As the goddess of destruction, Kali seems an odd choice of patron deity for the seat of British power in India, but Company officers paid little attention to a religion they regarded as primitive. One exception was Maj-Gen Charles Stuart (1757–1828), an Irish officer who earned the nickname ‘Hindoo Stuart’ by collecting images of Hindu deities, which he was said to worship. More than 100 of his sculptures ended up in the British Museum and one example in this exhibition gives a clear indication of Kali’s ferocious character: with weapons in five of her eight hands and a bloodied corpse dangling from a sixth, she stands on the supine body of her husband, Shiva, with a garland of decapitated heads around her neck.
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