Kali, Thugees & the Temple of Doom

Those of us raised on a regular media diet in the 80's will remember well Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. I was all nostalgic the other day, and watched it on DVD (the first time in nearly twenty years). I must say that I was appalled by the human-sacrifice-to-Kali-goddess-of-death-by-thugge-cult-fanatics-in-temple-under-palace scene. The 'Fast Forward' button was used fuequently. Perhaps, I've become resensitised (opposite of desentitised) in my old age, which is a very good thing.

The disturbing part is that the Temple of Doom and corresponding cult is based on fact.

Thugee (from the Hindi verb 'thaglana' meaning 'to deceive') was a secret society based in India with followers who regarded murder as a legitimate sport and a very important part of their faith. The Thugees used scarves to strangle unsuspecting travellers whom they would befriend on the high roads of India during the pre-British era. At its prime, the Thugee cult was responsible for about 30,000 killings per year.

Thugees worshipped 'Kali', the Hindu goddess of death and destruction. They believed Kali had ordered them to destroy all men who were not of their kindred. Hence, every murder carried out was considered an offering to Kali. Surprisingly, Kali's followers were normally good citizens (many were influential in Indian society) who were also devoted to their families.

The cult was eventually eradicated by the British colonists, led by Sir William Henry Sleeman during the second quarter of the 19th century.

A few concluding questions...

- Do Thugees still exist? Who really knows for sure that they were completely eradicated?

- Would Sir William Henry Sleeman be tried for War crimes if he was alive today? Thugee extermination does not sound very PC to me.

- Killing was considered crucial to the Thugee's religious practices. If they were active in New Zealand today, would they get away with murder? After all, a former NZ polititian frequently (and flauntingly) broke the law during his days in parliment. His excuse? Religious practice.

- Just how authentic did Lucas and Speilberg make the Temple of Doom? The freaky chanting and sacrifice rituals... I shudder to think. I know that during the sacrifice scene, Mola Ram chants in Hindi, imploring "Kali Ma Shakti de," asking for the "Spiritual power of Mother Kali." It is very disturbing actually. Where does acting become reality? Where does 'being entertained' become 'being defiled'?

And finally, yes... the english word 'thug' originated from 'thugee'.

5 comments:

Katie said...

Woh that is just crazy!

sewfunky said...

My 10 year old autistic daughter LOVES indiana jones, but not this one - her favourite one is the last crusade. :)

Jonathan said...

You should really watch the other 3 Indy Movie now, as they are all way better than Temple of Doom....

Fifi said...

Yeah, I can't watch this one either, it's wack! But I have to say The last crusade is awesome and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is pretty kewl!

Symon Burton said...

Wow, Kate... long time no comment ;-) TOD is still my most exciting movie experience (a quarter of a century ago).