top of page

The Pass of Makundra In Malwa


The Pass of Makundra In Malwa


The above image is found from the book The Indian Empire Illustrated, The London Printing and Publishing Company Limited

The small, dilapidated, but picturesque village of Makundra, of which the principal street is shown in the accompanying plate, is situated in the valley of Boon dee, about thirty-eight miles from Kotah, the capital of the state of that name, and to whose rajah it belongs. Makundra derives its principal claim to celebrity from its being the pass through which, in the summer of 1804, a brigade of English troops, under General Monson, was compelled to retreat after an encounter with Jeswunt Rao Holcar, and to seek safety by a difficult march to Agra. The village is beautifully situated in a valley of circular form, and not more than three-quarters of a mile in diameter. The hills on every side are nearly precipitous; and the pass, defended at the north and south ends by lofty stone walls and gates, guarded by chowkeedars in the service of the rajah of Kotah, is the only means of communication for many miles through the mountain ridge that divides Maiwa from the state of Harravali, in Ajmeer.

In the retrograde movement to which reference has been made, it appears that General Monson was offered shelter in this pass by the rajah of Kotah; but the valley had too much the appearance of a trap, to permit the cautious soldier to avail himself of the offer of a prince whose fidelity he could not be assured of; and he preferred the chances of open warfare to the risk of being surrounded in a defile, in which a treacherous and vindictive enemy would have every advantage. The retreat was therefore continued ; and though, from the numerous obstacles that had to be encountered in penetrating a wild and difficult country, it was attended wiih many hardships and losses, still it was considered a masterly evolution, and one that reflected great credit upon the discipline and good conduct of the little force concerned. In India, -uninter¬ rupted good fortune is essential, if the favourable opinion of the natives is to be preserved; and in the neighbourhood of Makundra, the retreat is still spoken of as a night, to which some degree of obloquy is supposed to attach—the inhabitants, in refer¬ ring to the affair with Holcar, always describing it to have happened at the time when Monson ran away t J> Fortunately, the prestige lost by the occurrence lias since been restored, and tlie adjacent lulls and pass have resounded with British shouts of triumph * a furce under General Donkin having, not hmg afterwards, fallen in with the van of Kurreem Khank horde of pi nek tries, near Makundra, which they completely routed, taking the caparisoned elephant of the chief, with his favourite wife and all Ins baggage. The gallantry of the captors of course secured to the lady the highest degree of deference imd protection; but the rest of Kurreem Khan's effects were speedily appropriated by the victors. The spoil underwent a very summary process, being sold by a sort of drum-head auction ou the spot, and the proceeds were forthwith divided among the parties interested—the most certain as well as the most speedy method of securing prize-money; but a process by no means satisfactory to prize agents,

Makuudra had frequently been the theatre of Pin dame warfare, and the haunt of Bheel robbers, and other wild predatory tribes, inhabitants of the hills, who, like the generality of mountaineers in the East, consider plundering to be their lawful occupa¬ tion ; but since the dispersion and subjection of the Pmda tries, and the mi tire settlement of Malwa and its adjacent districts, this celebrated thoroughfare has often been the scene of murders still more appalling than those formerly perpetrated by the armed and mounted freebooters, wlio would gallop into a village and put to the sword all who were unable to effect their escape from the sudden and furious onslaught. The Pindames at least waged open warfare, and travellers acquainted with their danger provided against it by assembling in large bodies, and furnishing themselves with weapons of defence. In the apparently peaceable state in which the country reposed after the Pin da me war had terminated, these precautions were abandoned, and solitary travellers, or small parties, set forward upon long journeys, unconscious that their path was beset by assassins, from whom neither riches nor poverty were a protection.

From the time of the first invasion of India by the Monghols and Tartars, the whole of the upper provinces of India have swarmed with a class of banditti, or murderers, called Thugs, or Phansegars, from their dexterity in strangling their victims. These men have secret signs, by which they become known to each other while mingling m communities perfectly unsuspicious of the desperate courses in "which they are engaged* During a part of the year they remain quietly in their own homes, engaged in culti¬ vating the land; but, at the end of the rainy season, each village sends out its gang, and parties of from ten or a dozen, to thirty, collect together, and, in the guise of travellers, pursue their way towards the central provinces. They are totally without weapons, and are careful to avoid every appearance which might excite alarm—-the instrument with which they perpetrate their murders being nothing more than a strip of cloth. While journeying along the high roads they mark out for destruction all whom they fall in with that do not present a very formidable appearance, following their victims for several days, until they come to a place in which they may conveniently effect their purpose. In lonely parts of the country very little time is lost. A select number of the band (called Lughaes) go forward and dig the graves; those who, by their dexterity and strength, have attained the distinction of being stranglers (Bhuttotes), slip the cloth round the necks of the doomed, whose bodies are stripped in an instant, and carried off to the place selected for interment. In more populous districts greater precaution is used. The murder is generally deferred until nightfall; and the custom adopted in India, of bivouacking in the open air, greatly facilitates the design of the murderers.

Travellers usually carry along with them the materials for their simple repast; they kindle fires on the ground, prepare their cakes of meal, and sit down to the enjoyment of their pipes. The Thugs, who by means of their Sothaes, or invciglers, employ the most insinuating arts to entice persons pursuing the same route to join their company, appear to be employed in the same preparations; but, at a given signal {generally some common and familiar w r ord, such as “ bring tobacco”), the work of death commences, and is perfected often in full view of some neighbouring village. Nothing, however, occurs which could give a distant spectator an idea of the tragic scene enacting before his eyes: one or two persons are seen singing and playing on the tomtom, in order to ini part an air of careless festivity to the group, and to drown any cry that might escape the victims. The murders are simultaneously performed upon all the party marked out for destruction, and the dim and fast-fading twilight involves the whole scene in ini penetrable obscurity* The bodies are hastily deposited iu the ground, and fires are immediately kindled upon the spot, to prevent the traces of nearly-turned earth from being discernible. When the accumulation of booty becomes large, a detachment is sent off with it to some convenient depot, where it is sold or otherwise disposed of for the benefit of the gang. Pedestrian travellers in India often carry valuable property about with them, both in money and ornaments; and as appearances are often deceitful, the Thugs make no distinction, and seize upon those who bear the marks of poverty as well as upon persons of substance, accompanied by baggage and attendants* They are careful not to attack the inhabitants of a place through which they may have to pass, as a person missing from a village would possibly lead to their detection. Months may 1 elapse after the victims of Thuggee have mouldered in their graves, before suspicion of their fate has risen in the minds of their relatives, in consequence of the immense dis¬ tance which wayfarers in India traverse to their various destinations, and the slowness of their method of travelling.

This terrible race of assassins have agents and abettors among the inferior members of the police, who are known to furnish them with important intelligence, and to use the most artful endeavours to explain away appearances which might tend to criminate them. The institution still exists; but the energetic measures of late taken by govern¬ ment, with a view to its thorough eradication from the soil of India, will probably, at no distant period, have the effect of putting an end to the practice of Thuggee by the worshippers of Bhowanee, the  destroyer

Rate This BookDon’t love itNot greatGoodGreatLove itRate This Book

Your content has been submitted

Post Comment
Ratings & Review
Click To Close Comment Box
Click To Post Your Comment
Show Reviews

Ismail Mazari

average rating is null out of 5

Very good information.


The Mughal Images immediately took a much greater interest in realistic portraiture than was typical of Persian miniatures. Animals and plants were the main subject of many miniatures for albums and were more realistically depicted. To upload your images click here.

Mughal Library brings readers of our history and related subjects on one platform. our goal is to share knowledge between researchers and students in a friendly environment.


bottom of page