They are one of the world's oldest secretive society whose members included Motilal Nehru, Vivekananda, JRD Tata, King George VI and George Washington, among others. Their temples and lodges are specimens of grand architecture and their arcane rituals have inspired as much curiosity as fear. They are the Freemasons.
Freemasonry, an esoteric fraternity which owes its origin in the late 16th to 17th century in Scotland and England came to India through the East India Company in the early 18th century. They are known by their most recognisable symbol of an interlaced 'Square and Compass', found on the facade of all Freemason's Hall.
The Grand Lodge of India (GLI) is the main governing body of Freemasonry within India. It was officially constituted on November 24, 1961 and celebrated its Golden Jubilee last year. Before the establishment of its own order there were three delegations from the Grand Lodge of Scotland, Grand Lodge of Ireland and Grand Lodge of England.
"Our first lodge was a military one established by the EIC in 1730. After the British took it back to England post- Independence, the oldest surviving lodge, now in India is the Calcutta's Freemason's Hall, known as 'The Star in the East'," Ambarish Singh Roy, a Freemason and Assistant Regional Grand Secretary, Regional Grand Lodge of Eastern India told PTI.
The fraternity is administratively organised into independent Grand Lodges or sometimes Orients, each of which governs its own jurisdiction, which consists of subordinate or daughter Lodges. Grand Lodges are independent and sovereign bodies that govern Masonry in a given country, state, or geographical area (termed a jurisdiction).
Made famous by the bestsellers of Dan Brown, like 'The Da Vinci Code', the Freemasons society commands a global membership of over 6 millions and their number in India is only growing. Their secret and elaborate rituals involve a
checkered-board floor and their lodges are run well by 'Grand Masters'.
India's first President Rajendra Prasad, first Vice- President S Radhakrishnan, Sir Phirozeshah Mehta, C Rajagopalachari, Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy, the Nawab Of Pataudi Mansur Ali Khan, Maharaja Jivaji Rao Scindia, among other eminent Indians, were also Freemasons, according to information on the Regional Grand Lodge of North India.
Ambarish and other Freemasons from around the world participated in their 12th World Conference and 51st Grand Festival of India organised recently in South India.
The two-day conference in Mahabalipuram saw around 37 Grand Masters from their respective Lodges and carried the theme of