What Is “Public Pillory”?

Interesting things I discover in the online version of the Maharashtra Gazeteer. It seems the area around what is now Victoria Terminus was used as a dhoby ghat and an area of “public pillory” where offenders were subjected to humiliation of being teased, denigrated and pelted with “rotten eggs, old shoes, mud and brickbats.” Queen Victoria abolished this practice. Excerpt:

“The Victoria Terminus has taken place of ‘ a miserable wooden structure’ which prior to 1878 served as the terminal station. The area in front of this building was occupied by a Dhobi’s ghat where the town’s washing was performed until the new ghat at Mahalakshmi was provided while a portion of the site of the present booking office and the open space leading to Frere road were occupied by the famous Phansi talao or Gibbet pond. The pond derived its name from the fact that murderers used to be hanged there and the gallows stood there in full view of the public until roughly a century ago when the tank was filled in and the melancholy structure was removed. Close by in olden times stood also the public pillory, where offenders were subjected to the raillery of the populace and had to submit to being pelted with rotten eggs, old shoes, mud and brick bats. The abolition of this mode of punishment was one of the first acts of Queen Victoria after her assumption of the Crown.”

Times were when a great debate was let loose among captains of industry about the meaning of the world “pillory” when I was in charge of the ASCI. Now, at least, the meaning is clear. I didn’t know (hehe!) that it was so mean and colonial.

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