Posts Tagged imperial Gothic

In the Hall of the Opium King

1 April 2012
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Opium KingFrom A. Brierre de Boismont, On Hallucinations (1855):—

This writer relates the case of an English ambassador, who was sent on a political mission to one of the Indian kings. On his arrival at the palace of the sovereign, he was conducted through a long suite of magnificent apartments, lined by officers of state clad in the richest apparel; he was then led into a small chamber, where the furniture and decorations were of a still more costly description than what he had already seen. 

There he was left by himself. In a short time two persons of high rank entered, preceding a litter borne by slaves, and covered with rich silks and cashmere shawls of great value. On the couch was stretched a human form, which he should have mistaken for a corpse but for the motion of the head, which corresponded to that of the bearers; two of the officers in attendance had in their hands a golden waiter, on each of which was a cup, and a small bottle containing a bluish-looking liquid. 

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Ameer Ali is Plotting to Strangle You

23 April 2011
Confessions of a Thug, p.79. "My Second Victim"

Confessions of a Thug, p.79. "My Second Victim"

Philip Meadows Taylor’s 1839 novel Confessions of a Thug captured the imagination of 19th-century Britain with its chilling depiction of an organized death cult preying upon the hapless travelers of India’s wild and desolate roads. Based upon real accounts Taylor gathered during his work suppressing the Thuggee cult for the Nizam of Hyderabad, the book is ominously introduced as an authoritative exposé in which true events have been faithfully woven into a fictionalized narrative.

As portrayed by Taylor, the Thugs are the votaries of Bhowanee (Kali); the destructive aspect of the Supreme Being. Endowed with superior intelligence and cunning, they are sent forth to make “sacrifices” on her behalf. The reward for their piety is the plunder they gather from their victims. In so far as they observe her omens and obey her taboos, Bhowanee grants them protection from earthly authorities.

Their modus operandi is to inveigle wealthy marks into joining their camp, or to merge with travelling caravans who seek protection in numbers while making treacherous journeys through foreign lands. “Thug” being the Hindi word for “conman,” they proceed to charm and manipulate their travelling companions into lowering their guards. Then, at some remote, well chosen-spot, a signal is given and each Thug simultaneously strangles his assigned victim with a roomál (hankerchief). The bodies are quickly stripped and deposited in preprepared graves, which are then skillfully disguised, as by building fire pits over them to explain the disturbance of the earth. In order to quietly and routinely commit mass murder, the Thugs must operate with military efficiency. Each man is trained to perform a repertoire of specialized roles, including those of strangler (bhuttóte), grave-digger (bélha), inveigler (sótha) and those who bury the dead (lugháees). (more…)