TIIUG, a•class of murderers and robbers who sprang up under the first Muhammadan dynasties. 500 were executed in Etawa in the reign of Akbar. Thevenot, describino the dangers of the road between Dehli and Alm, advises travellers not to allow any stranger to come near, as the cunning robbers cast a running noose round the victim's neck and strangle him. Thuggee is, however, said by Colonel Meadows Taylor to be represented in the bas-reliefs of the teinple of Ellom ; but they seem to have become known to the British after the fall of Seringapatam (1799) ; and, on the discovery of thirty dead bodies in different wells of the Doab, Thuggeeism again came to the know ledge of the Calcutta Council, in 1810.
Dr. Sherrard of the Madras Presidency wrote. about them in 1816. It was, however, on the reports of Captain Sleeman, about the year 1830, it became known that no part of the whole of India was free from these murderers, and a department WaS formed by the British Indian Government, empowered to suppreas them. This was effected by the officers of the Thuggec Depart ment tracing out the members of the gangs by inducing prisoners to become approvers, and re formatories were established to reclaim both the children and the adult. By the year 1860 the gangs had become almost wholly destroyed. In nine years more than 2000 were arrested, 1467 were tried and convicted for the murder of 947 persons. Of these, 382 were hanged, 909 trans ported, 77 imprisoned for life, 92 for varying 'ods and 21 acquitted ; 11 escaped, 31 died per] , while under trial, and 250 were admitted to be kina's evidence (As. Journ., 1836). Between 1826 ancr1835, 1562 prisoners were tried for the crime of Thuggee, of whom 1404 were hanged or trans ported for life ; some of them confessed to over 200 murders. The Bhurtote or strangler was invariably hang,ed.• Many were kept at Jubbulpur in a central jail, where they were employed as wool and cotton weavers, and as tent-makers and carpet-makers.
It was 'a hereditary pursuit of families alike of Hindus and Muhammadans, both of whom practised it with the same conditions, ceremonies, and superstitious observances.
They had a slang language. The parties or gangs had fixed duties allotted to the members, as leader, persuader strangler, gravedigger, and scout,—bold, resolute, active men, who received higher shares of the booty.
Their accomplices pursued every avocation, and gave information to those who more openly fol lowed the profession. They- usually travelled in considerable bands, sometimes numbering 200 or 300, but in such case they were broken up in parties of ten or more, who kept up communica tion, adopting all sorts of deceits, HS merchants, travellers, etc., or in boats on the Ganges, and certain duties were allotted to each. The in veigler was called Sotha.
Thugs insinuated themselves into the society of travellers, and accompanied them until an oppor tunity occurred to murder them by strangling them with a handkerchief. The Hindu Thugs invoked the goddess Bhawani, but Muhammadans formed the largest number of the Thugs. As pirates and banditti of Europe made vows to Madonna, the pickaxe used for interments was devoted to Kali or Devi with much ceremony, and after each murder a solemn sacrifice (Tapooni or Tuponee) was rnade, in which sugar was offered to Devi.
Thug means deceiver. In some parts they are styled Phansigar, stranglers or hangers, from Phansi, IInsm., a noose. In Tamil they are known as • Ari Tulukar or Muhammadan noosers ; Canarese or Karnatica as Tanti Calleru, thieves who use a wire or catgut noose ; and in Telugu, Warlu Wanht or Warlu Vayshay Wanlu, people who use the noose. In Bengal the river Thugs
were called Pungoo.
Thugs as a rule abstained from the murder of women, carriers of Ganges water, or of poets, of low castes, as washermen, musicians, dancers, artisans, oilmen, sweepers, fakirs, Sikhs.
Thugs worshipped the pickaxe which they carried for interring the dead. • The belonging to a Thug association is now an offence punishable with penal servitude for life, and Thugs may be tried in any sessions court without reference to locality. In practice, how ever, there was a good ,deal of speciality in, the procedure. The Thuggee officers had the powers both of police-officers and of magistrates, for the apprehension of criminals and their committal for trial, but when committed, the accused were publicly tried -in the ordinary waY: There Were special lockups and jails, so that both before trial and after conviction Thugs were kept apart from other prisoners. The proceedings were not subject to the.control of the ordinary supervising officers, and in the early stages of the inquiry they were kept secret, statements being privately recorded, as by a procurator - fiscal in Scotland. The essence of the whole system was the conditional or partial pardon of some, in consideration of the disclosures which they Made. A man must always be convicted and sentenced first ; then be had a promise of reprieve and partial pardon on con dition that he made a free and full disclosure of all he knew ; he was still to remain under police supervision, and was liable to be remanded to im prisonment for life if he failed to fulfil the terms. This system was so worked, that once a beginning was made the information in the hands of the authorities was rapidly enlarged, a general dis trust of one another was engendered among the criminals, ,th'e 'Thug jail at Jubbulpur, and the approvers•living about it, became a great reper toire of information for all India, and in the course of a few years the crime was ahnost wholly extirpated: It would be a great mistake to sup pose that when the system was proilerly managed the evidence upon which action was taken was scant or doubtful ; on the contrary, in these cases there was a nearer approach to a quasi-mathe matical certainty than in almost any others. The statements of one nian were checked by those of others hundreds of miles off, without a possibility of communication, and the evidence was made to prove itself by the discovery of the bodies in the places indicated, the verification of the facts and circumstances of murders previously unknown, the recovery of the property, and in many other ways. At the same time it must be admitted that such a system could only be worked by extraordinarily skilful and discreet men, such as arise on special occasions of great necessity, and that if there was any laxness or want of the utmost exactitude and care, it was liable to the greatest abuse. Even such relaxation as always attends the long exist ence of any special machinery was fatal to its full efficiency. Such a system is and should necessarily be a temporary one to meet an emergency. The time came when there was not wanting reason to suppose that the keenness of the weapon had led to its abuse, and that in consequence of an exag gerated belief in the power of the informers they were in some instances enabled to levy a sort of blackmail. Still, the cure AWLS effected, and India hag been enabled to lay aside the machinery.
Colonel Sleeman, the head and mainspring of the Thuggee Department, published an account of the system of crime and the machinery used for its suppression.—People of India ; Saunders' Maga zine, 1852 ; Tr. of Hind. i. p. 373.