Confessions of a Thug

Confessions of a Thug

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Book Specification

Item Code: IHL335
Author: Philip Meadows Taylor
Publisher: Rupa Publications India
Edition: 2010
ISBN: 8171675832
Pages: 568
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 8.5 Inch X 5.5 Inch

Book Description


The tale of crime which forms the subject of the following pages is, alas! Almost all true. What there is of fiction has been supplied only to connect the events, and make the adventures of Ameer Ali as interesting as the nature of his horrible profession would permit me.

I became acquainted with this person in 1832. He was one of the approvers or informers who were sent to the Nizam’s territories from Saugor, and whose appalling disclosures caused an excitement in the country which can never be forgotten. I have listened to when with fearful interest, such as I can scarcely hope to excite in the minds of my readers; and I can only add, in corroboration of the ensuing story, that, by his own confessions, which were in every particular confirmed by those of his brother informers, and are upon official record, that he had been directly concerned in the murder of seen hundred and nineteen persons. He once said to me, “Ah! Sir, if I had not been in prison twelve years, the number would have been a thousand!”

How the system of Thuggee could have become so prevalent, - unknown to, and unsuspected by, the people of India, among whom the professors of it were living in constant association, - must, to the majority of the English public, not conversant with the peculiar construction of Oriental society, be a subject of extreme wonder. It will be difficult to make this understood within my present limits, and yet it is so necessary that I cannot pass it by.

In a vast continent like India, which from the earliest periods has been portioned like out into territories, the possessions of many princes and chieftains – each with supreme and irresponsible power in his won dominions, having most lax and inefficient governments, and at enmity with, or jealous of, all his neighbours, - it may be conceived that no security could exist for the traveler upon the principal roads throughout the continent – no general league was ever entered into for his security; nor could any government, however vigorous, or system of police, however vigilant it might be in one State, possible extend to all.

When it is also considered that no public conveyances haves ever existed in India (the want of roads, and the habits and customs of the natives being alike opposed to their use); that journeys, however long, have to be undertaken on food or on horseback; that parties, previously unknown to each other, associate together for mutual security and companionship; that even the principal roads (except those constructed for military purpose by the Company’s government) are only tracks made by the constant passage of people over them, often intersecting forest, jungles, and mountainous and uncultivated tracts, where there are but few villages and a scanty population; and that there are never any habitations between the different villages, which are often some miles apart; - it will readily be allowed, that every temptation and opportunity offers for plunderers of all descriptions to make travelers their prey. Accordingly freebooters have always existed, under many denominations, employing various modes of operation to attain their ends; some affecting them by open and violent attacks with weapons, others by pretty thefts and by means of disguises. Beyond all, however, the Thugs have of late years been discovered to be the most numerous, the most united, the most secret in their horrible work, and consequently the most dangerous and destructive.

Travellers seldom hold any communication with the towns through which they pass, more than for the purchase of the day’s provisions; they sometimes enter them, but pitch their tents or lie under the trees which surround them. To gain any intelligence of a person’s progress from village to village, is therefore almost impossible. The greatest facilities for disguise among thieves and Thugs exist in the endless divisions of the people into tribes, castes, and professions, and remittances to an immense amount are known to be constantly made from one part of the country to another in gold and silver, to save the rate of exchange; jewels also and precious tones are often sent to distant parts under the change of persons who purposely assume a mean and wretched appearance; and every one is obliged to carry money upon his person for the daily expenses of traveling. It is also next to impossible to conceal anything carried, from the unlimited power of search possessed by the officers of customs in the territories of native princes, or to guard against the information their subordinates may supply to Thugs, or robbers of any description.

It has been ascertained by recent investigation, that in every part of India many of the hereditary landholders and the chief officers of villages have had private connection with Thugs for generations, affording them facilities for these services they received portions of their gains, or laid a tax upon their houses, which the Thugs cheerfully paid. To almost every village (and in towns they are in a greater proportion) several hermits, fakers, and religious mendicants have attached themselves. The huts and house of these people, which are outside the walls, and always surrounded by a grove or a garden, have afforded the Thugs places of rendezvous or concealment; while the fakers, under their sanctimonious garb, have enticed travelers to their gardens by the apparently disinterested offers of shade and good water. The facilities I have enumerated, and hundreds of others which would be almost unintelligible by description, but which are intimately connected with, and grow out of, the habits of the people, have caused Thuggee to be everywhere spread and practised throughout India.

The origin of Thuggee is entirely lost in fable and obscurity. Colonel Sleeman conjectures that it owed its existence to the vagrant tribes of Mahomedans which continued to plunder the country long after the invasion of India by the Moghuls and Tartars. The Hindoos claim for it a divine origin in their goddess Bhowanee; and certainly the fact that both Mahomedans and Hindoos claim for it a divine origin in their goddess Bhowanee; and certainly the fact that both Mahomedans and Hindoos believe in her power, and observe Hindoo ceremonies, would go far to prove that the practice of Thuggee was of Hindoo origin. Though very remote traditions of it exist, there are no records in any of the histories of India of its having been discovered until the regin of Akbur, when many of its votaries were seized and put to death. From that time till 1810, although native princes now and then discovered and executed the perpetrators, - I believe it was unknown to the British Government or authorities. In that year the disappearance of many men of the army, proceeding to and from their homes, induced the commander – in – chief to issue an order warning of soldiers against Thugs. In 1812, after the murder by Thugs of Lieut. Monsell, Mr. Halhed, accompanied by a strong detachment, proceeded to the villages where the murderers were known to reside, and was resisted. The Thugs were discovered to be occupying many villages in the purgunnhs of Sindouse, and to have paid, for generations, large sums annually to Sindia’s Government for protection. At this time it was computed that upwards of nine hundred were in those villages alone. The resistances offered by the Thugs to Mr. Halheds detachment caused their ultimate dispersion, and no doubt they carried the practice of their ultimate dispersion, and no doubt they carried the practice of their profession into distant parts of the country, where perhaps it had been unknown before.

It appears strange, that as early as 1816 no measures for the suppression of Thuggee were adopted; for that the practices of the Thugs were well know, we have the strongest evidence in a paper written by Doctor Sherwood, which appeared in the Literary Journal of Madras, and which is admirably correct in the description of the ceremonies and practice of the Thugs of Southern India. One would suppose that they were then considered too monstrous for belief, and were discredited or unnoticed; but it is certain that from that time up to 1830, in almost every part of Inida, but particularly in Bundelkhund and Western Malwa, large gangs of Thugs were apprehended by Major Borthwick and Captains Wardlow and Henley. Many were tried and executed for the murder of travelers, but without exciting more than a passing share of public attention. No blow was ever aimed at the system, if indeed its complete and extensive organization was ever suspected, or, if suspected, believed.

In that year, however, and for some years previously, Thuggee seemed to have reached a fearful height of audacity, and the British Government could no longer remain indifferent to an evil of such enormous and increasing magnitude. The attention of several distinguished civil officers – Messrs. Stockwell, Smith, Wilkinson, Borthwick, and others – had become attracted with interest to the subject. Some of the Thugs who had been seized were allowed life on condition of denouncing their associates, and among others Feringhea, a leader of great notoriety.

The appalling disclosures of this man, so utterly unexpected by Caption (now Colonel) Sleeman, the political agent in the provinces bordering upon the Nerbudda river, were almost discredited by that able officer, but by the exhumation in the very grove where he happened to be encamped of no less than thirteen bodies in various states of decay, and the offer being made to him of opening other graves in and near the same spot, the approver’s tale was too surely confirmed. His information was acted upon, and large gangs, which had assembled in Rajpootana for the purpose of going out on Thuggee, were apprehended and brought to trial.

From this period, the system for the suppression of Thuggee may be said to have commenced in earnest. From almost every gang one or more informers were admitted; and when they found that their only chance of life lay in giving correct information, they unequivocally denounced their associates, and their statements were confirmed by the disinterment of their victims in the spots pointed out.

In this manner Thuggee was found to be in active practice all over India. The knowledge of its existence was at first confined to the central provinces; but as men were apprehended from a distance, they gave information of other beyond them in the almost daily commission of murder. The circle gradually widened till it spread over the whole continent; and from the foot of the Himalayas to Cape Comorin, from Cutch to Assam, there was hardly a province in the whole of India where Thuggee had not been practised, where the statements of the informers were not confirmed by the disinterment of the dead!


Chapter 1 The Thug’s introduction to the reader, and an event in his history which determines his future career 1
Chapter 2 In which it will appear that Ameer Ali’s curiosity is violently excited 11
Chapter 3 In which Ameer Ali displays his bravery at a tiger hunt 22
Chapter 4 Recounts the initiation of Ameer Ali in Thuggee, and the commencement of the old Thug’s tale 32
Chapter 5 Wherein the old Thug ends his tale 49
Chapter 6 In which the reader will be informed how Ameer Ali killed his first man 63
Chapter 7 A new adventure, which proves an unusual prelude to an evening’s entertainment 74
Chapter 8 Wherein the reader will be informed how Ameer Ali passed the evening 85
Chapter 9 In which Ameer Ali proves himself an excellent hand at making a bargain, and that his amour has a chance of success 99
Chapter 10 Continuation of Ameer Ali’s adventure 113
Chapter 11 In which the victim falls into the trap 124
Chapter 12 Showing how justice is often summarily dispensed 135
Chapter 13 How Kumal Khan’s head was cut off, and stuck up near the gate of the town 142
Chapter 14 How Ameer Ali arrived at Hyderabad 150
Chapter 15 Setting forth how Ameer Ali spends the ninth night of he Mohurum, and how he loses his mistress 163
Chapter 16 Bhudrinath recounts his adventures. The Dullah finds to his cost that a bargain is often easy to make and easy to break 172
Chapter 17 Shows how the Dullah and Fakeer meet their reward 181
Chapter 18 Showing how Surfuraz Khan and his party got into a scrape, and how they were extricated there from 189
Chapter 19 In which the reader will perceive that Ameer Ali passed a busy afternoon 198
Chapter 20 Ameer Ali engages in another amour 207
Chapter 21 How Ameer Ali bibes tryst, and is not disappointed 214
Chapter 22 In which Ameer Ali takes to himself a wife 222
Chapter 23 The reader is introduced to Subzee Khan 233
Chapter 24 In which Subzee Khan meets his fate 241
Chapter 25 Gives a description of Ameer Ali 254
Chapter 26 Ameer Ali starts on a new expedition: the adventures he meets with 260
Chapter 27 How Ameer Ali played at the old game of Fox – and – Goose, and won it 268
Chapter 28 Further adventures 282
Chapter 29 In which it is clearly shown how hard it is to stop when the devil drives 289
Chapter 30 How Ameer Ali was tempted, but resisted 298
Chapter 31 Showing how Ameer Ali played a deep game for a large stake, and won it 309
Chapter 32 Tells why Ameer Ali joined the Pindharees 325
Chapter 33 How Ameer Ali conducted himself in his debut as a Pindharee, and how the Sahoukars of Oomraotee received their unwelcome visitors 334
Chapter 34 Continues the adventures of Ameer Ali as a Pindharee 348
Chapter 35 Relates how, encouraged by his success, Chetoo plans another expedition on a larger scale, and how Ameer Ali joined it 360
Chapter 36 Shows what happened on the expedition 368
Chapter 37 In which Guffoor Khan ends his career 376
Chapter 38 Shows how the Thugs were discovered to the Pindhareas 392
Chapter 39 In which Ameer Ali makes the acquaintance of Soobhan Khan 405
Chapter 40 Narrayum Das falls into the snare, and is murdered and robbed 417
Chapter 41 Ganesha and Ameer Ali quarrel 429
Chapter 42 In which Ameer Ali acquires an amulet 441
Chapter 43 Shows how an error was detected in astrological calculations 458
Chapter 44 Relates the execution of Ameer Ali’s adoptive father 471
Chapter 45 Shows how Ameer Ali was branded and sent adrift 483
Chapter 46 In which, after various adventures, Ameer Ali is taken and imprisoned 494
Chapter 47 Shows it is easier to get in than out of prison 505
Chapter 48 How Ameer Ali proceeds to his fate 514
Conclusion 532

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