Hey, remember those crazy cultists from The Temple Of Doom, the ones who lived in a mine somehow secretly attached to the royal palace?
Those fellows were supposed to represent the Thuggee Cult, an actual group once found in India.
According to the Guinness Book of Records the Thuggee cult was responsible for approximately 2,000,000 deaths, while British historian Dr. Mike Dash estimates that they killed 50,000 persons in total, based on his assumption that they only started to exist 150 years before their eradication in the 1830s. – wikipedia
While many religious motivations were ascribed to the Thuggees when the British first began to colonize India, it’s now generally accepted that the group was founded with one goal in mind: the collection of wealth.
It was only later that internal legends, superstition, and the fraternity of a practiced trade, which you’ll find in any large bandit organization – I’m looking at you, Mafia/Yakuza/Goldman Sachs – began to take hold.
While Guinness’ death count is likely exaggerated, the truth of Thuggee operations was not a pleasant one:
When tackling a large group, a Thuggee band might disperse along a route and join a group in stages, concealing their acquaintanceship, such that they could come to outnumber their intended victims by small, non-threatening increments. If the travelers had doubts about any one party, they might confide their worries to another party of the same Thuggee band. The trusted band would thus be the best placed to deal with these members of the caravan at the appropriate time, but might also be able to advise their colleagues to ‘back off’ or otherwise modify their behavior, to allay suspicion. – wikipedia
How do you silently slaughter an entire caravan without raising an alarm?
Elbow grease, team work, and a solid bit of rope.
The timing might be at night or during a rest-break, when the travelers would be busy with chores and when the background cries and noise would mask any sounds of alarm. A quick and quiet method, which left no stains and required no special weapons, was strangulation. This method is particularly associated with Thuggee and led to the Thugs also being referred to as the Phansigars, or “noose-operators”, and simply as “stranglers” by British troops. – wikipedia
Of course, Indy wasn’t the first attempt to replicate the Thuggees on film:
There’s something about the way they would insinuate themselves into the group that I find almost more disturbing than the murders themselves.
Imagine, if you will, riding a bus through the rougher parts of town. You’re nervous, but you take some solace in the smiling faces of the ragged looking folk that mount the metal steps at every stop.
One of the new arrivals even asks you for the time.
Then, three blocks before your own destination, in a deserted end of town, it happens: as the driver is waiting out a red light, half of the vehicle’s occupants rise up, garrotes in hand, and you suddenly feel the choke of wire about your neck.
In moments, and with your personal articles filling their pockets, the smiling vagrants abandon the transport, once again taking up positions in the plexiglass shelters that dot the bus route.
I believe this is where the word “thug” comes from.