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Freemasonry in India


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Freemasonry in India

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  5. 5. Until recently, there were two District Grand Lodges under the Grand Lodge ofScotland, namely the District Grand Lodge of Eastern India (Scottish) and theDistrict Grand Lodge of Western India (Scottish). Both these were merged intoone in 1992. 5
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  7. 7. At one time in the past, there used to be a few French and Dutch Lodges inIndia too. However, very few records of these are now available.Each of the four constitutions have their own set of officers with the District orProvincial or Regional Grand Master as the head. Although the District orProvincial or Regional Grand Lodges are subservient to their respective GrandLodges, they enjoy a status almost equivalent to a Grand Lodge. Needless tosay, each of the four constitutions have their own sets of rituals, which differ invarying degrees from each other, even though the central theme is the same.It is not uncommon for Masons to be members of more than one Lodge, andacross different constitutions. This is one of the reasons why it is very difficultto assess the total number of Masons in India.This shows the Map of India and the locations of Scottish Lodges, and thenumber of Lodges in each city. Bombay has 14 Scottish Lodges of the total of29 Lodges is India. 7
  8. 8. I may mention here, that unlike most Lodges in the US, all our Lodges alwaysopen in the first degree. All business matters are transacted in the first degree.Any resolution or propositions are also moved and passed in the first degreewith the provision that only Master Masons are eligible to move or vote on aresolution, but in some Lodges, even the Entered Apprentices may vote onany propositions.If there is a candidate for the Fellow of the Craft Degree or Master Mason’sDegree, then the Lodge is progressively passed and raised to the second andthird degree as required. Also the Lodge is always closed in the first degree,after it is progressively reduced to the first degree, except that the ScottishConstitution permits a Lodge to be closed (only) directly from a higher degree.The Installation of the Master of the Lodge is done in a Board of InstalledMasters, which in English and Indian Lodges is opened after the first degree,whereas in the Scottish Lodges is opened after the Master Mason’s Degree.Hence, after the Installation is over in a Scottish Lodge, and the Board ofInstalled Masters is closed, the Lodge automatically resumes in the MasterMason’s degree. All Master Masons who were retired are re-admitted, theproclamation and salutations are done. The Lodge is reduced to the Fellow of 8
  9. 9. the Craft degree, all Fellows of the Craft are readmitted, with proclamation andsalutations again. The Lodge is then reduced to the Entered Apprentice degreeand all Entered Apprentices are readmitted, with proclamation and salutationsfor the third time. Finally, the investiture of all the other officers takes place,and the Lodge is closed in the first degree.At every Lodge meeting, just before closing, a charity box (more often a bag)is passed around and collections are made. This is an item on the agenda ofthe meeting, usually put down as “To honour the charity box”. The Deaconsusually pass the bag around the Lodge, and while the bag is proffered to aperson, the Deacon turns his face away, so as not to see the amount beingdeposited. The bags are then taken to the treasurer’s table, opened andcounted and the total amount collected is announced. The amounts may notbe great, but the fact that they are collected at every meeting, and deposited inthe charity account of the Lodge every month, adds up to a fair sum for theyear. At the end of the year, usually on the installations night, the donations forthe year are announced. Under special circumstances, the charity fund may bedrawn upon at any time during the year to provide particularly emergent relief,if it duly moved and approved in open Lodge. 8
  10. 10. Before I proceed with the degrees beyond the Craft, let me give you a look atthe Freemasons Building in Bombay. The foundation stone of this building waslaid in 1897, almost 168 years after Freemasonry first came to India (in 1729).The main temple – the Sandhurst Temple – was consecrated in 1899. Thisbuilding has four temple rooms, and four dining halls. On any evening, at atime four Masonic meetings can be held simultaneously. One hall is the MainHall, where all District or Provincial or Regional Grand Lodge meetings areheld, as also the Installation Meetings of Lodges are held. The building alsohouses the Offices of the English District Grand Lodge of Bombay andNorthern India, the Provincial Grand Lodge of Ireland in India, and theRegional Grand Lodge of Western India. The District Grand Lodge of India(Scottish) has it’s offices in another building close by. The building also has agood Library, and a Grand Masters’ Room. The Grand Masters’ Room is usedby the District or Provincial or Regional Grand Masters most of the time, andby the Grand Masters (of any Constitution) when they visit India. The buildingalso has a huge kitchen, where the banquets are prepared daily for the Lodgesmeeting on that day, and each individual lodge may have a different menu,depending on the individual preferences. As many of the diners arevegetarians, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian meals are served. 9
  11. 11. This is a view of the Main Temple – the Sandhurst Temple as seen from theWest, behind the SW’s chair. It can accommodate about 120 Masons. Somepopular meetings have a bigger attendance and a row or two of extra chairshave to be put in the front row. 10
  12. 12. This is another view of the same hall, from the North-West corner of the hall.The checkered floor with the tessellated border and a blazing star in thecenter, is seen in the middle of the room, with the trestle-board in the south-west corner. There is a beautiful organ in the South, behind the JuniorWarden’s chair. I may add that the ceiling (not seen) is blue in colour, withlights representing the Sun, and the Moon, and the ‘Bright Morning Star’ intheir appropriate places. In addition, there are seven stars, in the form of theconstellation of the Great Bear, with the pointers pointing to the North.The Altar, as shown here, is in the East, immediately in front of the WorshipfulMaster’s table. This is the position in English and Indian Lodges. The ScottishLodges have the Altar in the middle of the room. The Altar is on rollers, andcan be moved from one location to another as required. 11
  13. 13. This is the organ behind the Junior Warden’s chair. The electric bellows areoutside the room, where there is a small passage.This building is located in South Bombay, right in the midst of the businesslocality. The magnificent Victoria Terminus, where the local suburban trainsterminate, is just a stone’s throw away, making it easily accessible even forsuburban brethren. Besides, this locality is also well served by the bus networkfrom all over the huge city.The Freemason’s Hall of Bombay, with its four temple rooms, is the meetingplace for over a hundred and thirty Masonic bodies, drawn from all the fourconstitutions, most of them meeting every month, some once in two months,with a few meeting four times a year. 12
  14. 14. This table shows the number of different Masonic bodies under each of thefour constitutions. The first column is English Constitution, the second is Irish,the third is Scottish and the fourth is Grand Lodge of India.The Craft Lodges confer the three craft degrees, but some Scottish CraftLodges also have the warrant to confer the Mark Master’s Degree. I took myMark Degree from my Craft Lodge. In English and Indian constitutions, theMark and the Royal Ark Mariner Degrees are under a different Grand bodywhich alone has jurisdiction over these degrees. Besides, in English andIndian constitutions, it is not necessary to be a Mark Master to be exalted tothe Royal Arch. One can become a Royal Arch mason once one has beenraised to the third degree in a Craft Lodge. In Irish and Scottish constitutions, itis necessary to have taken the Mark degree to become a Royal Arch Mason.However, in both these constitutions, the Mark Lodge is not a separate body,but is attached to a Royal Arch Chapter, and meets only within the Royal ArchChapter. Hence, they do not appear in the table. An Irish Royal Arch Masonneeds to be a Mark Master before he can be exalted. Besides, the Irish RoyalArch is completely different degree from the other three constitutions. It’slegend is based not on the re-building of the Temple after the Babylonishcaptivity, but much earlier, when some major repairs were undertaken to theTemple. The three principals, which in other constitutions are Zerubbabel,Haggai, and Joshua are not the Principals in an Irish Chapter, which has TheExcellent King, The High Priest and The Chief Scribe as the principals (in that 13
  15. 15. order!), collectively addressed as The King and Council. 13
  16. 16. The Scottish Royal Arch Chapter is another story. To be a Scottish Royal ArchMason, one has to be a Mark Master, and an Excellent Master. Both thesedegrees can be taken in Lodges attached to a Scottish Chapter, if thecandidate has not already taken the Mark Degree in a Craft Lodge. I maymention here that the Excellent Masters degree is not to be confused with theMost Excellent Masters Degree of the York Rites. Briefly, it consists of theceremonial of passing the veils, which is a part of the Exaltation in the YorkRites, as also in the Irish Royal Arch. In Scottish usage, this is a separatedegree. Scottish Royal Arch Constitution also has jurisdictions over a few otherdegrees beyond the Royal Arch, and may optionally have Lodges and Councilsattached to a parent chapter to confer these additional degrees after the RoyalArch.A full-fledged Scottish Royal Arch Chapter has these bodies attached to it. TheSupreme Royal Arch Chapter of Scotland has jurisdiction over the working ofthese degrees. In India, the Supreme Grand Chapter has a local GrandChapter – United Scottish Royal Arch Freemasonry in India and Ceylon(USRAFIC) on its rolls. Each of these attached bodies have their own officersand heads, who may not necessarily be the same as the Royal Arch Officers.This is why Scottish Mark and Royal Arch Mariner Lodges are not shown in theprevious table, as in English and Indian Constitutions. Most of these degrees 14
  17. 17. are equivalent to some of the York Rite Degrees, but we do not have them asa system of rites – governed by a central Grand Jurisdiction as is the casehere in America. There are no bodies offering the Knight Templar Degrees. 14
  18. 18. One very popular Order in India is the Order of the Secret Monitor, or theOrder of the Brotherhood of David and Jonathan. The Conclaves of this orderin India are governed by the District Grand Conclave of Bombay and NorthernIndia under the authority of The Supreme Grand Conclave of England andWales. I may mention that this Order is of Dutch origin, which was first broughtto New Amsterdam (now New York) by the early Dutch settlers, from where itwent to England and from England it spread to India, Australia and SouthAfrica, where it flourishes, whereas it has practically disappeared here in theUS. I am told that it has been brought under the jurisdiction of the AmericanAllied Masonic Degrees. There are two degrees in this order, and the third isthe Installation degree. One is inducted as a Brother of David and Jonathan,and then received as a Prince of the Order. On being elected to the chair, oneis Installed and Commissioned as the Worthy Supreme Ruler of a Conclave.The Allied Masonic Degrees is another Order which has four councils in India,one being in Bombay. They are directly under the Supreme Grand Council inLondon, there being no District level Grand body here. The degrees conferredunder this Order are almost identical to the 5 degrees conferred here by theAmerican Allied Masonic Degrees, namely St. Lawrence the Martyr, Knight ofConstantinople, Grand Tilers of Solomon, Red Cross of Babylon and TheGrand High Priest. 15
  19. 19. I have very little information of the other two Orders, as I am not a member inthese. These are Christian Orders and open only to those who believe in theChristian Trinity. Very briefly – the Rose Croix is of the Princes of Rose Croixof Heredom of Ancient and Accepted Rite for England and Wales. There arethree Chapters operating in India, one in Calcutta, one in Bombay and one inPune.The Order of the Roman Eagle is a Masonic and Military Order of the RedCross of Constantine, and the Appendant Orders of the Holy Sepulchre and ofSt. John the Evangelist, acting under the Authority of the Grand ImperialConclave in London. Till recently, there was only one Conclave operatingoutside Europe in Bombay, but last year one was consecrated in Thailand.Regular Freemasonry in India is an all-male affair. There are none of theAppendant bodies admitting ladies operating in India. There are however otherorganizations, purporting to be Masonic, which admit ladies. The regularMasonic bodies do not have any connections with them, and would like tobelieve that they do not exist. 16
  20. 20. Now I come to some interesting parts of my presentation – the spice thatmakes the Indian Curry distinctively different from the soup or the stew. Just asthe spices used to make the Indian curry have a wide and varied flavour andtaste, so does the multiplicity of the cultures, languages and religions go tomake up Freemasonry in India. Here in our Lodges, one can find Hindus,Muslims, Parsis, Sikhs, Christians, Jews, Jains, Buddhists – you name it, allsitting side by side. All our rituals are conducted in English, with the exceptionof one Lodge in Hyderabad, under the Grand Lodge of India, which is the onlyLodge in the world that conducts it’s rituals in Urdu. Urdu is one of the over100 recognized Indian languages, and is also the National language ofPakistan. And come to the festive board, and one will find conversations inmany languages, depending on who is talking and who is not listening. 17
  21. 21. In almost every Lodge in India, irrespective of the Constitution, there are fiveVolumes of Sacred Law, opened side by side, upon the Altar. Yes! Our Altarsare big enough for that! The Square and the Compasses are placed in themanner of the Degree on either the Bible, or on that holy book which theWorshipful Master of the Lodge holds in reverence. Or, if there is a candidateto be obligated, it may in some Lodges, be placed on the Volume of thecandidate’s faith. At times, it so happens that a candidate not subscribing toany of the above faith has to be obligated. In such cases, the candidate isasked to bring his own book of his faith, which is then also placed on the Altar,side by side with the other books.On account of the several cultural and religious differences, a certain amountof trivial laxity is usually tolerated in our Lodges. For instance, when a prayer isbeing recited, it is normal for a Christian to uncover his head. Quite to thecontrary, in quite a few other faiths, it is considered improper to have the headuncovered during prayers. So, during the recitation of the prayers, someorthodox heads get covered. After the obligation, when the ritual requires theWorshipful Master to say "... you will now seal this obligation by kissing theVolume of Sacred Law ...", it is not uncommon in India for the Master to say " will seal this obligation on the Volume of Sacred Law in a manner mostbinding on your conscience ...". Because the manner of reverencing the 18
  22. 22. Volume of Sacred Law is very different for each individual, and some dare nottouch their lips on the Volume of Sacred Law. It is very interesting to observethe several different ways that are "most binding". 18
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