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you, and henceforth I shall direct you by auguries only, which you must diligently consult.”
Hence their superstitious belief in omens. They study divination by birds and jackals, and by throwing the hatchet, and as it falls so they take their route. Any animal crossing the road from left to right, on their first setting out, is considered a bad omen, and the expedition consequently is given up for that day. The first murder on an expedition is called sonoka ; the leader gives the jhirnee, or sign for strangling; the place of burial is called beyl ; the victim to be strangled is called bisul if the operation presents difficulties; if easy, he is called coosul ; a pair of victims are distinguished by the name of bhitree. Bungoos are river Thugs, passing up and down the Ganges, pretending to be going to or coming from holy places. They inveigle people on board their boats, and then strangle them, and throw them through holes, purposely made in the sides of the boats, into the river, after having broken the spines of their victims to prevent their recovering. This class of Thugs at one time numbered between two and three hundred members.
298. Initiation.—To be admitted into this horrible sect required a long and severe novitiate, during which the aspirant had to give the most convincing proofs of his fitness for admission. This having once been decided on, he was conducted by his sponsor to the mystical baptism, and clothed in white garments, and his brow crowned with flowers. The preparatory rite being performed, the sponsor presented him to the gurhù, or spiritual head of the sect, who, in his turn, introduced him into a room set apart for such ceremonies, where the Hyemader, or chiefs of the various gangs, awaited him. Being asked whether they will receive the candidate into the Order, and having answered in the affirmative, he and the gurhù are led out into the open air, where the chiefs place themselves in a circle around the two, and kneel down to pray. Then the gurhù rises, and lifting up his hands to heaven, says: “O Bhowany! Mother of the world!" (this appellation seems very inappropriate, since she is a destroyer), whose worshippers we are, receive this Thy new servant; grant him Thy protection, and to us an omen, which assures us of Thy consent." They remain in this position until a passing bird, quadruped, or even mere cloud, has given them this assurance; whereupon they return to the chamber, where the neophyte is invited to partake of a banquet spread out for the occasion, after which the ceremony
The newly-admitted member then takes the appellation of Sahib
Zada. He commences his infamous career as lughah, or gravedigger, or as belhal, or explorer of the spots most convenient for executing a projected assassination, or bhil. In this condition he remains for several years, until he has given abundant proof of his ability and good-will. He is then raised to the degree of bhuttotal, or strangler, which advancement, however, is preceded by new formalities and ceremonies. On the day appointed for the ceremony, the candidate is conducted by his gurbù into a circle formed in the sands, and surrounded by mysterious hieroglyphics, where prayers are offered up to their deity. The ceremony lasts four days, during which the candidate is allowed no other food but milk. He occupies himself in practising the immolation of victims fastened to a cross erected in the ground. On the fifth day the priest gives him the fatal noose, washed in holy water and anointed with oil, and after more religious ceremonies, he is pronounced a perfect bhuttotah. He binds himself by fearful oaths to maintain the most perfect silence on all that concerns the society, and to labour without ceasing towards the destruction of the human race. He is the rex sacrificulus, and the person he encounters, and Bhowany places in his way, the victim. Certain persons, however, are excepted from the attacks of the Thugs. The hierophant, on initiating the candidate, says to him: “Thou hast chosen, my son, the most ancient profession, the most acceptable to the deity. Thou hast sworn to put to death every
human being fate throws into thy hand; there are, however, some that are exempt from our laws, and whose death would not be grateful to our deity.” These belong to some particular tribes and castes, which he enumerates; persons who squint, are lame, or otherwise deformed, are also exempt; so are washerwomen, for some cause not clearly ascertained; and as Káli was supposed to co-operate with the murderers, women also were safe from them, but only when travelling alone, without male protector; and orthodox Thugs date the deterioration of Thuggism from the first murder of a woman by some members of the society, after which the practice became
The Thugs had their saints and martyrs, Thora and Kudull being two of the most famous, who are invoked by the followers of Bhowany. Worshippers of a deity delighting in blood, those whom the English Government condemned to death, offered her their own lives with the same readiness with which they had taken those of others. They met death with indifference, nay, with enthusiasm, firmly believing that
they should at once enter paradise. The only favour they asked was to be strangled or hanged; they have an intense horror of the sword and the shedding of blood; as they killed by the cord, so they wished to die by it.
299. Suppression. When the existence of the society was first discovered, many would not believe in it; yet in course of time the proofs became so convincing that it could no longer be ignored, and the British Government took decided measures to suppress the Thugs. A Thuggee school of industry in connection with the Lahore gaol was established, but closed again about 1882, the prisoners being allowed their freedom under ticket-of-leave. The crimes some of them had committed, indeed, almost exceed belief. One Thug, who was hanged at Lucknow in 1825, was legally convicted of having strangled six hundred persons. Another, an octogenarian, confessed to nine hundred and ninety-nine murders, and declared that respect for the profession alone had prevented him from making it a full thousand, because a round number was considered among them rather vulgar. But in spite of vigorous measures on the part of Great Britain —there is a regular government department in India for the suppression of Thuggism—the sect could not be entirely destroyed; it is a religious order, and as such has a vitality greater than that of political or merely criminal associations. It was still in existence but a few years ago, and no doubt has its adherents even now, though the modern Thugs resort to drugging and poisoning, instead of strangling. It always had protectors in some of the native princes, who shared their booty, and such may now be the case. The society has a temple at Mirzapore, on the Ganges.
A Thug, who during the Indian rebellion turned informer, confessed to having strangled three women, besides, perhaps, one hundred men. Yet this fellow was most pleasing and amiable in appearance and manners; but, when relating his deeds of blood, he would speak of them with all the enthusiasm of an old warrior remembering heroic feats, and all the instincts of the tiger seemed to reawaken in him. In spite of this, however, he caused some two hundred of his old companions to be apprehended by our government.
When the Prince of Wales visited the portion of Lahore gaol allotted to the Thugs, a hoary old criminal, named Soba Singh, admitted with a sort of pride that he had strangled thirty-six persons. Two of the prisoners showed His Royal Highness ħow Thuggee was performed.
300. Recent Instance of Thuggism.-Sharfu, alias Sharif
ad-din, was hanged in the Punjab on January 6, 1882. He had become a Thug about the year 1867, and from that date to 1879 he lived by poisoning travellers. He pleaded guilty to ninety-six charges. The Punjab police published his biography, with notes, to assist officers in arresting the members of the gang who were then known to be at large.
THE CHAUFFEURS, OR BURNERS
301. Origin and Organisation of Society.—The Chauffeurs or Burners formed a secret society formerly existing in France, and only extinguished at the end of the last century. Its members subsisted by rapine and murder. According to the slender notices we have of this society, it arose at the time of the religious wars which devastated France during the days of Henry III. and IV. and Catherine of Medici; and as the writers who searched into its history were Roman Catholics, they charitably assumed the original Chauffeurs to have been the defeated Huguenots, who took to this brigand life to avenge themselves on their conquerors. But the fact that the religious ceremonies of the society included the celebration of a kind of mass, strongly militates against this assumption of their origin.
It is more probable that, like similar fraternities formed in lawless times, it consisted of men dissatisfied with their lot, ordinary criminals, and victims of want or injustice.
The Chauffeurs constituted a compact body, governed by a single head. They had their own religion, and a code of civil and criminal laws, which, though only handed down orally, was none the less observed and respected. It received into its fraternity all who chose to claim admission, but preferred to enrol such as had already distinguished themselves by criminal deeds. The members were divided into three degrees; the spies, though affiliated, did not properly form part of the society. The initiated were again subdivided into decuriæ, each with its guapo or head.
Though, as we have said, any one could be initiated, yet the society, like that of the Jesuits, preferred educating and bringing up its members. Whole families belonged to the fraternity, and the children were early taught how to act as spies, commit small thefts and similar crimes, which were rewa led more or less liberally, as they were executed with more or less daring or adroitness.