Hindi Language Blog

Thug Posted by on Aug 23, 2009 in Hindi Language

The English word ‘thug’ derives from the Hindi word thag (ठग). The Hindi word thag (ठग) means thief or conman. This isn’t quite true for the English word. While it’s possible that a thug can be a thief, the connotation associated with ‘thug’ is a person who commits a crime (not necessarily having to do with theft).

The Indian word for thief comes from ‘thuggee’ (ठग्गी), an organized group of thieves in India. You don’t really hear of the Thuggee (ठग्गी) group anymore. The British suppression of this group and modern travel arrangements have rendered the Thuggee (ठग्गी) group powerless. Before the arrival of the British in India, people normally traveled by foot, caravan, or by a mule. Once railroads were established in India, the Thuggee (ठग्गी) groups could not rob people as effectively.

The leader of a Thuggee (ठग्गी) group was called a jamaadar (जमादा). The most famous leader was Thug Behram. He was infamous for strangling his victims with his trademark rumaal (रूमाल) or handkerchief. It’s hard to say how many people he really killed. The Thuggee were secretive and moved carefully to avoid detection. They often buried the bodies of their victims where no one would notice.

The Thuggee were not just an ordinary band of thieves. They were an elite organization. Membership was hereditary. Generations would learn the trade of robbing and killing. There were specialized roles within the group. One would act as the lookout, the other the hitman, and so on.

Perhaps the mysteriousness of the Thuggee is to account for all the interest in this group. Both Indian and western media have based their novels and films on this legendary group.

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