[VoxSpace Life] The Journey Of Troilokya – From Innocent Villager To India’s First Serial Murderess

Triolokya- The First Serial Killer Of The World

At a time when lynching and serial killing have become a word of the day, we often wonder if we are indeed living in the worst of times. However, before you go on to term the bygone days as the golden years, here’s a story of a prostitute who later transformed into one of the fiercest con woman and serial murderess of her times. She is Troilokya, and lived in – rather terrorised – Calcutta in the 1880s. In fact, you would be surprised to know that her criminal journey transpired nearly seven years before that of Jack the Ripper, and is perhaps one of the first woman serial murderers ever.

However, while one should not segregate between criminals, it must be highlighted here that Troilokya’s journey, from an innocent village girl to one of the terrors of her times, was not an easy one moved by some psychological illness. She had been a victim of unforgiving patriarchy, and her transformation into a heartless, cold-blooded murderess is also quite an interesting tale, though poignant one.

A Victim Of Child Marriage, Troilokya Was Sold Off To A Brothel At An Early Age

Troilokya’s journey began at a quaint little village in Bengal in the late nineteenth century. As a ritual with Bengali “Kulin” Brahmins, she was married off as a child with a much older person. However, as a norm, she used to stay at her parent’s abode and had the chance of meeting her husband only once before he passed away.

Thankfully, she did not have to undergo sati or lead a life of celibacy as she was taken in by a kind-hearted woman. However, as fate would have it, the lady was not an ordinary person but a procuress for brothels at Calcutta’s infamous Sonagachi. She introduced Troilokya to a young man, who seduced her and lured her to Calcutta, where he would sell Troilokya off to a brothel soon after.

And thus began a little girl’s foray into the world of prostitution and crime. The stories of her notoriety and misadventures were meticulously penned down by Priyanath Mukhopadhyay, the investigating officer, in Darogar Daptar No 78.

Troilokya’s Journey From A Leading Prostitute To A Con Woman

A remarkable beauty, Troilokya soon became one of the raging names in the prostitution world of Calcutta in those days. She brought herself a mansion and a horse carriage, besides having servants at her beck and call. However, the transience of beauty soon became a hindrance in her earnings and she caught herself amid a tearing apprehension for the future. Added to that was Kali Babu, Troilokya’s widower lover, whose constant presence became a hindrance to her business.

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Amid the pressure of maintaining her standards came another pressure in the form of Hari, Kali Babu’s son, who was adopted by Troilokya. Frustrated to make all ends meet and give a sound education to Hari, Troilokya and Kali Babu began cheating her “clients”. The duo would mix cigar ashes in the clients’ drinks, which would intoxicate them tremendously, and rob them off all their belongings before driving them out.

Now, when the clients would wake up the next day, they would not dare to lodge a formal complaint with the police for the fear of tarnishing their public images. Alas, this trick became old too soon as most of her clients were already robbed and word of her deed soon became detrimental to her career as a prostitute. Thereafter, it was time for another plan.

Caste system played a major role in her next plan. While dowry was a common instance among Indians back in those days, among the Bengali Srotriya Brahmins, it was the groom’s family who would pay a dowry to the bride’s family before a marriage. This provided the bride’s father to be in a position to demand any amount as suitable brides were hard to find.

Capitalizing on this instance, Kali Babu and Troilokya hatched a masterplan – they hired a young teenage prostitute and a mansion far away from Calcutta’s red light district and showcased themselves as a Srotriya Brahmin upper-class family in need of a prospective groom. Kali Babu also managed to find a prospective groom from a nearby village, and a lavish wedding was held within a month.

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Now, a month into the wedding, the girl expressed her desire to meet her family and set on a journey (adorned with jewels, as was the custom among upper-class Bengalis) to Calcutta. But somewhere along the journey, they gave the groom the slip and made their way back to Troilokya. All the wedding jewellery was sold, and after all the participants were paid, Troilokya pocketed the remainder. The groom and his family, unfamiliar with Calcutta, were never able to find the bride.

Alas, this con too became too old and too soon. However, with time, their intensity of crime increased. This time around, they started abducting teenage girls from the streets of Calcutta to sell them off to brothels or to get them married to various East Bengali families, for money. However, as the disappearance of young teenage girls started making news, strict police alertness made Kali Babu and Troilokya retire from this business as well.

The Start of Her Murderous Journey

After whiling from crimes to crimes – with the intensity increasing at every turn – Kali Babu saw himself being convicted for the murder of a wealthy man’s secretary. Although Troilokya was acquitted from the case, Kali Babu was proved guilty and hanged.

However, the gloomy days had already dawned on Troilokya, and soon she was forced to sell her house and jewellery. But, she was not among those who would settle with a meagre life. She started venturing to her old (and ageing) acquaintances from Sonagachi, who were also apprehensive of their insecure future. Instead of asking money them for money, Troilokya told them about a sadhu who could end all their traumas. And added that if they go to him decked up in all their jewels, the blessings would double.

Gullible as the women were, they were guided one after another by Troilokya at a rented garden house near Maniktala, where they had to take a dip in a holy pond before meeting the sadhu. As the women would take off all their jewels and go to take a dip into the pool, Troilokya would drown them. This trick played its charm for Troilokya until she was caught red-handed by a passerby. Despite a lot of courtroom drama that followed and Mukhopadhyay – the police officer writing the stories – doing his best to convict Troilokya, she managed to walk free each time and continue with her gory drama.

Dhobani Lane in Chitpur. Troilokya's house is on the right. Photo credit: Deepanjan Ghosh.
Dhobani Lane in Chitpur. Troilokya’s house is on the right. Image Courtesy: Scroll.in

Her next target was Rajkumari, a famous prostitute of those days who had a considerable amount of jewellery. She was living in the same house that Troilokya lived in. Needless to say, Troilokya tried all her might to kill her. After two failed attempts of poisoning her, one evening Troilokya managed to choke her to death and flee with her ornaments. Now, by this time, the Mukhopadhyay realized that the only way to target her would be to frame her ‘son’ Hari, who was perhaps the only person Troilokya cared about. And, with this, came an end to Troilokya’s bloody journey.

The Calcutta High Court soon convicted her and she was hanged to death in 1884.

The Mukhopadhyay recalls in his essay on Troilokya how her last words still rang in his ears – “I am leaving Hari behind…Please look after him so that he does not get into trouble.”