Nestled in thegardens of Bealings House, of Great Bealings in Suffolk, stands a four-sidedstone pyramid, ten feet high by ten feet wide, surmounted by a three-facedsculptural head of the Indian god Siva. Embedded in one of its sides is anothersculpture, this time of the god Brahma. This unique monument was erected in the1820s by the soldier, antiquarian, scholar, collector and traveller MajorEdward Moor (1770-1848).
Moor, who spent much of his early life in India (hefirst travelled there aged twelve years old as a cadet and by the age ofseventeen was a lieutenant in the Bombay army, a proficient linguist and anexpert in Indian law) was fascinated by the Hindu faith and the religiousculture of the sub-continent. From 1796 to 1806, under the patronage of SirCharles Malet, the British resident to the Peshwa’s court at Poona, and JonathanDuncan, Governor of Bombay, Moor acquired over 1000 objects including justunder 400 small bronze and brass figures of Hindu gods, as well as manuscripts,weapons, coins, and paintings, mostly from western India and the Deccan. Moor’sbooks frequently reference his collecting activities and visits toarchaeological sites. He was particularly fascinated by the island ofElephanta, near Bombay, which had a great cave temple that was dominated by arock cut stone sculpture of the three faces of Siva as Mahesamurti.
TheBealings pyramid could thus be seen as a fitting miniature version ofElephanta’s most important sculpture. Moor justified much of his collectingthrough the language of ‘preservation’, for example, he details how he cameacross the two sculptures that ended up as part of his ‘rural pyramid’.