Durga Devi is the Hindu goddess of destruction.
THUGS WORSHIPPED DURGA DEVI. That the Sanskrit root sthag (Pali, thak), "to cover," "to conceal," was mainly applied to fraudulent concealment, appears from the noun sthaga, "a cheat, has retained this signification in the modern vernaculars, in all of which it has assumed the form thag (commonly written thug), with a specific meaning.
The Thugs were a well-organized confederacy of professional assassins, who in gangs of from 10 to 200 traveled in various guises through India, wormed themselves into the confidence of wayfarers of the wealthier class, and, when a favorable opportunity occurred, strangled them by throwing a handkerchief or noose round their necks, and then plundered and buried them. all this was done according to certain ancient and rigidly prescribed forms and after the performance of special religious rites, in which the consecration of the pick-axe and the sacrifice of sugar formed a prominent part.
From their using the noose as an instrument of murder they were also frequently called Phansigars, or "noose-operators."
Some Hindus tribes appear to have been associated with Thugs; at any rater, their religious creed and practices as staunch worshippers of Devi (Durga), the Hindu goddess of destruction. Assassination for gain was with them a religious duty, and was considered a holy and honorable profession. They had, in fact, no idea of doing wrong, and their moral feelings did not come into play.
The will of the goddess by whose command and in whose honour they followed their calling was revealed to them through a very complicated system of omens. In obedience to these they often traveled hundreds of miles in company with, or in the wake of, their intended victims before a safe opportunity presented itself for executing their design; and, when the deed was done, rites were performed in honor of that tutelary deity, and a goodly portion of the spoil was set apart for her.
The fraternity possessed also a jargon of their own (Ramasi), as well as certain signs by which its members recognized each other in the remotest parts of India. Even those who from age or infirmities could no longer take an active part in the operations continued to aid the cause as watchers, spies, or dressers of food.