India's stolen treasures - Major-Gen. Charles Stuart 's vast collection at the British museum - 07

 This sandstone sculpture of Harihara (Vishnu 'Hari; and Shiva 'Hara') dates to about AD 1000. It is likely to have come from Khajurahao, Madhya Pradesh. Most of the Hindu and Jain temples at this site were constructed between c. 900-1150 by the Chandela dynasty, their ministers and Jain merchants.

sandstone Harihara circa

Above image:  As details of its  acquisition are not available;  when and from where this the Harihara sculpture was collected is a subject of debate. Further vey few of Stuart's documents have survived......

Gen.  Charles Stuart's  amazing vast  collection of antiquities forms the basis of the British Museum's ancient Hindu and Buddhist sculpture collection from the Indian subcontinent. Now they are  known as the Bridge Collection.  A lot of Hindu idols more than 80%   were personally collected by  Gen. Stuart who lived like a Hindu . To him the Christian missionaries were  ''disseminating  through the public mind the seeds of distrust and  disaffection.'' Stuart employed two   Brahmins  to take care of his collection. 

After Gen. Stuart's death  and that of his brother George Bridge, Bridge's relatives donated the collection of sculpture to the British Museum in 1872. Prior to that  his collection was sold at two auctions in London -- in 1829 and 1830.  John Bridge (1755-1834; partner in famous jewelry firm Rundell, Bridge and Rundell)  bought  most of the sculpture  Bridge established a private museum in his house in Shepherds Bush, London.  After his death and that of his brother George Bridge, Bridge's relatives donated the collection of sculpture to the British Museum in 1872. The museum officials feel that the vast collection under one roof will benefit the public a lot and help them  compare and contrast cultures and understand our interconnectivity

Maj. Gen. Charles Stuart (c. 1758 - 31 March 1828)

Above image; Gen. Charles Stuart and his collection of Indian idols, etc.  native of Ireland he came to India as a young man, and spent the rest of his life there as an East India Company soldier. Living in India  from about 1777 to his death in 1828, Stuart spent much of his time collecting  a variety of  Indian sculpture of beauty and workmanship dating back to several centuries. they were collected from places such as  Bihar, Bengal, Orissa and Central India. He opened the collections in his house in Wood Street, Calcutta, to the public. It also  contained weaponry, costume, prints, natural history specimens and a library

Nick-named Hindu Charles Stuart (c. 1758 – 31 March 1828), he  was an officer in the East India Company Army who embraced the Hindu culture  and led  his life more as Hindu than an Irish man.  So engrossed,  he read a lot of books on Hinduism and did research on his own.  He  wrote books and several newspaper articles raising the virtues of  Hindu culture and tradition to improve their quality of life in terms of mental health and peace of mind.  

He advised the Europeans  settled in India  to follow the  tenets of Hinduism. In the biography of Stuart by  V. C. P. Hodson, the author mentioned  "had studied the language, manners and customs of the natives of this country with so much enthusiasm, his intimacy with them ... obtained for him the name of Hindoo Stuart". His name is mentioned in the book  White Mughals (2002) written by famous Indian historian and author William Dalrymple'

What is quite surprising is  he became an ardent Hindu in every aspect and never had he failed to adopt the daily religious commitment of the Hindus such as taking bath in the morning in the river Ganges at the ghat of Calcutta (Kolkata),   Hindu worship protocols, rituals, etc. While off duty he would visit places near-by and carefully acquired a vast collection of  Hindu gods'  idols, icons, etc.

Archie Baron, another historian, taking about Stuart and the way he follows Hinduism  mentions in his book  An India Affair, stepping into  ''the  mysterious world of Brahminical Hinduism which makes 'Hindoo Stuart' a rarity even among White Moghuls.... His Hinduism was on open display to the whole of Calcutta. As far as one can tell, this does not seem to have set back his career".

Surprisingly, his religious practices, quite strange to the Europeans, never had an impact on his line of duty.  Being resolute and determined, he advised the Indian soldiers to have moustache and wear Indian dress quite suitable to hot tropical country like India. In his newspaper articles written in the 1800s he advised the European ladies to adopt to saris. As for his dress, he quickly adopted to Indian dress style.  

A strong advocate of Hinduism to lead  moral and contended life in a civilized society, he came down heavily on the Christian missionaries and their assault on   other cultures. in his book he mentioned, .......the dangers of the "obnoxious" missionaries and of attempts to convert Indians to Christianity, a process he describes as "impolitic, inexpedient, dangerous, unwise and insane". He asks "if their religion is insulted what confidence can we repose in the fidelity of our Hindu soldiers?" What he mentioned was quite true in the case of 1857 great rebellion . religion was one of the factors besides others.......

Stuart, however never stopped being a Christian and he wanted to be buried in an Anglican cemetery, albeit along with his favorite idols- lord Krishna and others. The god took the avatar ''for the benefit of mankind which he believed was "not very inconsistent with Christianity." he lived in Kolkata for more than 50 years.  

Tomb of Major-General Charles Hindoo Stuart,

Maj. Gen Charles Hindoo stuart, South park comedy, Tomb.

Above image: Charles  Hindoo Stuart's tomb at the  South Park Street Cemetery in Calcutta, West Bengal.  He is   commemorated under that appellation on the plaque. Stuart died on 31 March 1828 and was buried with his deities at the Cemetery; his tomb  was built like a simple Hindu temple.