11 April, 2021

Moor The Collector

The British Museum celebrates India at 60 in a show of Indian art patronised by Brits before the Raj

Photographs Courtesy: The British Museum
Moor The Collector

In 1805, a young scholar-official of the East India Company was invalided home to Suffolk at the age of only 35. Edward Moor had first come out to India at the age of 11, spoke several Indian languages, and was passionately interested in the cosmology and beliefs of the Hindus.

Now, with time on his hands in an unfamiliar country he hardly remembered, Moor filled his time by gathering together and organising the artistic, anthropological and textual materials he had been collecting for many years on the deities and images of Hinduism. Five years later, in 1810, he finally published his masterwork, The Hindu Pantheon. Moor's book immediately established itself as the most detailed and accurate attempt yet made by any European scholar to collate and compare the textual and artistic material on Hinduism.

Before Moor, British scholars in India had managed to write some quite amazing nonsense about the Hindus and their religious practices. Sir William Jones, the pioneering Sanskrit translator, for example,...

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