneficence. But the impartial student of Anglo-Indian history can
readily adduce many such examples as the preceding--for instance,
the suppression of Suttee, human sacrifices, and infanticide; the
repression of torture, gang robberies, and voluntary mutilation--in
order to prove that these merchants were truly princes, these
traffickers the honourable of the earth.

The Tusma-Baz Thugs.

The Tusma-Baz Thugs were the fruit of European civilization grafted
on the Asiatic stock. At the commencement of the present century
one Creagh, a private in an English regiment stationed at Cawnpore,
initiated three natives of low degree into the mysteries of an art,
formerly practised by thimble-riggers in this country, and known as
"pricking the garter." The game, designated Tusma-bazee by his Hindoo
disciples, was played in this manner:--a strap being doubled into
many folds, the bystanders were requested to insert a stick where the
first double took place, which it was impossible to do without the
consent of the juggler. Creagh's three apostles speedily became the
leaders of as many schools or gangs, numbering in the year 1848, when
they were brought to justice, about fifty persons, chiefly residing
in the outskirts of Cawnpore. They had long been known to the police
authorities as professional gamblers, and had more than once been
either punished for that offence or required to furnish security for
their good behaviour. It was not their custom, however, to confine
their depredations to their native town. On the contrary, they
travelled to a considerable distance to the westward, preferring those
districts which still remained under the misrule of petty independent
princes. Their first proceeding was to conciliate the police, which
was usually effected by the promise of one-fourth of their profits.
Having thus provided against all chance of molestation, they would meet
as strangers, and accidentally, near some well frequented spot, and
gradually begin to play. By degrees a crowd gathered around them, and
some one or another was certain to be tempted to try his fortune. At
first he was, of course, allowed to win, but it rarely happened that he
finally escaped being fleeced of his last coin. The leader received a
double share of the plunder, in consideration of the risk and expence
he incurred in maintaining his followers until a sufficient booty had
been secured to render them independent. If any one of the gang was
arrested, it was the leader's duty to use every means in his power to
release him, and for every rupee he expended for this purpose he was
allowed two pice interest. The balance, after deducting the captain's
share was equally divided among the rest, and was generally squandered
in drinking and gambling among themselves. It was, however, a light
and lucrative profession, and they frequently remitted considerable
sums of money to their families. But they did not solely rely on their
superior sleight of hand. When the opportunity was favourable they
did not scruple to add murder to robbery. Their ordinary plan seems
to have been by means of medicated sweetmeats, or sugar, hospitably
pressed upon the unwary who ventured to test their skill in play. The
drug mostly used was expressed from the seed of the _datura_ plant,
a powerful and dangerous narcotic. To call them Thugs was evidently
a misnomer, for they had none of the observances of that ancient
fraternity, nor did they lay any claim to religious motives. They were
simply organized bands of vagrants of the most worthless characters,
who preferred fraud to labour and murder to industry. Their detection
would have taken place at a much earlier period, had not the police
been bribed to connive at their proceedings. It is almost superfluous
to remark that their practices were no sooner discovered by the
European magistrates than their occupation was gone, and themselves
severely punished.

Dacoits, or Gang-Robbers of India.

In India, under its native rulers, murder and robbery were hereditary
professions. The Thugs, or hereditary murderers, have been completely
put down; but the work of suppression has not yet been equally
successful with regard to the hereditary robbers, as they ever found
a ready harbour of refuge in the waste lands of the late kingdom of
Oude, and, indeed, in every independent state. They usually lived in
colonies, in the midst of wild jungles, difficult of access. With
incredible rapidity they would sweep down on some distant town or
village, plunder some house previously selected for the purpose, and
before any pursuit could be organized they were far advanced on their
homeward journey. To avert suspicion they assumed various disguises
with admirable adaptability. North of the Jumna they generally
travelled as holy-water carriers, because long files of that class
of men were continually traversing the roads of that district. But
to the south of the Jumna they appeared as Brinjaras, or drivers of
laden bullocks, or as pilgrims journeying to some sacred shrine, or as
sorrowing relatives conveying the bones of the departed to the banks
of the Ganges; or as the friends of a bridegroom going to fetch home
his bride. In the funeral processions to the "holy Gunga," men's bones
were borne in red, those of women in white bags, neither of which were
ever allowed to touch the earth, but at their halting grounds were
suspended from the apex of a triangle formed by three short poles or
staves. These were afterwards useful to the Dacoits as handles for the
spear-heads which they carried in their waist-bands. Instead of the
bones of their parents they contented themselves with those of inferior
animals, wild or domestic. The chief advantage of this disguise was
that such mourners were every where treated with the utmost respect,
and never subjected to inconvenient inquiries as to whence they came
or whither they were going. In Central India a more successful mummery
was to assume the garb and appearance of Alukramies, a peculiar
class of pilgrims, who travelled in small parties accompanying a
high-priest--personated by the leader of the gang. "They had four or
five tents, some of white and some of dyed cloth, and two or three
pairs of Nakaras, or kettle-drums, and trumpets, with a great number
of buffaloes, cows, goats, sheep, and ponies. Some were clothed, but
the bodies of the greater part were covered with nothing but ashes,
paint, and a small cloth waist-band. Those who had long hair went
bare-headed, and those who had nothing but short hair wore a piece
of cloth round the head." The pretended Alukramies always took the
precaution of hiring the services of half a dozen genuine Byragees, or
ascetics, whom they put forward in difficult emergencies. They would
often stop for days together in one place, awaiting favourable tidings
from the scouts they sent out in all directions. On arriving at a
village the drums were beat and the trumpets sounded to announce their
approach, and some of the party were sent in, with silver sticks, in
the name of the high-priest to bring the headman to pay his respects
and offer the established Nuzzurana of 1¼ rupee (two shillings and
sixpence). If this offering were not punctually and promptly made,
double the amount was exacted on the following day, and he must
have been a bold man who would venture, by a refusal, to incur the
displeasure of the gods. The landholder, or proprietor of the village,
was also expected to furnish, gratuitously, a sufficient number of
men to carry the tents, flags, drums, and trumpets of these pious
cormorants, whose demands, however, were usually complied with without
a murmur. They were distinguished from other wandering mendicants
by "a large red flag upon a long pole, with the figure of Hunooman,
or the Sun and Moon, embroidered upon it. On one occasion they (the
Dacoits) prevailed upon Cheytun Das, a celebrated Byragee of Hindoon in
Jyepore, then eighty years of age, to enact the high priest, and he was
accompanied by his chief disciple, or son, Gunga Das."

There were various clans, or colonies, of Dacoits. The Budhuks lived
in the Oude Teraie, or belt of forest land lying along the foot of the
Nepaul hills, whence they made frequent incursions into the British
territory, especially to the eastward in the direction of Goruckpore.
They were men of low caste, and would eat anything but bullocks, cows,
buffaloes, snakes, foxes, and lizards. Agricultural employments they
abhorred as too toilsome. According to a familiar proverb, "once a
Budhuk, always a Budhuk, and all Budhuks are Dacoits." Their leaders
were almost invariably men of good descent: some of them affected to
trace back their ancestors for twenty generations, and adduced their
long impunity as a proof that they were predestined to be what they
were, and that, consequently they could never be anything else. "The
tiger's offspring," they would say, "are tigers--the young Budhuks
become Dacoits." In their palmy days they were able to maintain ten
or a dozen wives, but when misfortunes came upon them they were
compelled to reduce the pleasing burden to four or five. And they
were not altogether a burden, for each wife received in the division
of spoil a sum equal to two-thirds of her husband's share. A penitent
Budhuk once made the logical, but ungallant remark, that it was the
women who ought to be transported, for then no more Budhuks would be
born into the world. Nevertheless, in times of trouble the old women
were not without their use. They would then assume the semblance of
extreme poverty, and, mounted on wretched ponies, would travel many a
long weary mile to the place where their relatives were confined, and
by judicious presents to the native officers in authority, generally
succeeded in mitigating the lot, if they failed to accomplish the
release, of the prisoners. In this labour of love they not unfrequently
expended between one and two hundred pounds. There were also Budhuks
by adoption, but these were never allowed to eat with the hereditary
robbers, though they might smoke the same hookah. As a matter of
choice they preferred to avoid bloodshed, but in self-defence, or
to secure the success of their attack they never scrupled either
to wound or to slay outright. Shoojah-ood-Dowlah, Nawab of Oude,
once attempted to direct their love of enterprise into an honorable
channel by enrolling 1,200 of them into a corps, commanded by their
own leaders. But their depredations became so intolerable that they
acquired the appropriate epithet of the "Wolf Regiment," and as they
were continually mutinying they were soon afterwards disbanded. A brief
narrative of a few cases of Dacoitee committed by the Budhuks will give
the best idea of the system they pursued.

In the early part of 1818 a powerful gang started from Khyradee in
Oude with the intention of cutting off a treasure, escorted by sixty
armed police, on the way from Benares to the westward. They disguised
themselves as bird-catchers and took with them "falcons and hawks
of all kinds, well trained, also mynas, parrots, and other kinds of
speaking and mocking birds." They had also a boat prepared to convey
them across the river. Having learnt from their scouts that the
treasure would be lodged on a particular night in the Chobee-ka-Serai
between Allahabad and Cawnpore, they fitted handles to their axes and
spear-heads, and made some rude ladders by means of which, about two
hours after dark, they scaled the wall of the Serai. "A guard which
had been told off for the purpose broke open the gate from the inside
and stood over it to prevent any attack from without, or escape from
within, while the rest attacked the escort and secured the treasure."
In this spirited affair the Dacoits killed eight and wounded seventeen
of the police, carried off £7,600 in specie, and made their escape
without the loss of a single man.

In April of the same year the Governor of Bharaitch forwarded to the
General Treasury at Lucknow the sum of £2,600 in silver and £600 in
gold mohurs, in two carts, escorted by thirty soldiers of the royal
army. It was lodged, for one night, outside the gate of a small fort,
two loaded guns commanding the only approach. A noted leader, named
Naeka, with a gang of eighty Dacoits undertook to cut out the prize.
First of all, he divided his followers into three parties. One division
of twenty men rushed upon the guns and spiked them. A second, of equal
force, fastened the gate of the fort with a strong chain to prevent the
garrison from sallying forth; while the others boldly attacked the
guard and killed four of them--two of their own party, however, being
wounded. As they were returning in hot haste to their homes they were
themselves assailed by two large land owners, who took from them £2,000
in rupees and the whole of the gold. They in their turn fell into the
hands of the king's troops--Naeka and sixty of his associates being
also apprehended. After six years' detention in the Seetapore gaol they
were all released, the landowners paying a fine of £2,000 in addition
to their booty, and the Dacoits a further sum of £1,000.

Fortune, certainly, did not always smile upon them, notwithstanding her
proverbial partiality for the brave. Two gangs having united one day
in May, 1819, attacked the house of Sah Beharee Lall, a rich banker,
residing in the heart of Lucknow, the capital city of Oude. At first
all went well with them, and they carried off upwards of £4,000 into a
jungle not far from Khyrabad. A dispute then arose among the leaders
respecting the division of the plunder, and one of them, thinking
himself unjustly treated, rode off to Lucknow and gave information that
led to the apprehension of two hundred men, women, and children. A
long and tedious imprisonment awaited them, until in despair they rose
upon their guard, in 1834, and seventy of them effected their escape,
leaving five of their comrades on the ground, two of them being killed
upon the spot. The others were released in 1839.

The boldness and suddenness of their onset usually assured their
success. One evening in the month of February, 1822, a party of men,
carrying canes in their hands, and about forty in number, were observed
hurrying along in a loose straggling manner towards the military
station of Nursingpore. On reaching the rivulet that separates the
town from the cantonments they were challenged by the sentry--for
a picket of soldiers was always posted on the bank, under a native
officer. Carelessly answering that they were cowherds and that their
cattle were coming on after them, they proceeded without molestation up
the principal street, but suddenly halted in front of a shop of some
pretensions. Striking their torches against pots containing combustible
matter, with which they had previously provided themselves, they were
instantly surrounded with a blaze of light. Already bewildered, the
bystanders were terrified into silence by a few rapid thrusts of the
spears, into which the canes had been instantaneously transformed. The
house was rifled as if by magic, ten or a dozen persons were killed or
wounded, and in a quarter of an hour from their entrance into the town,
the Dacoits were on their way to the jungles. Within twenty paces on
one side of the house was a police station, and not a hundred paces
on the other side was the picket of sepoys already alluded to. But as
marriage processions were just then of frequent occurrence, it was
supposed that the noise and the glare of the torches belonged to those
very uproarious festivities, until a little boy creeping along a ditch
whispered to the native officer that they had killed his father. The
alarm was immediately given, but before the troops could turn out, the
Dacoits had got a fair start, which carried them beyond the reach of
both horse and foot.

A bolder exploit was performed towards the close of that year. Two
skilful leaders, having collected some forty followers and distributed
among them ten matchlocks, ten swords, and twenty-five spears, waylaid
a treasure going from the native Collector's treasury at Budrauna to
Goruckpore. The prize consisted of £1,200, and was guarded by a Naïk,
or corporal, with four sepoys and five troopers. It had to pass
through a dense jungle, and it was settled--said one of them in after
years--"that the attack should take place there; that we should have
strong ropes tied across the road in front and festooned to trees on
both sides, and, at a certain distance behind, similar ropes festooned
to trees on one side, and ready to be fastened on the other, as soon as
the escort of horse and foot should get well in between them." Having
completed these preparations the gang laid down on either side of
the road patiently awaiting their prey. "About five in the morning,"
continued the narrator, "we heard a voice as if calling upon the
name of God (Allah), and one of the gang started up at the sound and
said, 'Here comes the treasure!' We put five men in front with their
matchlocks loaded not with ball but shot, that we might, if possible,
avoid killing anybody. When we had got the troopers, infantry, and
treasure all within the space, the hind ropes were run across the road
and made fast to the trees on the opposite side, and we opened a fire
in upon the party from all sides. The foot soldiers got into the jungle
at the sides of the road, and the troopers tried to get over the ropes
at both ends, but in vain." The corporal and a horse were killed,
two troopers wounded, and the treasure carried off in spite of a hot

One of the most famous Budhuk chiefs was named Maherban, who lived
in his fort at Etwa in the Oude forest. He had seven wives, who
frequently accompanied him in his expeditions, with the exception of
his chief wife, from whom no such toils and risk were expected. Late
in the autumn of 1818 he and his brother assembled about two hundred
men, women, and children, and wisely settled beforehand the rates of
division of plunder, setting aside a portion for the families of those
who might die or be killed. They then sacrificed ten goats, and, each
dipping a finger into the blood, swore mutual fidelity; after which
they ate and drank and made merry. On the following evening Maherban
and twenty of the principal Dacoits advanced a little way in front of
the rest of the party, and spat in the direction they were about to
pursue. Then raising his hands towards heaven Maherban thus prayed
aloud:--"If it be thy will, O God! and thine, O Kalee! to prosper our
undertaking, for the sake of the blind and the lame, the widow and
the orphan, who depend upon our exertions for subsistence, vouchsafe,
we pray thee, the call of the female jackal!" His followers likewise
lifted up their hands, and having repeated the prayer after their
leader, all sat down in attentive silence. The auspicious omen was
presently heard three times upon the left. Thus assured of success,
Maherban purchased a palanquin for his second wife--suitable for a
man of wealth and dignity. The gang now started for Benares in small
detachments, and took lodgings in different parts of that city where
they stayed a whole month, making offerings and inquiries. Intelligence
was at length received of a cartload of treasure going towards the
west, under the care of an armed police force. On the first night of
December the escort rested with their precious charge in a public Serai
at Josee near Allahabad. Having procured staves for their spears and
handles for their axes, the gang left the palanquin, their wives, and
superfluous clothes, in a grove about four miles distant. At midnight
they arrived at the Serai and were agreeably surprised to find the
gate open. Here one detachment halted and mounted guard, while another
overawed the police, and the rest plundered the treasure. A brave
merchant, named Kaem Khan, likewise reposing in the Serai, in vain
endeavoured to infuse courage into the panic-stricken escort by word
and gesture. Disgusted with their pusillanimity he continued to lay
about him with his long straight sword, wounding two of his assailants
and severing in twain many a spear, until a Dacoit got behind him and
felled him with a bludgeon, when he was quickly put to death. They
then carried off twenty bags containing in all 14,000 Spanish dollars,
and had their wounded men tended at a neighbouring village. As some
compensation for their sufferings they presented each of them with £10
in addition to his share.

A career of triumph had the same effect upon Maherban as upon greater
heroes: it made him indolent and luxurious, and his followers repined
at their forced inactivity. "One day, while he was sitting with two of
his wives, Mooneea and Soojaneea, they taunted him on the long interval
of rest he had enjoyed, while his more active brother had been covering
his followers and family with honour and money. 'You have,' said
Soojaneea, 'been now some ten months without attempting any enterprise
worthy your reputation; you are at your ease, and indulging in sports
no doubt very agreeable to you, but without any honour or profit to
us, while these your followers, men of illustrious birth and great
courage, are suffering from want, and anxiety about their families.
They have been told of a boat coming from Calcutta, laden with Spanish
dollars; if you do not wish to go yourself and take it, pray lend us
your swords, and we will go ourselves, and try what we can do, rather
than let your brave fellows starve.' Maherban was deeply stung by these
reproaches, and waxed very warm, but was too angry to make any reply
to his wives. He got his followers together, and leaving his principal
wife, Mooneea, behind him, he set out in the character of a chief of
high rank, going on a pilgrimage, with Soojaneea carried in a splendid
litter as a princess; and in four months they returned with some 40,000
Spanish dollars." While on his way homewards from this successful
expedition he "gave a large sum of money to a gardener at Seosagur,
about three miles from Saseram, to plant a grove of mango-trees near
a tank, for the benefit of travellers, in the name of Rajah Maherban
Sing, of Gour in Oude, and promised him further aid on future occasions
of pilgrimage, if he found the work progressing well, saying, 'that
it was a great shame that travellers should be left as he had been,
without shade for themselves and their families to rest under, during
the heat of the day.'" As he approached his forest home all the women
went forth to meet him in holiday attire, and welcomed "the conquering
hero"--and the dollars--with music and dancing.

Encouraged by this brilliant success Maherban resolved to proceed at
the close of the season to Sherghottee to intercept another boat-load
of dollars, which his spies told him was to be conveyed from Calcutta
to Benares. First of all he engaged a discharged Sepoy to instruct
his men in the Company's drill, and very apt scholars they proved
themselves. But while this parade work was going on, one of them eloped
with Heera Sing's pretty wife. The injured man straightway applied to
Maherban for redress, but the chief was too busy with his preparations
to attend to a merely personal affair, and probably deemed the loss of
a reluctant wife no very serious matter. Heera Sing then betook himself
to the other leaders, but failed to enlist their sympathy, for a man
who cannot bind a wife by her affections deserves to lose her. Foiled
at all points, he determined upon a large and base revenge: he gave
information of Maherban's movements to the English magistrates.

Suspecting no treachery, Maherban at length set out as a Hindoo
prince with a noble retinue, and attended by a numerous guard of
soldiers dressed in the Company's uniform. Unfortunately for him and
his followers, the Dacoitee of the previous year had been carefully
tracked out and the guilt lodged at the door of the real criminals.
Mr. Cracroft, the magistrate of Jaunpore, was accordingly authorized
to proceed to surprise his fastness with four companies of native
infantry under the command of Captain Anquetil. Their march was
unmolested, and in the heart of a dense unhealthy jungle--though not
so experienced by the Dacoits themselves--they came upon his fort, a
parallelogram sixty yards long by forty wide. It was surrounded by a
ditch with an embankment within, formed of the mud there excavated. At
a short distance was another colony of about five hundred able-bodied
Budhuks governed by Cheyda, Maherban's brother. These united with the
few who had been left at home by the latter, and opened a warm but
ill-directed fire upon the troops, as they advanced with cheers to the
assault. The simple works were carried at the first rush, and whatever
was combustible was committed to the flames. But it was impossible to
follow up the retreating Dacoits, and having inflicted this trivial
injury Captain Anquetil had no alternative but to extricate his
detachment from their dangerous position, and return to head-quarters.
Meanwhile measures were taken by the magistrates at Jaunpore, Behar,
and Benares, to intercept and arrest the gang under Maherban himself.
That chief was artfully induced to leave the high road and make a
pilgrimage to Gunga. Here he was given to understand that there was
an informality in the payment of customs' dues, and that he must halt
until the matter could be adjusted. While encamped in a mango grove
he was suddenly surrounded by the police, but still imagining that
his apprehension was entirely due to the supposed irregularity, his
followers offered no resistance, and only discovered their mistake
on being committed for trial as robbers and murderers. Maherban
himself was hanged in 1821, and the whole of his gang, 160 in number,
imprisoned for life or for limited periods.

After Maherban's execution his principal widow Mooneea succeeded
to the government of the survivors of his colony. In the autumn of
1823 the adventurous dame joined some noted leaders in fitting out
an expedition, consisting of eighty men and seven women, with the
intention of cutting off a treasure party going to Katmandoo. Having
taken the auspices in the usual manner, but actually guided by their
pre-determination, they moved in small parties towards Junnukpore in
the Nepaul territory. While travelling in disguise, some of them
fell in with a detachment of eighty Goorkhas (Nepaul highlanders)
escorting fifteen bullocks laden with 64,000 rupees (£6,400). Two of
them contrived to attach themselves to the escort, while the others
separated to collect their comrades. When about fifty had got together
they resolved to make the attack without waiting for the others. The
guard lodged that night about twelve miles from Jungpore, in a place
surrounded by a wall and ditch, outside of which was an encampment
of nearly 500 merchants, itinerant traders, and other travellers.
The night was clear and bright, but they nevertheless kindled their
torches, and with the aid of two stout ladders hastily constructed,
effected an entrance, surprised the guard, and possessed themselves of
the treasure. It was too cumbersome, however, to be all carried off at
once, and they were consequently obliged to bury about 17,000 rupees.
The news of this outrage having reached the Nepaul military station
of Jalesur, all suspicious persons were detained, and among them some
members of the gang who, under the lash, confessed their complicity
and led to the arrest of twenty-nine others, and to the death of two,
who foolishly resisted. These also being subjected to the lash pointed
out the _caches_ where the 17,000 rupees had been buried, and 35,000
more were found upon their persons: the others got off with the rest
of the treasure. The information obtained from the prisoners furnished
the clue to the apprehension of a vast number of Dacoits whom the Oude
authorities threw into prison without undergoing even the form of a
trial. With like irregularity some of them were released as a _Khyrat_,
or "thanksgiving to God," whenever the King or any member of the royal
family recovered from an illness.

The scanty remnants of this last gang finding their former fastnesses
no longer secure, fled for refuge to the Rajah of Kottar within the
British territories, who readily accepted their presents, and in
return promised them his protection. From these new head-quarters
they frequently sallied forth, and joining their old comrades, made
inroads into Rohilcund and the Doab. Being unable to plunder in western
Oude, because the landowners in their strongholds defied both king and
Dacoits, they confined their depredations to the Company's territories,
and so constantly attacked and plundered the treasuries of the native
collectors, that the Government was compelled to fortify them and
impose a guard. Even this did not always prevail, and large sums of
money were oftentimes carried off, after the guard had been surprised
and overpowered.

The Budhuks dwelling in the eastern part of the Teraie were better
known as Seear Marwars, and were originally husbandmen, but took to
Dacoitee in the Nawabship of Shoojah-ood-Doolah. They numbered in all
from four to six thousand males, but were divided into colonies of
three or four hundred each, clustered round a rude fort. They were in
the habit of giving 25 per cent. of their booty to the Zemindars whose
protection they enjoyed, and by whom they were generally subsidized to
fight their battles with their neighbours, or with the farmers of the
revenue. In 1826-27 Mr., now Sir, Frederick Currie, the magistrate of
Goruckpore, organised a system of repression by means of a corps of
Irregular Cavalry under Major Hawkes, and an augmentation of his own
police force. That gentleman flattered himself that he had completely
put down this tribe of Dacoits, but, in fact, he had only driven them
into another district. Their old haunts no longer sheltering them from
pursuit, they removed their household gods to Rohilcund, the Doab
("Mesopotamia"), Rajpootana, and Gwalior. The Budhuk colonies, however
distant from one another, kept up an interchange of civilities and
intermarried with one another. Members of the same _gote_, or family,
though belonging to different colonies, could not intermarry, but as
there were several _gotes_ in every colony, the different settlements
could interchange sons and daughters. For instance Solunkee ("Mr.
Brown") could not marry a person of the same name in his own, or in any
another colony, but there was no objection to his taking to wife the
daughter of Powar ("Mr. Jones,") or Dhundele ("Mr. Robinson") however
closely they might be connected with him.

Mr. Currie certainly did succeed in momentarily checking the
depredations of the plunderers in his own district, but within three
years the evil had returned to its former dimensions. And of these some
idea may be formed from the statement that between 1818 and 1834, the
Budhuks of the Oude Teraie were known to have committed 118 Dacoitees,
in which 172 men were killed, 682 wounded, and property carried off
to the value of nearly £115,000: although 457 of the miscreants were
arrested, only 186 could be legally convicted. But the actual number
of gang-robberies far exceeded that which was reported. Many of the
Dacoits boasted that they had been engaged in a dozen or fifteen
expeditions. One of them confessed to Mr. Hodgson, in 1824, that he
had participated in seven Dacoitees, yielding a total of £36,900. A
noted leader, named Lucka, was engaged in forty-nine, in the course
of twenty-five years, some of them taking place at a distance of
four or five hundred miles from his home. A Chumbul Dacoit confessed
to thirty-eight in twenty-seven years, and another to twenty-three
in twenty-two years; and another Oude Budhuk to thirty-nine in
thirty-three years. They generally commenced at an early age, from
eighteen to twenty, according to the vigour of their constitution.
Lucka, of whom mention is made above, was arrested under the disguise
of a Byragee, his body smeared with ashes and a house of peacock's
feathers on his back: but the restlessness of his eye, and the nervous
movements of his limbs betrayed him. Arrest and punishment, however,
were always endured with commendable resignation, being considered as
the accidents of their profession.

The achievements of Bukshee and other leaders soon proved the fallacy
of Mr. Currie's complacent belief in the efficacy of his repressive
measures. In November, 1830, Bukshee's gang slowly travelled through
Oude, in the disguise of Ganges water-carriers, moving in small
parties and encamping in groves to avoid unpleasant interrogatories.
Arriving at the frontiers, they gradually concentrated towards Sursole
in the Cawnpore district, where they were informed by their spies that
a private treasure was on its way from Mirzapore to Furruckabad. Having
cut handles for their axe and spear heads, they crossed the Ganges
in a boat previously purchased for the occasion, and worked by two
well-disposed ferrymen. After reaching the opposite bank they had still
ten miles to go, so that it was almost midnight before they attained
their destination. A sudden rush was all that was then necessary,
though to increase the panic caused by their irruption they deemed it
expedient to wound six or seven of the escort. Breaking open the boxes,
they abstracted twenty-five bags, each containing 1000 rupees (in all,
£2,500), and made off to the river. But by that time it was daylight,
and the ferrymen had run their boat under the shelter of a high bank,
and were fast asleep. Afraid to make a noise by hallooing to them, the
Dacoits buried their treasure in the sands and dispersed themselves
among the neighbouring villages until nightfall. In the meantime the
police had discovered their boat, but being assured by the men that
it had brought over only some fodder for cattle, they immediately gave
it up. Soon after sunset the robbers met at the appointed rendezvous,
where they found the boatmen anxiously expecting them. So, digging up
the treasure, they went on board and were safely ferried over to the
other side, presenting each of these men with fifty rupees.

About the same season of the following year Bukshee again took the
field in his old disguise, and moved down to Allahabad. This was the
place of rendezvous for the different detachments, and here they
made their offerings to the gods, and received the blessings of the
priests and prayers for success in all their undertakings. They then
returned to the left bank and dropped down the river till they came
opposite to Bindachul, where there stood a celebrated temple to Davee.
Again crossing to the right bank they worshipped at the shrine of the
goddess of destruction, and were rewarded for their devotion by the
intelligence that a merchant's shop in Mirzapore, only four miles
distant, promised a rich booty. Accordingly, so soon as it was dusk
they advanced two miles in that direction, and throwing off their
disguise concealed themselves in a hollow till past eight o'clock to
allow the streets to get empty. Then they hurried on to the town and
stopped before the house chosen for their operations, every avenue
to which was guarded by parties told off for that purpose. Suddenly
lighting their torches they rushed in at the still open door, stabbing
and slashing right and left, and carried off between four and five
thousand pounds sterling. A few minutes afterwards they were again
clear of the town. Returning to their place of concealment they resumed
their garments, hastened thence to the river, and presented each of
the boatmen with a hundred rupees for conveying them safely across. In
due time they reached their forest homes without hurt or molestation.
Connected with this expedition there occurred a characteristic
incident. To avoid disputes Bukshee had stipulated before hand that
he should receive one-fifth of the plunder in addition to his proper
portion and the repayment of the outlay he incurred in fitting out
and maintaining the gang, in order to ransom his parents who had been
detained in the gaol at Lucknow for the last twelve years. He was no
doubt sincere in his intention to apply these funds in the manner he
had stated, but unhappily he had several wives, who somehow absorbed
the whole amount, and his parents accordingly remained in confinement.
When reproached with having obtained the money under fraudulent
pretences, Bukshee excused himself by the patriotic remark that his
father was now too old to be of any service to the colony: he did not,
however, offer to refund the eight thousand rupees he had thus obtained.

The Dacoits do not appear to have possessed the honour that is supposed
to exist among thieves in so high a degree as the Thugs. A notable
instance of the laxity of their mutual engagements was furnished about
the same time that Bukshee successfully defrauded his followers. A
gang of forty Dacoits, under two brothers, named Hemraj and Mungul
Sing, and their cousin Dhurmoo, were lying at Sherghottee, in the hope
of intercepting a treasure then on the way from Calcutta to Benares.
Here they were joined, much against their inclination, by a party of
fourteen under Ghureeba, who threatened to inform against them unless
they agreed not only to admit him into partnership, but also to set
aside a proportionate share of the plunder for a gang of twenty-five
under Bureear, from whom he had recently parted. After considerable
altercation Ghureeba carried his point, and the convention was ratified
by oaths of mutual fidelity. Then they all went on together to the
village of Dungaen, at the foot of the hills, where they attacked
the treasure-party at night, and, after killing four and wounding
sixteen of the escort, carried off twenty-eight bags, each containing
2,500 rupees (in all, £6,000). Hemraj and Mungul Sing now adhered
so far to their previous engagements, that they allowed to Ghureeba
and the absent Bureear the shares to which they were entitled, but
refused to burden themselves in behalf of a party who had rendered
them no assistance. Ghureeba expostulated with them to no purpose, and
declared he would hold them answerable for the whole amount. After some
further jangling, it was finally arranged that 30,000 rupees should
be buried until Bureear could fetch them himself, and this labour was
voluntarily undertaken by Mungul Sing. On their return home, Bureear
displayed such indignation at their unfriendly conduct that they were
constrained to pacify him with a present of 2,000 rupees, and a month
afterwards Mungul Sing and some others set out with him to dig up the
treasure. But instead of 30,000, they found only 18,000 rupees. As
might be expected, this discovery of the treachery of his associates
did not tend to mollify the already exasperated Bureear. In his wrath
he applied for redress to Rajah Gung Sing, of Dhera Jugdeespore, in
the kingdom of Oude, and appointed him arbiter. The Rajah proposed to
decide the question by an appeal to heaven, and to this Mungul Sing
and his party were compelled to assent. A blacksmith was thereupon
ordered to make some cannon-balls red hot, and these were placed with
tongs on the palms of the suspected persons' hands, defended only by
a thin peepul leaf. The ordeal was to carry these balls a certain
distance without being burned, but after taking a few paces they all
gave in. They were consequently pronounced guilty, and were sentenced
to refund the money they had purloined, and to pay a fine of 500 rupees
to the Rajah. In default of restitution, they were delivered over in
irons to Bureear, who kept them in confinement for several months, and
threatened to cut off their ears unless they made good his loss. But,
finding that his own followers were opposed to any further severity,
he prudently connived at their escape. "The hands of Boohooa, who
afterwards rose to the distinction of a leader, still (1849) bear
the marks of the burning he got; and, in showing them to me (Captain
Sleeman) one day, he confessed that the 'decision of the Deity' in
that case was a just one; that he had really assisted Mungul Sing in
robbing Ghureeba on that occasion of 10,000 rupees, by burying them
in a pit at some distance from the rest; and that he, Nundran, and
another of the party, afterwards helped themselves to three out of the
ten thousand, unknown to Mungul Sing." What became of the two thousand
still unaccounted for--the total deficiency being 12,000--he was unable
to say.

The same Bukshee, of whom so much has already been said, was informed
by his spies, in January, 1833, that the ex-Peishwah Bajee Rao had
hoarded a large amount of gold coin at Bithore, on the right bank of
the Ganges, not far from Cawnpore. He accordingly assembled a numerous
band of Dacoits, who, after receiving their instructions, broke up into
small parties, which concentrated at a particular spot at the appointed
time. They then boldly stormed the ex-Peishwah's palace, wounded
eighteen of his servants, and carried off 50,000 rupees in silver and
15,000 gold mohurs, each worth fifteen rupees. As they approached
their homes they were met by their female relatives in triumphant
procession, to whom they made a largesse of fifteen mohurs and twenty
rupees to lay out in sweetmeats for themselves and their children. On
the following day every man in the village received five gold mohurs,
seven rupees, and two four-anna pieces (worth sixpence a piece). A
series of the most shocking debaucheries ensued, which resulted in the
death of Chunda, the second leader of the gang. Six months afterwards
the Oude authorities surprised the colony, when Bukshee and a hundred
of his followers were put to the sword, and nearly three hundred
taken prisoners; a considerable quantity of plunder was seized at the
same time. The Budhuks, however, were soon released, and the king
even entertained the idea of restoring the recovered property to its
rightful owner. But the queen is said to have suggested to his majesty
"that if he suffered the ex-Peishwah to recover his property in this
way, he would expose himself to a demand from the honourable company
for all that had been taken by gangs from the same colonies in their
attacks upon numerous public treasuries and private storehouses in all
parts of their dominions, and add to the grounds already urged for
depriving him of his country; but that if he allowed the property to be
quietly, the noise about it would soon cease, while he would escape all
further responsibility and odium." Her majesty's advice was both too
prudent and too palatable to be lightly rejected, and the property was,
accordingly, "quietly absorbed."

A yet more dashing, though not equally profitable enterprise was that
of the famous Budhuk chief, Gujraj, in 1839. In the absence of the
Rajah of Jhansi, who had gone with nearly all his armed retainers to
a marriage festival in the Duteea Rajah's family, Gujraj, with fifty
followers, scaled the wall of that town, attacked the bankers' shops,
killed one man and wounded another, and finally got off unmolested with
£4,000 worth of plunder. This leader was warmly patronised by the Rajah
of Nurwur, who had always half a dozen of his men to guard him while he

In Rajpootana, Gwalior, and Malwa the Dacoits called themselves
Bagrees, or Bagorras. This clan numbered about 1,200 families,
principally settled, or rather bivouacked, on the banks of the Chumbul.
Of their proceedings less is known than concerning those of their Oude
brethren. They were greatly favoured by the native princes and powerful
landholders, and even when they were seized their punishment seldom
went further than a compulsory restitution of the stolen property.
They rarely insulted women beyond demanding of them their gold and
silver ornaments, and their reckless liberality made them so popular
with the poorer classes that when some of the petty princes were urged
by the Indian Government to take steps to put down Dacoitee within
their respective territories, they excused themselves on the ground
that it would cause a revolution. They were, besides, much prized as
auxiliaries in the state of perpetual warfare that existed among these
independent princes. When the Alwar Chief, in 1783, renounced his
allegiance to the Rajah of Jyepore, his sword and shield was Kishna,
the great Bagree leader. At a later period, his grandson, Bijee Sing,
rendered an important service to the lord of Alwar, for which he
received an estate worth 4,000 rupees a year, rent free for ever. The
commander of the Jyepoor forces had reduced the Alwar Chief to great
straits, when the latter invoked the aid of Bhart Sing and Bijee Sing,
who came to his assistance with 500 Bagrees, resolute and well armed
men. The Manukpoor Gotra estate was offered as a reward to any one
who would assassinate the enemy's leader. The Dacoits accepted the
adventure. "Bhart Sing approached the tent at night with only four or
five followers, whom he left outside. He entered the tent, and found
the minister asleep and entirely defenceless. He could not kill a man
in that state, and taking up his sword, shield, and turban, which lay
by the bedside, he returned with them to Bijee Sing, saying that he
could never stab a brave man in that defenceless state. Bijee Sing then
went, entered the tent which was still without a sentry, and stabbed
the minister to the heart."

At another time the Rajah of Kerowlie engaged a small band of Bagrees
to assist him in besieging his cousin the Thakoor Luchmun Sing, in the
city of Ameergur. "The duty assigned to us"--said one of them--"was to
cut off all supplies, and at night to attack the advanced batteries
thrown out by the garrison upon elevated places. The commandant allowed
us to select as many as we wanted of his best soldiers on whose courage
we could most rely, and we generally took about the same number as we
ourselves. We then reconnoitred the strongest batteries, sometimes in
the daytime in all manner of disguises, sometimes at night creeping
along the ground like wild animals, till we got up close to them, and
saw all that we wanted to see. After we had become well acquainted
with the positions, in three or four days we entered upon the attack.
Well armed with swords, shields, and spears, and some with muskets, we
advanced close to the ground till we got so near that we could rush
in upon them before the enemy could deliver their fire. No man is
permitted to carry a matchlock on such occasions; nor do we, indeed,
ever carry them in our enterprises, because the light of the matches
might warn people of our approach and bring their fire upon us. When
within the proper distance the signal is given, and we start up, and
rush in, and kill every man we can. There are always supporting parties
of troops close behind us, to follow up our attack and keep possession
of the surprised batteries. In this way we in one night surprised and
took three of the batteries which Luchmun Sing had placed upon a hill
near his fort. The night was dark, and we attacked them all at the
same time. We were about forty Bagrees, and we had with us about sixty
select soldiers, and for each battery we had from thirty to thirty-five
men; but we knew every inch of the ground we were to act upon, and we
could rely upon each other. We on such occasions stop all supplies that
they try to get into the besieged fort. We watch for several nights and
permit the people to take in all they please unmolested; and when we
know all the roads by which the supplies go in, we attack them all in
one night, and are allowed to keep what we get for ourselves."

These Bagrees were as scrupulously devout in their way as the Italian
banditti are said to be, whom they resembled in more than one point.
Ajeet Sing, the leader of a Chumbul gang, in describing a Dacoitee
that had yielded 40,000 rupees, went on to say:--"Four thousand five
hundred rupees were taken to cover the expenses of the road, to offer
to the gods who had guided us, and to give in charity to the poor. For
offerings to the gods we purchase goats, sweet cakes, and spirits;
and having prepared the feast, we throw a handful of the savoury food
upon the fire in the name of the gods who have most assisted us; but
of the feast so consecrated, no female but a virgin can partake. The
offering is made through the man who has successfully invoked the god
on that particular occasion; and as my god had guided us on this, I was
employed to prepare the feast for him, and to throw the offering on
the fire. The offering must be taken up before the feast is touched,
and put upon the fire, and a little water must be sprinkled upon it.
The savoury smell of the food as it burns, reaches the nostrils of the
god and delights him. On this, as on most occasions, I invoked the
spirit of Gunga Sing, my grandfather, and to him I made the offering.
I considered him to be the greatest of all my ancestors as a robber,
and him I invoked on this trying occasion. He never failed me when I
invoked him, and I had the greatest confidence in his aid. The spirits
of our ancestors can easily see whether we shall succeed in what we are
about to undertake; and when we are to succeed, they order us on,--and
when we are not, they make signs to us to desist."

The same Ajeet Sing described a singular superstition that existed
among the Bagrees. One of his comrades happened to be severely wounded
on the wrist, and became so faint from loss of blood that he was
obliged to be carried. As he passed under a Banyan tree, "the spirit
of the place fell upon him, and the four men who carried him fell down
with the shock." The phenomenon was thus explained. "If any man who
has been wounded on the field of battle, or in a Dacoitee, be taken
bleeding to a place haunted by a spirit, the spirit gets very angry and
lays hold of him: he comes upon him in all manner of shapes, sometimes
in that of a buffalo, at others in that of a woman, sometimes in the
air above, and sometimes from the ground below; but no one can see him
except the wounded person he is angry with and wants to punish. Upon
such a wounded person we always place a naked sword, or some other
sharp steel instrument, as spirits are much afraid of weapons of this
kind. If there be any good conjuror at hand to charm the spirits away
from the person wounded, he recovers, but nothing else can save him.
When the spirit seized Gheesa under the tree, we had unfortunately no
conjuror of this kind, and he, poor fellow! died in consequence. It was
evident that a spirit had got hold of him, for he could not keep his
head upright; it always fell down upon his right or left shoulder as
often as we tried to put it right, and he complained much of a pain in
the region of the liver. We therefore concluded the spirit had broken
his neck, and was consuming his liver."

Dead bodies were usually burned, and the ashes thrown into the sacred
stream. Sometimes this could not be done, as, for instance, when one
died upon an expedition, and there was no time or means to make a
funeral pyre. In such cases the body would be hastily buried, or, as
once occurred, thrust into a porcupine's hole, and some of the fingers
cut off and carried home to the sorrowing relatives. The part was
then burned for the whole, and the gang presented a widow with money
to distribute in alms, and enabled her to make a handsome offering to
the family priest. Each colony had two or three especial deities, who
were the spirits of ancestors distinguished in the "imperial business,"
as they proudly designated their vocation. When they desired to know
who of their forefathers was the most sympathetic, the most interested
in their welfare, they carefully noted the incoherent ravings of a
delirious man, or one suffering from epilepsy. His rambling talk was
attributed to the temporary possession of his tongue by some departed
spirit. If there were any doubt as to whose it was, the family
priest, or a relative of the sick man, would throw on the ground a
few grains of wheat, or coloured glass beads, mentioning the name of
some ancestor, and at the same time crying odd or even. If they cried
correctly two or three times consecutively, they had discovered the
demigod. They then sacrificed a goat, or some other animal, that the
pleasant odour of the culinary operations might gratify the nostrils of
the "daimon," while the assembled friends loudly sang his praises. If
the patient began to amend during the sacrifice, it was deemed a full
confirmation of their belief, and a new "Lar familiaris," or household
god was added to the polytheism of the colony.

The chief deities worshipped by the Dacoits in common were Kalee
or Davee, and Sooruj Deota or Sun God. Before setting out upon an
expedition, they were always careful to take the auspices; which was
done in this manner. Having procured several goats, the principal men
assembled, and while one of them held some water in his mouth, the
others prayed, "O thou Sun God! And O all ye other gods! if we are to
succeed in the enterprise we are about to undertake, we pray ye to
cause these goats to shake their bodies!" If they do not shake them
after the gods have been thus duly invoked, the enterprise must not
be entered upon, and the goats are not sacrificed. "We then try the
auspices with the wheat; we have a handful of wheat, a large shell,
a brass jug, cloth, and frankincense (_gogul_), and scented wood
(_dhoop_) to burn. We burn the frankincense and scented wood, and blow
the shell; and taking out a pinch of the grains, put them on the cloth
and count them. If they come up odd, the omen is favourable; if even,
it is bad. After this, which we call the auspices of the Akut, we take
that of the Seearnee, or female jackal. If it calls on the left, it
is good; if on the right, it is bad. If the omens turn out favourable
in all three trials then we have no fear whatever; but if they are
favourable in only one trial out of the three, the enterprise must be
given up."

The Bowrees appear to have been an off-set of the Bagree Dacoits.
They affected to be descended from Rajpoots, but in truth very little
is known as to their origin. Their peculiar dialect, however, was
Guzerattee, though for generations past they had not even visited
that province, but the circumstance is in favour of the theory that
traces them to Chittore, the capital of Mewar, adjacent to Guzerat,
whence they are believed to have emigrated when Akhbar captured that
city in 1567. According to the deposition of Dhokul Sing, made in
1839, the Bowrees were "not a people of yesterday--we are of ancient
and illustrious descent." Their ancestor, Pardhee, was one of the
companions of Ram in his expedition for the recovery of Seeta. "If,"
said this approver, "if any prince happens to have an enemy that he
wishes to have made away with, he sends for some of our tribe, and
says, 'Go, and bring such or such an one's head.' We go, and steal
into his sleeping apartments, and take off the person's head without
any other person knowing anything about it. If the prince wanted,
not the head of his enemy, but the gold tassels of the bed on which
he lay asleep, we brought them to him. In consequence of our skill
in these matters, we were held everywhere in high esteem; and we
served princes and had never occasion to labour at tillage. We who
came to the Delhi territory (they were mostly located about Delhi,
Mozuffernugur, and Meerut), and were called Bowrees, took to thieving.
Princes still employed us to take off the heads of their enemies, and
rob them of their valuables. At present the Bowrees confine themselves
almost exclusively to robbing tents; they do not steal cattle, or cut
into ("dig through") houses; but they will rob a cart on the highway
occasionally--any other trade than robbery they never take to." During
the absence of the men on some thriving expedition, their wives and
families were protected and maintained by the Zemindar, on whose land
they resided, and who likewise was ever ready to advance a small sum of
money to enable his respectable tenants to take to the road--secure
of repayment with usury. Before setting out they sacrificed a goat to
Davee, and offered burnt offerings.

They also presented sweetmeats to the goddess, and vowed no stinted
quantity should they return successful from their wanderings. To omens
they paid great regard. A couplet in familiar use among them was to the
effect, that "if the cow and the deer cross from the left to the right,
and the snake from right to left, and the blue jay from left to right,
even the wealth that has gone from thee shall come back."

Of the cognate tribes of Sanseea and Bereea Dacoits some interesting
details may be gathered from the official reports of the Commissioners
for the suppression of Dacoitee. According to tradition there lived
a long time ago, in the province or Mharwar, two uterine brothers
named Sains Mull and Mullanoor. Sains was very illiterate and found it
extremely difficult to earn a livelihood by his own exertions. So he
went to the god Bhugwan and represented his case. The deity heard him
with compassion and gave him an order upon every village in the world
for the payment of half a crown from each. Returning home the foolish
fellow showed the paper to his brother, who, moved by envy, tore it
in pieces. A fraternal squabble naturally ensued, which at length
terminated by both of them repairing to Bughwan. But the god declined
to give a second order, and advised Mullanoor to assume the life of a
mendicant, while his brother was to maintain himself by singing and
dancing. From the former were descended the Bereeas, who wandered
about the country, playing the _dhol_ (a kind of drum), begging and
stealing: the men and women living together in a promiscuous state of
extreme socialism. The descendents of the other brother were called
Sanseeas, also a roving tribe, pretending to deal in cattle, goats,
horses, cloth, grain, or anything else that came into their hands. They
were generally in great request as _Bhâts_, or Bards at the marriage
festivals of the Jats. Their business was to trace the lineage of their
entertainer to the founders of the Jat family, and celebrate the heroic
virtues of his ancestors. If the host proved a niggard, and refused to
comply with the exorbitant demands of these vagabond minstrels, they
would make an effigy of his father and parade it up and down before
his house;--or even, in extreme cases, suspend it from a bamboo and
fix it over his door, by which means he temporarily lost caste, so
that none of his neighbours would drink or smoke with him. In former
times these Bhâts almost lived upon the Jats, each claiming, as his
peculiar province, fifty or a hundred families who, in succession,
gave him yearly one day's food and two shillings and sixpence in
money. The Sanseeas were divided into two sub-clans, the Malhas and
the Kalkas--the former being descended from Sains Mull's son, and the
latter from his grand-daughter by an adopted son. A Malha could not
marry a Malha, nor a Kalka a Kalka, but the young men of the one family
chose their wives from among the young women of the other. Originally
the Sanseeas confined themselves to mendicancy, minstrelsy, and
cattle-lifting, but after a time, emboldened by poverty or impunity,
they took to Dacoitee, which they reduced to a regular system.

In their expeditions they left their old men and women, and their
children at home, under the protection of a friendly Zemindar, but
took with them a few young women and such as had children at the
breast, with a view to avert suspicion. When they arrived within two
days' march of the scene of their projected operations, the main body
halted, while the leader with a small party of followers, male and
female, went on to reconnoitre and make the necessary preparations.
Their usual plan was to enter a liquor shop, and while purchasing
some spirits, to ask the name of some respectable money-changer or
banker. They thus learnt the address of the one who was esteemed the
wealthiest. On the following morning at early dawn they repaired
to his shop, because at that hour he would be obliged to go to his
treasure-chest, whereas, later in the day he would have a small supply
of money beside him for ordinary business. Having now ascertained
where his hoard was deposited, and such other particulars as might be
useful, they proceeded to the bazar and procured a sufficient quantity
of bamboos for spear-staves. These they buried near the town on their
way back to the camp. All things being ready they took some spirituous
liquor and spilling a little on the ground, prayed aloud: "O Davee!
Mother! If we succeed in our business and get a good deal of booty,
we will make a grand _poojah_ (religious festival) to thee, and offer
thee a cocoa-nut!" The goddess being propitiated, the next step was to
assign to every man his particular post: some to act as scouts, others
to guard the avenues, others again to rush into the house, while the
Jemadar, or leader, reserved to himself the task of breaking open the
money-chest with his trusty hatchet. Early next morning they advanced
to an easy distance of the place, and some of them went forward for
the spear-staves buried on the previous day. A Sanseea, of approved
tact and intelligence again entered the town to purchase oil for the
torches, and to make the final reconnoissance. So soon as darkness
descended, the gang threw off their clothes and started at a rapid
pace, without once looking behind. If they had reason to expect that
the local police would be vigilant--a rare occurrence--they concealed
their spears in a bundle of reeds or coarse straw, which one of them
carried on his head, followed by another to personate the purchaser of
the fodder. On arriving in front of the shop, the bundle was thrown on
the ground, the cord hastily loosened, the spears extracted and the
torches lighted. Then the Jemadar invoked the aid of his patron deity
and vowed a grateful offering if the chest should at once yield to his
blows. Raising their war-cry _Deen! Deen!_ they furiously assaulted the
bystanders, pelting them with stones, striking them with their spears,
and even wounding them if obstinate. The Jemadar, the torch-bearers,
and four or five determined men, under favour of the tumult, broke into
the house, smashing doors and all other impediments. In a few minutes
afterwards the house was abandoned by the unwelcome intruders, who
moved off to the place of rendezvous as fast as their weighty plunder
would permit them; the Jemadar piously imploring of Bhugwan to send
their pursuers in a wrong direction. Should one of the gang happen
to have been slain, his spirit was likewise invoked, and spirituous
liquor and a goat promised to his manes. At every temple on the road,
and at every stream they had to cross, they threw down a rupee or two
to propitiate the genius of the place. When within a couple of miles
of their encampment they called aloud Koo-Koo. If no response were
heard they pushed on rapidly, occasionally imitating the call of the
partridge: when close at hand they uttered a hissing noise. On their
actual arrival they were certain to find everything packed up and
ready for a start. Mounted on their rough, hardy little ponies they
would cover a distance of sixty to eighty miles in twenty-four hours
for two or three consecutive days, until fairly beyond all danger of
pursuit. Any one was allowed to join a gang on payment of a few rupees,
though not to carry a spear or enter the house until his coolness and
courage had been freely tested. If a Dacoit committed homicide he
was obliged to expiate his blood-guiltiness by making a _poojah_, at
which he trusted his comrades with half a crown's worth of liquor.
In the division of spoils the Jemadar claimed one-tenth in addition
to the repayment of his advances towards fitting out the expedition.
The balance was then divided among the entire gang, the leader again
sharing, and provision was made for the wounded and for the widows of
those who had fallen.

The religious creed of the Sanseeas was sufficiently simple. "I
believe" said one of them, "in Ram (God), Bhowanee, and Sheik Fureed,
whose shrine is at Gierur, about eighteen miles from Hingunghat. There
we make offerings after a successful expedition. Sheikh Fureed acquired
his saintship thus:--he first performed a devotional penance of twelve
years, carrying about with him a load of wood tied to his stomach, but
that was not accepted: next another, in which he ate nothing but forest
leaves for twelve years--not accepted: lastly, his third trip, he hung
himself up by the heels in iron chains in a Baolee (a well) at Gierur;
then he was taken up and asked what he wanted; he said, to have every
request granted; this was promised, and he disappeared. Many people now
pray to him for luck."

Like the Thugs and the other Dacoits, the Sanseeas prided themselves
on the exact observance of omens. They looked upon it as unfortunate to
hear the cry of the jackal or the cat, a kite screaming while sitting
on a tree, the braying of an ass, a flute, or the lamentation over
the dead. It was equally inauspicious to see a dog run away with any
one's food, a woman break a water-pitcher, a hare, a wolf, a fox, a
chamelion, an oil-vender, a carpenter, a blacksmith, two cows tied
together, or a thief in custody. If they encountered a corpse, or if
a turban fell off, or the Jemadar forgot to put some bread in his
waist-belt, or left his spear or axe behind him--the expedition must
be deferred. But nothing could be more promising than to meet a woman
selling milk, or any one carrying a bag of money, or a basket of grain,
or fish, or a pitcher of water. Nor was it less encouraging to see a
calf sucking, or a pig, or a blue jay, or a marriage procession.

Their most binding form of attestation was by means of a piece of
new cotton cloth, exactly 1¼ cubit square, in which was tied up
half-a-pound of coarse sugar. The accuser hung the parcel upon the
branch of a peepul tree, and challenged the accused to touch it. If the
latter foreswore himself, he would sicken within three days. Another
ordeal was to tie seven peepul leaves, one over the other, on the
palm of the suspected person's hand, on which a red-hot iron plate was
then placed. Unless he carried this seven paces without suffering any
inconvenience and deposited it upon seven thorns arranged to receive
it, he was pronounced guilty. At other times a Punchayut, or Council
of Elders, seated themselves on the bank of a river, when one of them
stepped forward and fired two arrows together from one bow, the one in
the name of Bhugwan, the other in that of the Punchayut. The furthest
one was then stuck upright in the ground, while a man walked into
the stream up to his breast and planted a bamboo in the channel. The
accused also entered the water and laid hold of the pole. A member of
the Punchayut having clapped his hands seven times as a signal for him
to plunge his head under the water, set off at the top of his speed for
the arrow, brought it back, and again clapped his hands seven times.
If the accused had kept his head immersed until this second signal, he
was deemed innocent: otherwise, his guilt was held to be satisfactorily

When a male child was born, his head was carefully shaved, with the
exception of a small spot dedicated to Bhugwan. This lock of hair
was all that he was permitted to wear until the completion of his
tenth or twelfth year, when it also was shorn off by the barber, and
his relatives gave a grand entertainment to the tribe. Those who died
before this ceremony were simply buried with the face downwards:
the only solemnity being the preparation of some sweet cakes, of
which three were given to a dog and the rest consumed by relatives
and friends. But those who survived this important epoch of their
lives were, after death, placed on a funeral pyre. When the fire was
extinguished, the ashes were carefully examined and the bones buried on
the spot. Great feasting and jollity then followed, and the spirit of
the deceased, propitiated by an offering of swines' flesh and spirits,
was invoked to aid and protect his family.

Matrimony was a matter of arrangement between the parents; a Punchayut
deciding the amount of the dower to be given by the father of the
bridegroom to the bride's father. The marriage ceremony consisted in
a libation of spirits to Bhugwan, the Supreme Being, and a public
declaration that the boy and girl were henceforth man and wife; the
whole concluding with a feast. If a man happened to be touched by the
petticoat of his mother-in-law, or daughter-in-law, he lost caste,
and therefore took care never to go near them. The same result was the
consequence of his being struck by his wife's petticoat in the course
of connubial strife. By thus losing caste he was incapacitated from
joining his tribe in worship, or in funeral rites, though he was still
allowed to eat and drink with them. However, a handsome entertainment
to his brother robbers and a humble offering to the gods removed all
impurities, social and religious.

The Bolarum Dacoitee committed in 1837 is such an excellent
illustration of the system adopted by the Sanseeas that no apology need
be offered for the length of the narrative, as given to Captain Malcolm
ten years afterwards by one of the Dacoits actually engaged in it.

"From this place (Sadaseopath) I and four others came on to Hyderabad,
where we looked about us for five days, but finding nothing likely
to suit our purpose, we went to Bolarum, and took up our quarters
at a buneeya's (tradesman's) shop in the village of Alwal, close to
the cantonments. In the cantonments we soon discovered a respectable
looking shop, which appeared well suited for a Dacoitee. Early one
morning I took fifty shuhr-chelnee rupees with me and went to the shop,
where I found the owner transacting business. I asked him to exchange
the shuhr-chelnee for bagh-chelnee rupees, and when I had agreed
to give him one pice discount on each rupee, he went and unlocked
one of two large-sized boxes, which I saw in an inner room, and out
of which he took the money I required. I also noticed some silver
horse-furniture hanging upon a peg on the wall, and in a niche a dagger
and a pair of pistols." "Having thus obtained all the information I
required as to the exact spot where the property was likely to be
found, I next examined the position of the different guards likely to
interrupt us in the act of breaking into the house. I found that a
guard of eighteen men was stationed at the chowrie (police station)
some distance off, and that a sentry was posted at night at a place
where four streets met, close to the shop I had reconnoitred. From the
latter I feared no opposition, as he could easily be overpowered, and
we calculated upon breaking into the house before the chowrie-guard
could turn out and come to the rescue of the banker."

"I then returned to my comrades, with whom I remained for two days,
making ourselves acquainted with all the localities about the place,
the roads leading from it, and in fact with everything that might be of
use to us in the enterprise we were about to undertake. Among other
things, we learnt that after gun-fire, or eight o'clock, the guard had
orders to stop all parties entering the cantonments, and we therefore
determined to commence operations before that hour."

"We then returned to Sadaseopath (forty miles distant), and on relating
the result of our proceedings to the gang, it was determined to risk
a Dacoitee on the Sowar's house at Bolarum. Our next proceeding was
to convey as secretly as possible to the vicinity of that place
sufficient arms and axes to answer our purpose; these were made up into
bundles and entrusted to four men, who proceeded in the night time to
Puttuncherroo, and on the following night, a couple of hours before
daybreak, we reached a small nullah (ravine) behind the mosque near
Bolarum, where the axes and spears were carefully buried in the sand.
The rest of our party in the meantime struck their camp, and, leaving
the high road, made to the village of Tillapoor, about eight or nine
miles from the fort of Golcondah."

"The gang chosen for the Dacoitee consisted of twenty-four able men,
under Rungelah Jemadar and myself, and left Tillapoor about ten o'clock
in the forenoon, and, in small parties of two and three, reached at
twilight the spot where our arms were concealed. We then procured some
oil from the shop in the cantonments, and, about half-past seven or
nearly eight o'clock, we proceeded in straggling order towards the shop
about to be attacked, and which we reached without being challenged by
any one. The sentry posted near the shop we were about to attack did
not appear to suspect or notice us; and the moment our _mussal_ (torch)
was lighted, he was speared by Baraham Shah and Kistniah, while others
commenced breaking in the doors of the inner room, the outer partition
of the shop having been found open. Three bankers, whom we found
writing their accounts in the outer shop, rushed into the house and
disappeared. The lock of the door yielded to one blow from the axe of
Rungelah, and, on throwing down the planks of which it was formed, we
found the box which I had seen on a former occasion, unlocked and open.
Out of this we took sixteen bags full of money, leaving four, which we
were obliged to relinquish, as we were pressed for time, and had not
sufficient men at hand to remove them. The whole place now was in a
state of commotion and uproar; and, as we drew off as fast as we could,
we were followed by a crowd of camp-followers and Sipahees, to the
place where a number of bullocks were picketed. We here struck into
the paddy (rice) fields, and across these our pursuers did not attempt
to follow us. A short distance from Bolarum, two of the bags broke, and
the money fell to the ground; and as it was dark, and we had no time to
search for it, we lost nearly 1,500 rupees." Nevertheless, they got off
with 14,500 rupees, and with silver horse-furniture valued at £15 more.

The impossibility of guarding against these organized attacks by
large bodies of armed men, through the means of the ordinary police,
induced Lord Auckland in 1838 to appoint Captain Sleeman commissioner
for the suppression of Dacoitee, in addition to his duties as General
Superintendent of measures for the suppression of Thuggee. The task
was a difficult one. Not only were the Dacoits protected and screened
by the native princes, land owners, and magistrates--their own numbers
and determination rendered their apprehension a matter of some danger.
It was afterwards ascertained that in 1839 there were no fewer than
seventy-two leaders south of the Jumna who could gather together 1,625
followers; and to the north of that river forty-six leaders, supported
by 1,445 men. In the Oude jungles were many powerful colonies, who
were usually warned by friendly Zemindars of the approach of danger,
and thus enabled to flee to less accessible fastnesses. On one occasion
1,500 of them escaped into Nepaul where they temporarily dispersed,
to meet again at a given rendezvous. The Commissioner himself aptly
compared their colonies to a ball of quicksilver, which, if pressed
by the finger, will divide into many smaller globules, all certain
to come together again and cohere as firmly as before. However, the
constant alarms to which they were now subjected, compelled them to
conceal themselves in such unhealthy spots that they were decimated by
disease. In the Goruckpore district a gang, consisting of ninety-four
men and 280 women and children, suffered so much from this cause that
they voluntarily surrendered themselves. Others were hunted down from
one district to another, until in despair they yielded themselves
prisoners, or endeavoured to abandon their illegal vocation and
settle down to agricultural pursuits. Many of the prisoners, being
conditionally pardoned, were admitted into the police force, where
they distinguished themselves by their courage and intelligence. It is
a remarkable trait in the character of the Dacoits that they rarely
forfeited their word. If once they pledged themselves not to revert
to their former evil habits, there was little danger of a relapse. An
experimental colony was formed of the approvers and their families
near Moradabad, at a place called, _de nomine facti_, Buddukabad. The
result has been satisfactory, though the Dacoits usually complained
of the difficulty of confining their expenditure to the comparatively
small means furnished by honest industry. A Budduk, they would say,
cannot live on eight rupees a month (three rupees being the wages of
an ordinary labourer): he requires at least two rupees a day, because
he eats meat and takes large quantities of _ghee_ and rice, and loves
liquor, and is addicted to polygamy. One of them, who had been ten
years in prison, being asked by Capt. Ramsay if, in the event of his
liberation, he would promise to amend his life, shook his head and
answered with a merry laugh:--"No, no, that would never do. Why should
I become an honest man--work hard all day in the sun, rain, and all
weathers, and earn--what? Some five or six pice a day! We Dacoits
lead very comfortable and agreeable lives. When from home, which is
generally only during the cold season, we march some fourteen or
sixteen miles a-day for, perhaps, a couple of months, or say four, at
the outside--commit a Dacoitee and bring home money sufficient to
keep us comfortable for a year, or perhaps two. When at home we amuse
ourselves by shooting, or visiting our friends, or in any way most
agreeable--eat when we please, and sleep when we please--can, what you
call an honest man, do that?"

Another who had passed a like period within the gaol at Lucknow,
returned to Dacoitee a few months after his release. "I was then
young," said he, "and in high spirits--I had been confined with many
other old Dacoits--and in gaol I used to hear them talking of their
excursions, how they got 50,000 rupees here and 20,000 rupees there;
and I used to long for my release, that I might go on Dacoitee and
enjoy myself." The confessions of both these men would be readily
endorsed by many inmates of our own prisons. Evil associations and
the charms of a contraband career are equally potent in Europe and in
Asia. But among the natives of India the profession of a Dacoit was not
regarded as one of shame and disgrace. Indeed, even the Commissioner
avowed he could see little difference, ethically, between expeditions
in quest of plunder, and those for the purpose of conquest; it was
a question of degree, not of principle. They themselves gloried in
their calling. "Ours," they said, "has been a _Padshahee Kam_ (an
imperial business); we have attached and seized boldly the thousands
and hundreds of thousands that we have freely and nobly spent: we have
been all our lives wallowing in wealth and basking in freedom, and
find it hard to manage with a few copper pice a day we get from you."
So energetic, however, and persevering were the measures adopted for
the suppression of this "Padshahee Kam" that within a very few years
after their inauguration, there existed in the Upper Provinces scarcely
even the nucleus of a gang. The few who still remained at liberty were
known by name and personal appearance, and only escaped apprehension
by leading simple and inoffensive lives, gaining their daily bread by
their daily labour.

The task of suppression in the Lower Provinces has been attended with
so many peculiar difficulties, from the natural configuration of the
country, that Dacoitee can hardly yet be said to be extinguished. But
its days are numbered, and a marked diminution of cases is observable
every year. The apathy of their victims has, undoubtedly, been one
great cause of the impunity so long enjoyed by these daring marauders.
This reluctance to prosecute, though partly owing to a well founded
dread of incurring the vengeance of the comrades of convicted Dacoits,
is chiefly attributable to the repugnance felt by all respectable
natives to appear in Court even as complainants. The tedious
formalities of legal proceedings appear to them in the light of studied
annoyances, and their dignity is offended by the distrust with which
their statements are necessarily received. Perhaps, the ancient mode of
administering justice would be, after all, the most efficacious, and
certainly most in accordance with the native character. The elders of
the town, or village, seated at the gate, or beneath the grateful shade
of stately trees, and presided over by an English gentleman conversant
with their habits and language, and possessed of tact, patience, and
good sense, would probably dispense more evenhanded justice than is
obtained by all the costly paraphernalia of courts of law founded on a
totally different phase of civilization. Be this as it may, enough has
now been said to disprove the vulgar allegation of indifference to the
welfare of their fellow subjects so flippantly and frequently urged
against the Government of the East India Company. And these are only
two out of many instances that might be adduced to show that their
administration has been one of continued and consistent progress. It is
reserved for posterity to admire the gratitude that seeks to reward the
annexation and improvement of a vast empire by maligning the motives
of those to whom this country is indebted for the brightest gem in the
imperial crown, vilipending their services, and depriving them of power
and patronage.

The Mangs.

Some curious and interesting information has been furnished by Captain
C. Barr, of the Bombay Native Infantry, with regard to the Mangs, or
Kholapore Dacoits. It is needless to observe, that Kholapore was one
of the early divisions of the Mahratta empire, or that it separated
from the main body in 1729, under the auspices of one of the younger
branches of Sivajee's family. The Mangs occupied the very lowest
grade in the ladder of society--or, rather, they were looked upon as
outcasts, and quite beyond the pale of society. They harboured in wilds
and forests, and lived upon carrion, roots, and wild fruits. Their
real occupation, however, was that of border robbers; and yet it was
a source of pride among them that their wives should remain ignorant
of the nature of their pursuits. They never robbed or defrauded one
another; they even believed that the spoliation of "the Gentiles"
necessitated an expiation, which usually assumed the form of a gift of
a pair of shoes to a Brahman, and alms to the poor. Experience had
taught them the expediency of employing a peculiar dialect--perhaps
it was the original language of their race. Their leader, or headman,
was called the Naïk, and was selected by the majority of votes for
his skill in planning an expedition, his bravery in carrying it out,
and his integrity in the division of the spoils. The office was,
consequently, not hereditary; but they so far believed in the efficacy
of blood, as to allow considerable weight for a father's merits. The
Naïk's person and property were alike inviolable. On all ceremonial
occasions his precedence was allowed; in disputes, his decision was
final; and on him devolved the duty of laying out plans for robberies.
To every band was attached an informer, who was also the receiver
of the stolen goods. These scoundrels generally pretended to be,
and perhaps were, bangle-sellers, dealers in perfume, goldsmiths,
jewellers, &c., &c. In this capacity they were admitted into women's
apartments, and so enabled to form a correct notion of the topography
of a house, and a shrewd guess as to the wealth of its inmates. Their
mode of conducting a Dacoitee was in all respects similar to those
already described. The only persons exempt from their depredations
were bangle-sellers and agricultural labourers, who, in return,
afforded them refuge and hospitality in the hour of need. After a
successful foray, each of the gang contributed one-fourth of his share
to the Naïk, towards the common fund for defraying the expenses of
preparation, absolution, and feasts of triumph. The informer was not
entitled to any specific sum; but, as he enjoyed the privilege of
pre-emption of the booty, his interests are not likely to have been

Like all barbarous tribes, and all persons addicted to criminal
practices, the Mangs were extremely superstitious. They never, for
instance, set out upon an expedition on a Friday. The new-born child
was bathed in a spot previously prepared for the purpose, and baptized
by the Brahman, in the name of the deity presiding over that particular
hour. In the family, however, and throughout life, the neophyte sinner
was known by some household name. Danger was encountered at an early
period of life. The mother and another woman stood on opposite sides of
the cradle, and the former tossed her child to the other, commending
it to the mercy of Jee Gopal, and waited to receive it back in like
manner, in the name of Jee Govind.

The Mangs usually married young in life. If a girl happened to hang
heavy on hand, she was married, at the age of puberty, to the deity.
In other words, she was attached as a prostitute to the temple of
the god Khundoba, or the goddess Yellania. Those belonging to the
service of the latter were wont, in the month of February, to parade
the streets in a state of utter nudity. It was customary, previous to
a secular marriage, for the parents of the bridegroom to ask for the
hand of the bride. A test of the aspirant's address was then demanded.
In one instance, the father of the maiden filled a silver vessel with
water up to the brim after carefully suspending it over his head in
bed, so that the slightest touch would be certain to splash the water
on to his face. The suitor, however, was not daunted by the difficulty
of the enterprise. Procuring some dry porous earth, he employed it as a
sponge, carefully applying it to the surface of the water. Having thus
reduced the level of the surface, he cut the strings, carried off the
vessel, and next morning claimed his bride. The marriage ceremonies
were by no means interesting, except when a bachelor wooed a widow.
In this case he was first united to the _asclepias gigantea_, which
was immediately transplanted. Withering away and dying, it left him at
liberty to marry the charming widow. If a lady survived the sorrow
caused by the death of two or three husbands, she could not again enter
the holy state unless she consented to be married with a fowl under her
armpit--the unfortunate bird being afterwards killed to appease the
manes of her former consorts.

Each family had its household god, but all agreed in the common worship
of Davee, as the tutelar deity of the tribe. Their chief festival was
the Dusserah, on which day they usually set out on their expeditions,
armed with sword and shield, and iron crowbar. Unhappily, the Mangs
must be spoken of in the past tense. The servants of the East India
Company, actuated, no doubt, by mercenary motives, have put an end
to their depredations and compelled them to resort to honest and
common-place industry. Thus are sentimentality and romance crushed at
the India House.

The Oothaeegeerahs


Professional Thieves.

In the year 1851 it was accidentally discovered that the British
territories had long been infested with gangs of thieves from the
Banpoor States. These Sunoreahs, or Oothaeegeerahs, who extended their
depredations into the very heart of Calcutta, had carried on their
vocation with impunity for many generations. Their existence was well
known, however, to the native authorities, from whom they received
protection and encouragement. The head man of each village was _ex
officio_ chief of the Sunoreahs, and kept a registry of the various
"nals," or gangs under his own jurisdiction--usually from seven to ten
in number. In Tehree they were estimated at 4,000, in Banpoor at 300,
and in Dutteeah also at 300. There were in all twelve villages occupied
by them, presided over by a Government officer, whose duty it was to
act as umpire in all disputes arising out of the division of spoils.

Shortly after the Dusserah festival the chiefs of each village
repaired to their favourite Brahman priest to ascertain in what
direction they were to bend their steps. This having been duly
indicated, together with the auspicious day and hour, they started
off in a body to some place of considerable note. Here the gang,
consisting, probably, of fifty or sixty men, was subdivided into
parties of ten or twelve, and detached to adjacent towns and villages,
while the leader, with a strong party, remained at the point of
separation. Hither they all returned in the month of July; and, if
their joint exertions had produced fifty or sixty rupees for each
man, they then hastened home to prepare their fields for the summer
crop. But should fortune have proved unfavourable they again took to
the road, while their leader alone hastened back to the village laden
with plunder for their respective families. The office of Mookeea, or
leader, was hereditary, and, in default of male issue, descended to
females. If among the booty there happened to be any object of peculiar
elegance or value, it was ceremoniously presented to the chief of the
state. Thus, the head of the Tehree Government acknowledged a present
of two valuable pearl nose ornaments, by bestowing on the thief a grant
of land, rent free, in perpetuity; and the Rajah of Banpore was known
to have accepted two handsome watches and a pair of arm ornaments.
There was no mystery in the disposal of their stolen goods. These were
openly sold in the market places and bazaars at half their value, and,
during the absence of the Sunoreahs on their thieving expeditions,
the village money-lender unhesitatingly supplied their families with
whatever they might require. Of course, care was taken never to commit
any depredations within the territories of their protectors and patrons.

The Sunoreahs had "chounees," or depôts in all parts of India, where
they could always find a ready sale for their effects. Near Calcutta
their head quarters were at the serai of the Rajah of Burdwan, whose
ostentatious hospitality oftentimes maintained as many as 200 of them.
Though usually possessed of ample means, they never scrupled to accept
alms with the Byragees, or religious mendicants at Burdwan. No matter
how widely they might have roamed from their native villages, they
always found ready purchasers for their pilferings, and they themselves
easily recognised each other by means of a peculiar "bolee," or slang.

When their proceedings first became known to Major P. Harris,
Superintendent of Chundeyree, that officer immediately addressed the
Rajah of Banpoor on the subject, and elicited from him a most naïve and
characteristic reply, the following extract from which well exemplifies
the native notions of morality and good government:--

"I have to state that from former times these people following their
profession, have resided in my territory and in the states of other
native princes; and they have always followed this calling, but no
former kings, or princes or authority have ever forbidden the practice;
therefore these people for generations have resided in my territory
and the states of other princes; proceeding to distant districts, to
follow their occupation, robbing by day for a livelihood for themselves
and families, both cash, and any other property they could lay hands
on. In consequence of these people stealing by day only, and that
they do not take life, or distress any person, by personal ill-usage,
and that they do not break into houses, by digging wells or breaking
door-locks, but simply by their smartness manage to abstract property;
owing to such trifling thefts I looked on their proceedings as petty
thefts, and have not interfered with them. As many States as there may
be in India, under the protection of the British Government, there is
not one in which these people are not to be found, and it is possible
that in all other States who protect them, the same system is pursued
towards them as in my district; and besides, these people thieving
only by day, the police officers in the British territories are not
expected to exert themselves, the loss having occurred simply through
the owner's negligence. Owing to this circumstance, your friend looking
on their transgressions as trifling, I have not caused my police to
interfere with them. The British Government, who issue orders to all
the native powers in India, have never directed the system of Sunoreahs
to be stopped. From this I conclude that their offence is looked upon
by the British Government, as trifling; and probably this is the
reason that neither the British Government, nor any other authority,
have ever directed me to stop their calling; and on this account, from
property that they have brought home, and I have heard that it suited
me, or that they themselves, considering the article to be a curiosity
from a distant province, have presented to me through my servants;
thus, viewing the offence as trifling, that there was no owner to the
property, I received it from them, and gave them a trifle in return."



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