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"You've betrayed Shiva!"
Indiana Jones[src]

High Priest Mola Ram was the leader of the revived Thuggee cult in 1935. He and his subordinates operated out of Pankot Palace controlling the Maharajah Zalim Singh with the Black Sleep of the Kali Ma.

Biography[]

Early life[]

Born sometime after 1850,[2] Mola Ram was the son of a Thuggee priest who had survived the British attempt to eradicate the Thuggee cult. A priest of the sect himself,[3] Mola Ram sported a helmet-like headwear consisting on a buffalo skull and a shrunken human head.[1] Word had it that Mola Ram had killed the animal with his own bare hands and shrank the human head personally.[3]

Remaining as one of the last High Priests of Kali left in the world,[4] Mola Ram emigrated from Bengal to Pankot[3] with his followers[4] in search of three Sankara Stones.[3] Among them was Tukar Mannal, one of Ram's most senior priests.[4]

With two Stones already in his possession, Ram believed all five would empower the Thuggee to destroy their British persecutors and establish his goddess Kali Ma's reign on Earth, which under her command, would see the British slaughtered, the Muslims overrun and both the Hebrew and Christian versions of God fallen, cast down and forgotten.[1]

The evil acts he committed for his goddess had slowly transformed him over the years. To enhance his appearance, Mola Ram often painted his face and head before conducting a ceremony.[4]

Power of the Dark Light[]

"Our goddess does not drink the blood of animals! She drinks the blood of men!"
―Mola Ram[src]
Kali

Thuggee statue of Kali, the goddess venerated by Mola Ram.

In Pankot Province, Mola Ram found a powerful ally in Chattar Lal, the Prime Minister of Pankot Palace. Ram poisoned Pankot's ruler, Maharaja Premjit Singh in 1930 and with Lal's help, subdued the heir: Premjit's young son, Zalim. The pair restored the palace's long-neglected Kali temple,[1] to show the power of Kali to all who looked upon the structure.[4]

In addition they set up a mining operation beneath the palace extracting diamonds and precious gems to finance their cause,[1] with Ram assigning his most senior priests with selling them.[4] The main goal of the extraction was to dig for the missing Sankara Stones hidden in the tunnels.[1] Most of the Temple of Doom's veteran guards and Thuggee priests came along with Mola Ram when the temple was reestablished. Similarly, Thugge had grown accustomed to sacrifice animals rather than men frequently, only sacrificing the latters on high holy days, but Ram expressed his outrage during a ritual due to his beliefs that his goddess drank human blood rather than animal blood. To appease Kali's apparent anger, the High Priest had all the priests sacrificed and to bring favor the temple. Ram send then his Thuggee followers as far away as he could to capture only non-white travelers for future sacrifices, and not to return to the area where travelers were captured. Failure to follow these orders could mean death.[4]

In 1935[5] Mola Ram led a banch of raiders to attack the peaceful village of Mayapore, which had one of the Sankara Stones, known as the Shiva Linga due to their devotion to Shiva in an ancient shrine in the middle of the town. Village shaman Marhan confronted Ram and told him to leave but Ram tried to tear Marhan's heart out, failing to do so due to Marhan invoking an incantation for Shiva to protect him, hurling the Thuggee priest back with a heat blast. Warned to leave again, Ram seemingly complied but laughed as he walked away. When the shaman turned back to the shrine, their stone was nowhere to be seen. With no time to lose, Marhan assembled some Mayapore men led by Sajnu to pursue the Thuggee, but they got away, leading to Mayapore's spiritual and physical decline.[4]

Mayapore

Mayapore, the location of one of the Shiva Linga coveted by Mola Ram.

Shortly afterwards, Mola Ram dispatched emissaries to tell to Marhan and his people that, if they renounced to Shiva and worshiped Kali, they would have food and water again, but they were all chased away by the villagers, who were now considering moving away despite their shaman's pleas to persevere until Shiva rewarded their faith. One month after Ram's theft of the Shiva Linga, a fire broke out and spread over the village's fields, forcing all of Mayapore's men to go to get rid of the fire. While they were busy saving their home, Mola Ram's forces kidnapped all of their children, who would be recruited. Another emissary was sent a few days later to offer a second chance for the Mayapore people to join them by threatening their children only to be rebuffed as well. Marhan told his people that a vision from his dreams predicted that Mola Ram's efforts would be undone thanks to a man from the sky.[4]

Encounter with Indiana Jones[]

Despite now owning three Sankara Stones[1] and only two still to be found in the caves under Pankot,[3] Mola Ram's plans were thrown into disarray by the American archaeologist Indiana Jones and his companions Willie Scott and Short Round who were brought to India following a plane crash. The inhabitants of Mayapore tasked them to go to Pankot Palace and retrieve the Shive Linga, as well as their kidnapped children, who had been taken to work in the mines.[1]

Mola Ram heart

Mola Ram holding his victim's heart.

The trio arrived at Pankot Palace, with Indy aware that it was once the center of activity for the Thuggee, leading them to discover the resurgent cult and witnessed Mola Ram's Thuggee ceremony during which he sacrificed a man by pulling out his heart and lowering his still-alive victim into a lava pit.[1]

When the Thuggee left the chamber, Indy tried to claim the three Sankara Stones, which had been brought out during the ritual, but discovered the enslaved children, only to be captured himself after defending one from the Chief Guard. After Indiana Jones and his friends were caught, Indy was brought before Mola Ram who revealed his goals to Indy and then had him drink the blood of Kali, turning him into one of them, and had Short Round imprisoned with the rest of the children. Mola Ram then spoke with Willie, who was terrified due the present situation.[1] However, Ram was just messing with the singer's head.[6] He attempted to sacrifice her, locking Willie in the same cage previously used and directed Indy to carry out the task. As she was lowered into the pit below, however, the escaping Short Round returned Jones to his senses with fire, and together they saved Willie and fought off the Thuggee. As Indy faced down Mola Ram, the high priest escaped down a trapdoor. Indy and the others rescued the children, claimed the Sankara Stones and battled numerous Thuggee under Mola Ram's command as the three fled the catacombs via a mine cart.[1]

When unleashing gallons of water into the tunnels after the trio didn't solve the problem, Mola Ram and his followers pursued them to a narrow rope bridge, where they had the trio cornered. As one of Ram's henchmen held Willie hostage, Jones demanded she be released but Mola Ram refused, confident that he had the upper hand. Jones then threatened to drop the Sankara Stones into the river below. Ram called his bluff, declaring that the stones would be found, but Jones surprised Mola Ram by cutting the bridge, a move which sent many of the Thuggee warriors plummeting to their deaths in the crocodile infested waters. Indy's last words before cutting the bridge[1] were the same that Marhan told to one of Ram's emissary.[4]

Molaram death

The demise of Mola Ram.

Mola Ram clung to the remnants of the bridge, however, and continued his battle against Jones, even going so far as throwing one of his own surviving men off the bridge in an attempt to dislodge the archaeologist. As Mola Ram and Jones struggled for control the stones, Jones' invocation of Shiva caused the stones to glow red hot. The move caught Ram off guard. As he tried to take one of the Sankara Stones, it burned his hand,[1] the sort of injury that would free a victim of the Black Sleep of the Kali Ma.[7] Mola Ram lost his balance on the bridge and fell into the river below, where the crocodiles shredded his body and devoured him, ripping him and his clothes apart.[1]

Legacy[]

Following Mola Ram's demise, people searched the river and found no signs of his body. Rumors began to circulate that his body had disappeared from the river and, despite statements by the British that the High Priest was gone, they were unable to provide any evidence to prove it, moving to punish anyone who publicly said otherwise. Maharajah Singh also publicly declared Mola Ram deceased and offered $2,500 to anyone that could provide proof or information on who might have taken the body.[4]

However, the spreading stories that Mola Ram haunted the ruins of the flooded "Temple of Doom" pleased both parties, as Singh and the colonial authorities were keen on keeping others away from the area. The British kept an eye out in order to prevent Lal from creating another Temple of Doom like the one Ram ran.[4]

After his death Tukar Mannal, one of Mola Ram's most senior priests, had to take on the heavy burden of keeping the remaining Thuggee followers together, despite being constantly hunted.[4]

Upon being informed by Mayapore's population about Indy's exploits in retrieving the Sankara Stones, the French mercenary archaeologist René Emile Belloq came to like Mola Ram due to his attempts to kill Jones and wished he could have been present on the bridge battle to aid the Thuggee in killing his rival. He would later recollect all the information on Mola Ram he learned during his trip to India on his diary.[8]

Note: The following section is ambiguously canon.
It contains information that originates in a source that has not been deemed definitively canon.

In the attempt to bring back the soul of Mola Ram, the Thuggee under Tukar Mannal set up a small temple about a day and a half from Darrem for a special ceremony that is to occur on the day of the eclipse, the day of the "dark light." When the moon passed between the sun and earth, Mola Ram's spirit could reborn. To prepare for the ceremony, a special altar was made. In a large metal shell to the side rested what was left of Mola Ram's body, which was bathed in special herbs that prevented decay.[4]

Ambiguously canon information ends here.

Despite his supernatural encounter with Mola Ram,[1] Indiana Jones refused to accept that magic existed.[9] Having watched what Ram was capable of when lowering a sacrifice to Kali into the lava, Jones made a note in his journal to research for a scientific, medical explanation.[10] By 1969, a much older Jones listed Ram forcing him to drink the Blood of Kali to his goddaughter Helena Shaw as one of the craziest things he had experienced through his adventurous lifetime.[11]

Personality and traits[]

"The British in India will be slaughtered. Then we will overrun the Muslims. Then the Hebrew God will fall, and then the Christian God will be cast down and forgotten. Soon, Kali Ma will rule the world."
―Mola Ram[src]

Mola Ram was a strong worshipper of the Hindu Goddess of Death, Kali, and was devoted to conquering the world and ruling it in her name. He was also highly devoted to the Thuggee cult that he led, and wished to make them, and himself, all-powerful. He showed himself to be a cruel, heartless, bloodthirsty, sadistic, ruthless, psychopathic, power hungry and even genocidal man. He enjoyed, and was happy to cause, the suffering of others, sacrificing innocents in horrific ways, torturing his enemies and brainwashing them into becoming his subordinates and even kidnapping innocent children and enslaving them to support his cause. Mola Ram also disregarded his own allies, throwing one of them to his death and even chuckling at his demise.[1]

Having seen and read of the destruction brought by the British against his people and his goddess, Ram appeared cold and diabolical toward his own priests and the Thuggee, and downright vile toward his enemies. Meanwhile, because of his power and knowledge, he had little trouble getting the worship peers of the temple to help him with his plans. Those who refused or didn't show enough loyalty were quickly disposed of. After taking command of the Temple of Doom Mola Ram tended to trust his original Bengal men with more important assignments than the local Thuggee who were part of the temple before his arrival.[4]

Behind the scenes[]

Mola Ram was portrayed by the late Amrish Puri in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.[1] Stuntman Frank Henson served as Puri's double for the scene of the bridge collapsing.[12] Puri was working on two Bollywood productions when he was offered the role of Mola Ram, so production had to adjust the shooting time in London and India to enable Puri to play Ram.[13] Though he is the main antagonist, Mola Ram does not appear until an hour into the film.[1] Roshan Seth (Chattar Lal) praised Puri for being an "operatic" nice guy who couldn't have been a better villain, but felt that Indian audiences felt embarassed over seeing "one of them" playing a role like that of Ram.[14] The character is named after an 18th-century Indian painter.

In early drafts of the story, the burning Sankara Stones actually release Mola Ram from the same Black Sleep of the Kali Ma he inflicts on Indiana Jones before falling to his death, hinting that he may not have been in control of his actions. It was also intended that Mola Ram, after falling from the bridge, would be killed by landing on the rocky embankment below, followed by the crocodiles tearing apart his corpse.[15] Although cut from the film, it's depicted in James Kahn's novelization and Marvel Comics' comic book adaptation.[6][16] Lucasfilm.com would later reflect in a 2020 article about how in the finished film, Mola Ram looks like he "had just awakened from a nightmare" like Kahn's novel indicates and acnowledged that a summary of the film's shooting script included a similar note on Ram's demise to invite for "a pang of sympathy" like Kahn intended.[7] Ram's interactions with heat in other sources like the Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom Sourcebook yet him not "waking up" from the Black Sleep of Kali Ma, however, highly suggest that Ram wasn't among those brainwashed.[4]

When Mola Ram is eaten, the Wilhelm scream can be heard.[1]

Mola Ram Ceremonial Headdress

Mola Ram's ceremonial headdress.

George Lucas wanted Mola Ram to be terrifying, so the screenwriters Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz added elements of Aztec and Hawaiian human sacrificers and European devil worship to the character. To create his headdress, make-up artist Tom Smith based the skull on a cow (as this would be sacrilegious) with a latex shrunken head. Puri was chosen as Spielberg and Lucas did not want to cast a European actor and apply dark make-up. In the role, Puri resembles Eduardo Ciannelli, who played the cult leader in George Stevens' 1939 film Gunga Din, an inspiration for the film.

There were plans by Hasbro in 2009 for a 12" action figure of Mola Ram. However, the toyline was cancelled before one could be made.[17]

In the Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom arcade game, Mola Ram (who is never depicted without his ceremonial headdress) attacks Indy by throwing flaming hearts at him in stages where the player needs to take a Sankara Stone from the Temple of Doom. In the bridge stage, neither Ram nor his Thuggee guards survive Jones' collapsing of the rope bridge and they fall straight into the river (without showing any crocodiles). As in the film, Jones manages to cling to hold on to part of the bridge, which he uses to climbs up to reunited with Willie Scott and Short Round at the top.[18] In the video game Indiana Jones' Greatest Adventures, adorned in red robes, Mola Ram is the boss of the bridge stage (in which the bridge is not collapsed by Jones), but Indy defeats him via whipping him repeatedly.[19]

LEGO Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures covers the plot points of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom in broad strokes: Mola Ram still performs a sacrifice, topples the cistern to flood the mines and is defeated by Indiana Jones on the broken bridge.[20] The game's sequel, however, takes a more liberal approach. LEGO Indiana Jones 2: The Adventure Continues depicts Mola Ram and Maharajah Zalim Singh stealing the three Sankara Stones from Mayapore in Jones' presence. When Singh is returned to his senses, Ram uses the Black Sleep of the Kali Ma to animate and take control of the temple's large stone statue of Kali. The pair are led down to the rope bridge and the statue is eventually destroyed with Jones, the Maharajah, Short Round and Willie Scott escaping across the bridge in possession of the Sankara Stones. Mola Ram attempts to give chase wielding the Kali statue's head (much to the amusement of the protagonists) but the bridge collapses under their weight and Ram falls to his doom.[21]

Mola Ram makes a cameo appearance in LEGO Star Wars: Bombad Bounty as one of the patrons of the Mos Eisley cantina. He can be seen bobbing his head to the cantina band's music until Han Solo shoots Greedo. Jar Jar Binks attempts to clean up afterwards but loses control of his vacuum cleaner and sucks Mola Ram as he attempts to flee.[22]

Appearances[]

Non-canon appearances[]

Sources[]

Notes and references[]

  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 1.18 1.19 1.20 1.21 1.22 Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
  2. 2.0 2.1 In Indiana Jones: The Ultimate Guide, Mola Ram is mentioned to be the son of a Thuggee priest who survived the British effort to eradicate the Thuggee in the 19th century, which was stated by Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom Sourcebook to have lasted from 1820 until 1850.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 Indiana Jones: The Ultimate Guide
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 4.12 4.13 4.14 4.15 Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom Sourcebook
  5. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom Sourcebook places the theft of the Sankara Stone at leats a month before the events of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, setting such events in the same year.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom novel
  7. 7.0 7.1 Lucasfilm Inside the World of Indian Jones on Lucasfilm.com (backup link on Archive.org)
  8. The Greatest Adventures of Indiana Jones
  9. Raiders of the Lost Ark
  10. The Lost Journal of Indiana Jones
  11. Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny
  12. Frank Henson | Biker Scout | Star Wars Interviews
  13. @Barnet_College The Indiana Jones Picture Gallery Project on Twitter
  14. The Making Of Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom at Empire
  15. The Complete Making of Indiana Jones
  16. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom comic
  17. Cool Toy Review
  18. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom arcade game
  19. Indiana Jones' Greatest Adventures
  20. LEGO Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures
  21. LEGO Indiana Jones 2: The Adventure Continues
  22. LEGO Star Wars: Bombad Bounty

External links[]

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