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Art. 1.- Ramaseeuna, or a Vocabulary of the peculiar Language
used by the Thugs, with an Introduction and Appendix descriptive of the System pursued by that Fraternity and of the Méusures which have been adopted by the Supreme Government of
India for its suppression. Calcutta. 1836. We have perused this work with the greatest interest ; for the subject is one which must excite the most acute feelings in the mind of every friend to humanity. We have here an account of probably the most extraordinary organized society of ruthless villains that ever existed on the face of the globe. Robbers, bandits, pirates are all influenced by the same incitement—the hope of plunder: in the course of their pursuit outrages, murder, and even wanton cruelty are often committed; but this is usually in the moment of triumph, when brutal passion is inflamed, and seldom results from any preconceived plan. The Thugs, on the contrary, systematically and invariably preface every robbery with deliberate murder, sparing neither age, sex, or class.
We have however, in some respects, been much disappointed with the work. It seenis to be almost without plan, and the materials thrown together in so heterogeneous a manner, that information on any one portion of the subject must be sought for sometimes in a dozen different places, and is occasionally found in a part of the work where it would be least expected; while what should have formed valuable information is very
indistinctly indicated--viz, how the plans now in force for the suppression of this horrible system of assassination were originally adopted, and brought to their present perfection. These deticiencies however are in a great degree to be attributed to want of leisure from official duties on the part of the author, Captain W. H. Sleeman of the Indian military service, who has long been employed on civil duty, and superadded ill health. His modesty
VOL. XXI. NO. XLI.
has also prevented him from sufficiently bringing into view his own exertions in the cause.
To our conception the work should have been arranged on somewhat of the following plan. First, a description of the origin of the Thugs, their system and mode of proceeding in their vocation; how they were enabled to increase their numbers and extend their sphere of operations; and likewise their superstitions. Secondly, an account of the first notice of these associations by the British government; and of the successive steps which were taken, until the completely organized Thug police, which now exists, was established. Under this head would have been included a statement of the difficulties, amounting, in fact, to impossibilities, under which the ordinary tribunals laboured in their attempts to bring the Thugs to punishment: to conclude with some notices of their tempers, dispositions, and habits. To this might have been added, thirdly, an appendix, containing a vocabulary of their peculiar phraseology and slang terms; together with any documents, private or official, which threw light on the subject, or might be deemed useful to those employed in the suppression of the crime.
Instead therefore of merely reviewing the work, we shall attempt, as far as our limits will allow, to lay before our readers a summary of information upon the above plan, drawn not only from Captain Sleeman's book, but also from some official documents to which the kindness of a friend has allowed us access. And here, in limine, we beg to assure our readers that we shall avoid, as much as possible, introducing Oriental words and terms: and that of those which are unavoidably mentioned, the meaning will be given either in a parenthesis immediately following, or in a
The Thugs,* or Phansigars, for they are known by both names, and by other designations in the south of India, appear to be of remote origin. Herodotus, in his Polympia, mentions as a part of the army with which Xerxes invaded Greece, a pastoral people of Persian descent, whose only offensive weapons were a dagger and a cord, made of twisted leather, with a noose at one end. With this cord they entangled their enemies or their horses, and, when they got them down, easily put them to death. Theve
* The actual meaning of the word T-lug, is Cunning; in which sense alone it is still used in the Ilimalayah and other remote parts of India. P-hansigar signifies a man with a noose ; from P-hansi, a noose. The th and ph are not pronounced as commonly in English, but with the p and t aspirated, like the t-h of pot-hook.
Neither of the foregoing, however, can be considered as an original derivation, any more than the Tatar of our last Number (p. 410). These points will be explained on a future occasion, when it will be shown ihat much of the imputed Slang of the Thugs is, in reality, the corrupted relics of an ancient tongue.-Ed."