The word I'm talking about is "Thugs", and it’s derived from the name given to a murderous gang that operated throughout the Indian sub-continent in the 19th century called "Thuggees".
The sanskrit word "thag" means "thief or robber".
They were a composite mixture of Muslims and Hindus. Their origin is unknown. They were fervent worshippers of the blood-thirsty Goddess Kali and they killed by strangulation only.
They operated in gangs. Their modus operandi was simple but meticulously detailed. They would meet wayward travelers during a journey. They would gain their confidence and continue with them in their journey.
When the opportunity arises, they would kill off the travelers quietly in dark corners and bury the bodies with pickaxes, thus leaving no evidence of their crime.
The Thuggees were a thorn in the British flesh in the 19th century, by the end of which, it was officially recognized that the last of the Thuggees had been killed.
Views are divided about the motive of such a Nation-wide Syndicate of crime. Most historians agree it was merely for the monetary goals (most Thuggees recruits were very poor people), some feel it was an association striving for national freedom by frustrating and terrorizing the British. Although there're no specific sources to support this theory, there're none to disprove it either.
The Thuggees are a favorite motif for many film-makers looking for a ruthless and cruel antagonist, and feature in lots of films and TV series, the most famous of them being the Steven Spielberg movie -"Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" (Amrish Puri is the Thuggee).