Digital Dimdima
-By Jayanthi Mahalingam
Down to the sea
The Narmada in Gujarat
A Hill With A View
The Monuments Of Mandu
An Ancient City
An Island In The River
Beyond Hoshangabad
Steeped In Legends
Narmadey Har
The Cult of Thuggee
The Splendour of Marble Rocks
Original Inhabitants
The World Of Verrier Elwin
Tribal Queen
The Jewel Of Kanha
The Narmada In Mythology

 

The Cult of Thuggee

Eighty-four kilometres south-west of Jabalpur is Narsinghpur. The Narsingh Mandir here has a honeycomb of tunnels under it. It made history in the 19th century when leaders of the dreaded cult, thuggee were trapped and held captive in its tunnels by Major General, Sir W.H. Sleeman.
Major General Sleeman is remembered today for waging war against the thuggee ( the term ‘thug’ was derived from thuggee), a bizarre cult which had been robbing and killing travellers on highways since the 14th century. A group of thugs would befriend travellers, eat and make merry with them all day in their camps, and leave in the evenings. Then at midnight, the leader of the group, would seek the blessings of goddess kali and at the signal Hukka Peelo, they would charge into the camps, strangle the sleeping travellers to death with their trademark yellow silk handkerchiefs, and then bury them.
Sleeman spent over ten years studying the various gangs and marking their movements on a map. A thug looked like one of the locals and many even held senior positions in the royal palaces and so identifying them was no easy task. Sleeman’s perseverence led to the hanging of over 400 thuggees. More than 3000 were either banished or imprisoned thereafter, resulting in the final disintegration of the cult.
More temples come into view as the Narmada flows past the Barman Ghat in the Narsinghpur district. Of these the most interesting is the Vishnu temple, which has a free-standing varaha, (Vishnu’s incarnation as a boar). It is believed that if one can slide under the boar’s belly, one will be absolved of all sins.


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