Confessions of a Thug

Confessions of a Thug

Confessions of a Thug

Confessions of a Thug

Synopsis

Philip Meadows Taylor's Confessions of a Thug is one of the most influential works ever written about India and one of the bestselling novels of the nineteenth century. In the course of a confession to a white sahib, the imprisoned Ameer Ali recounts his life as a member of the Thuggee, a secret religion cult practicing ritual mass murder and robbery. Featuring a map, a glossary, and a critical introduction, Oxford's is the only available edition of this important work.

Excerpt

Philip Meadows Taylor's 1839 bestseller, Confessions of a Thug, is one of the great crime novels of the nineteenth century. It is also the most influential novel about India published by any English writer prior to Rudyard Kipling Kim (1901). and because Taylor based it on documentary evidence and his own firsthand experience, Confessions is the prototype of such modern 'factual fictions' or 'truecrime novels' as Truman Capote In Cold Blood and Norman Mailer's The Executioner's Song.

Thuggee (or Thagi) was a cult of ritual murder and robbery whose practitioners, both Hindu and Muslim, worshipped Kali, goddess of strife and destruction (in Confessions, the Thugs use various names for Kali, most often 'Bhowanee'). Thugs travelled in bands and preyed upon other travellers, often inveigling their way into the confidence of their victims with offers of mutual support and safety on the road. Their usual method of murder was strangulation; hence, they were sometimes also called 'phansigars' or stranglers. Their chief weapons were the yellow or white scarves that they called 'roomals', supposedly pieces of the hem of Kali's dress. One of their idols or fetishes was the sacred pickaxe or 'nishan' , which they identified with Kali's tooth. Their victims, considered sacrifices to the goddess, were often disposed of in carefully chosen and concealed mass graves or 'bhils'. Each member of a Thug band had a specific role to play: as 'sotha', inveigler or con-man; as 'bhuttote', strangler; as 'lugha.', grave-digger; and so forth. Thugs spoke a secret argot or language among themselves ('Ramasee'); they also paid close attention to omens, and practised various rituals in following their cult. Just how long Thuggee had existed is uncertain--perhaps for centuries--but its discovery and eventual suppression in the 1830s was an aspect of the reforming or 'civilizing', but also Eurocentric and imperializing, mentality that British officials such as Thomas Babington Macaulay and Lord William Bentinck, Governor-General of British territories from 1828 to 1835, brought to India. Taylor (or Meadows Taylor, as he is often called) became an important contributor to this reforming trend, both through his work as an . . .

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