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(thŭgz), former Indian religious sect of murderers and robbers, also called Phansigars [stranglers]. Membership was primarily hereditary and included both Hindus and Muslims, but all were devotees of the Hindu goddess KaliKali
[Hindi,=the Black One], important goddess in popular Hinduism and Tantra. Known also as Durga [the Inaccessible] and as Chandi [the Fierce], Kali is associated with disease, death, and destruction. As Parvati she is the consort of Shiva.
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 and committed their murders as sacrifices to her. A pickax (representing the tooth of Kali, which she was said to have bestowed upon the organization) was consecrated after the victim's grave had been dug with it. For most of the year Thugs followed ordinary occupations, but in the autumn they went about in bands, disguised as merchants or religious mendicants. When they encountered wealthy travelers, they would ingratiate themselves and await an opportunity to kill. The murder was effected by strangling the victim with a scarf reserved for the purpose. Women and members of certain low castes, such as sweepers, washermen, and musicians, were usually exempted from attack. The Thugs, whose activities are known as far back as the 13th cent., were protected by their strong organization and by local officials with whom they would divide the spoils. Early in the period of British rule in India the decision was made to destroy the Thugs. Sir William Sleeman accomplished the repression (1829–48) by mass arrests and executions.


See G. L. Bruce, The Stranglers (1969).

References in periodicals archive ?
The thug then shouts: "Ask him to explain whose is this?
If you want to learn about these mouthpieces defending Bashar al-Assad's regime in media outlets other than those of Al-Assad's thugs, all you have to do is browse the Lebanese satellite channels and monitor the analyses of a group of Lebanese officials, journalists and deputies from outside Hezbollah, i.
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The thugs, who made off with cash, escaped on foot down Fernhill Road and headed towards Derby Park.
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By a stroke of "good fortune and good policing" as the trial judge said, police spotters were on the scene as they thugs clashed.
Three of the thugs pushed the boy into the road and punched him in the stomach.
POLICE were last night hunting two thugs who robbed a 78 year-old man in his own home, it emerged last night.
Police in Allentown, Pennsylvania, warned people about the dangers of defending themselves against criminals, after several citizens fought back in recent days against the thugs, and one got hurt.
The 37-year-old Coventry consultant believes there's too much violence around us, and that we should face up to thugs and criminals, not run from them.
Bellona's residents (mostly poor and black) live on looted cans of food; there's no economy to speak of, gossip is the most highly valued commodity, and a gang of thugs (eventually headed by the main character, Kid, an amnesiac and possibly Native American poet) runs a haphazard protection racket.