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A (Tantia Bhil) dacoit with gun

Dacoity is a term used for "banditry" in Bengali, Odiya, Hindi, Kannada and Urdu. The spelling is the anglicized version of the Hindustani word and as a colloquial Indian English word with this meaning, it appears in the Glossary of Colloquial Anglo-Indian Words and Phrases (1903)[1]. Banditry is criminal activity involving robbery by groups of armed bandits. The East India Company established the Thuggee and Dacoity Department in 1830, and the Thuggee and Dacoity Suppression Acts, 1836–1848 were enacted in British India under East India Company rule. Areas with ravines or forests, such as Chambal and Chilapata Forests, were once known for dacoits.


The word "dacoity", the anglicized version of the Hindustani word ḍakaitī (historically spelled dakaitee, Hindi डकैती or Urdu ڈکیتی or Bengali ডাকাতি, or Odiya ଡକାୟତି ), comes from ḍākū (historically spelled dakoo, Hindi: डाकू, Urdu: ڈاکو, meaning "armed robber") or Bengali ḍakat (ডাকাত, or Odiya ଡକାୟତି).

In Urdu, ḍākū ڈاکو is singular and ḍakait ڈکیت plural for bandits. The crime of banditry is known as dakaitee ڈکیتی.

In Hindi, dacoity (Hindi: डकैती ḍakaitī, Urdu: ڈکیتی ḍakaitī, Bengali: ডাকাতি ḍakati, or Odiya ଡକାୟତି) means "armed robbery".

The term dacoit (Hindi: डकैत ḍakait, Urdu: ڈکیت ḍakait, Bengali: ডাকাত ḍākāt, or Odiya ଡକାୟତି) means "a bandit", according to the OED ("A member of a class of robbers in India and Burma, who plunder in armed bands").


The dacoity have had a large impact in the Morena and Chambal regions in Madhya Pradesh in north-central India.[citation needed] The emergence of dacoity in the Chambal valley has been a popular theme (Bhaduri, 1972; Khan, 1981; Jatar, 1980; Katare, 1972). Most explanations have simply suggested feudal exploitation as the cause that provoked many people of this region to take to arms. However, the fact that many gangs operating in this valley were composed of higher castes and wealthy people appears to suggest that feudalism may only be a partial explanation of dacoity in Chambal valley.

The term is also applied, according to the OED, to "pirates who formerly infested the Ganges between Calcutta and Burhampore".

Dacoits existed in Burma as well – Rudyard Kipling's fictional Private Mulvaney hunted Burmese dacoits in "The Taking of Lungtungpen". Sax Rohmer's criminal mastermind Dr. Fu Manchu also employed Burmese dacoits as his henchmen.

Indian police forces use "Known Dacoit" (K.D.) as a label to classify criminals.

Notable Dacoits[edit]

A family of Indian dacoits

Notable dacoits include:

Protection measures[edit]

In Madhya Pradesh, women belonging to a village defence group have been issued firearm permits to fend off dacoity. The chief minister of the state, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, recognised the role the women had played in defending their villages without guns. He stated that he wanted to enable these women to better defend both themselves and their villages, and issued the gun permits to advance this goal.[9]

In popular culture[edit]

Dacoit films[edit]

As the dacoits flourished through the 1940s–1970s, they were the subject of various Hindi films made during this era, leading to the emergence of the dacoit film genre in Bollywood. The genre began with Mehboob Khan's Aurat (1940), which he remade as Mother India (1957). Mother India received an Academy Award nomination, and defined the dacoit film genre, along with Dilip Kumar's Gunga Jumna (1961).[10] Other popular films in this genre included Raj Kapoor’s Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai (1961) and Moni Bhattacharjee's Mujhe Jeene Do (1963).[11]

Pakistani actor Akmal Khan had two dacoit films, Malangi (1965) and Imam Din Gohavia (1967). Other films in this genre included Khote Sikkay (1973), Mera Gaon Mera Desh (1971), and Kuchhe Dhaage (1973) both by Raj Khosla.

The most famous dacoit film is Sholay (1975), written by Salim-Javed and starring Amitabh Bachchan, and with its dacoit character Gabbar Singh played by Amjad Khan. It was a masala film that combined the dacoit film conventions of Mother India and Gunga Jumna with that of Spaghetti Westerns, spawning the Dacoit Western genre,[10] often known as the "Curry Western" genre. Sholay became a classic in the genre, and its success led to a surge of films in this genre, including Ganga Ki Saugandh (1978), once again starring Amitabh Bachchan and Amjad Khan.

Punjabi biopic Jatt Jeona Morh about the noted dacoit Jatt Jeona Morh, was made in 1991; also in that same year came Jagga Daku, based on a noted outlaw and dacoit during the British Raj, Jagga Daku.

An internationally acclaimed example of the genre is Bandit Queen (1994).

Tamil movie, Karthi starrer Theeran Adhigaaram Ondru (2017) deals elaborately about Bandits. The film reveals the real dacoity incidents which held in Tamil Nadu between 1995 and 2005. Director Vinoth did a 2 year research about Bandits to develop the script.

A related genre of crime films are Mumbai underworld films.

Other media[edit]

A Hindi novel पैंसठ लाख की डकैती (Painstth Lakh ki Dacoity, 1977) was written by Surender Mohan Pathak; it was translated as The 65 Lakh Heist.

Dacoits armed with pistols and swords appear in Age of Empires III: Asian Dynasties.

They frequently appeared in the French language Bob Morane series of novels by Henri Vernes, principally as the main thugs or assassins of the hero's recurring villain, Mr. Ming.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Here, "Anglo-Indian" refers to the language, or linguistic usage. See Yule, Henry and Burnell, Arthur Coke (1886) Hobson-Jobson: A Glossary of Colloquial Anglo-Indian Words and Phrases, and of Kindred Terms, Etymological, Historical, Geographical and Discursive J. Murry, London; reprinted 1903; see page page 290 of the 1903 edition for "dacoit".
  2. ^ https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-32493120. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  3. ^ S. Viswanathan, 2004 (2004). "Industrial Economist, Volume 37". Industries. Industrial Publications. p. 40.
  4. ^ Phoolan Devi; Marie-Therese Cuny & Paul Rambali. "The Bandit Queen of India: An Indian Woman's Amazing Journey from Peasant to International Legend". Guilford, CT: The Lyons Press, 2006. ISBN 978-1-59228-641-6.
  5. ^ Staff (5 September 1955) "India: Dead Man" Time magazine
  6. ^ "The 'Last Lion of Chambal' gunned down by police". www.southasianpost.com. September 20, 2005. Archived from the original on 16 July 2011.
  7. ^ Paan Singh Tomar
  8. ^ https://www.bhaskar.com/news/KZHK-ramesh-singh-sikarwar-video-52-murder-100-robberies-5665508-NOR.html
  9. ^ "Indian Women Granted Gun Permits to Fend Off Armed Robbers" LearnAboutGuns.com
  10. ^ a b Teo, Stephen (2017). Eastern Westerns: Film and Genre Outside and Inside Hollywood. Taylor & Francis. p. 122. ISBN 9781317592266.
  11. ^ "THE REAL LIFE HERO". Screen. Jun 6, 2008.

Further reading[edit]

  • Phoolan Devi, with Marie-Therese Cuny, and Paul Rambali, The Bandit Queen of India: An Indian Woman's Amazing Journey from Peasant to International Legend Guilford, CT: The Lyons Press, 2006 ISBN 978-1-59228-641-6
  • Mala Sen, India's Bandit Queen: The true Story of Phoolan Devi, HarperCollins Publishers (September 1991) ISBN 978-0-00-272066-3.
  • G. K. Betham, The Story of a Dacoity, and the Lolapaur Week: An Up-Country Sketch. BiblioBazaar, 2008. ISBN 0-559-47369-9.
  • Shyam Sunder Katare, Patterns of dacoity in India: a case study of Madhya Pradesh. S. Chand, 1972.
  • Mohammad Zahir Khan, Dacoity in Chambal Valley. National, 1981.

External links[edit]