Thug: The True Story of India's Murderous Cult Hardcover – April 30, 2005
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- Item Weight : 1.55 pounds
- Hardcover : 356 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1862076049
- ISBN-13 : 978-1862076044
- Dimensions : 7.87 x 5.51 x 1.57 inches
- Publisher : Granta Books (April 30, 2005)
- Language: : English
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Thugs were basically highway robbers, but extreme ones. They were both Muslims and Hindus. They passed Thugee practice to generations of families, but also worked in ad hoc gangs. The gangs were well organized with tasks assigned to specialists, with the most respected member of the gang being the strangler, a man who had to be an expert in the use of the "rumal", the scarf that could be worn as an unremarkable garment but which could be turned instantly into a strangling cloth. The competent strangler was fast and silent, and complete; among the reasons that the Thugs were so successful is that they never stopped at mere robbery but they killed all their victims and potential witnesses. Dash calls the cult an "industry of death," and for years it was a growth industry, efficiently parting wealthy travelers (as well as ordinary ones) from their valuables and their lives. The gang was not, however, practicing a religious devotion or sacrificing victims to Kali as much as it was adding religious trappings to what was simply robbing victims of their treasures and lives. The British investigative and legal system was eventually spurred into concentrated action against the Thugs by a Cornishman named William Sleeman, who served in his Indian district and gradually realized that the roads for which he had responsibility were secret graveyards, as were those in other regions. Sleeman took unprecedented actions against the menace, keeping superb records and nursing informers.
The myth that the Thugs were making sacrifices to their goddess has been supplanted by others, perhaps connected with guilt over the legacy of British rule in the region. Sleeman did impose British authority rather than native practice, and rationality rather than superstition, which some observers have found chauvinistic. Thugee has been regarded as just a myth dreamed up to help rationalize British oppression, and the racist oppressors were held as only intent on wiping out native customs. Dash dispels these myths, too. Sleeman was a principled public servant whose efforts worked. It is not surprising that some prosecutions might have had racial motives nor that the legal processes and degrees of punishment are not up to our current standards. The Thugs for generations had perpetrated shockingly brutal and inhumane crimes, crimes completely eradicated by novel police work. Dash provides plenty of local color and a good pace for what is a fine story of a triumph over evil.
He has used the work of Sleeman a British Justice who worked tirelesly to uncover the hideous truth about these men and how he went about bringing an end to it. I found this utterly absorbing, very well written and very well balanced, not too much theorizing which has become a trait of latter day historians, all in all he lets the reader draw thier own concusions and points you to do so in an unobtrusive way. Not really one for the beach but it made the daily tube journey flash by.
Top reviews from other countries
This book will explain all. The author has done his research very well, going back to the archives, rather than relying on others historians, allowing him also to avoid the varying levels of prejudice and hysteria that have accompanied the subject from the early nineteenth century right up to the present day.
The analysis is balanced and understandable, and the evidence presented in great detail. Indeed, my only criticism is that some of the book can be a little repetitive, as the author provides, for me, rather too many stories of thuggee attacks than is necessary to make his point.
Overall, though, a good history book, that will appeal to anyone with an interest in Indian history.
There is a good flow in the writing style and the author has balanced his research between different sources.
The author does not try to push any political agenda pro or anti British occupation of India,
but tries to put the phenomena in the context of societies that were transitioning between different regimes.