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History

The origins and early development of Freemasonry are a matter of some debate and conjecture. A poem known as the "Regius Manuscript" has been dated to approximately 1390 and is the oldest known Masonic text. There is evidence to suggest that there were Masonic lodges in existence in Scotland as early as the late 16th century (for example the Lodge at Kilwinning, Scotland, has records that date to the late 16th century, and is mentioned in the Second Schaw Statutes (1599) which specified that "ye warden of ye lug of Kilwynningtaktryall of ye airt of memories and science yrof, of everiefellowe of craft and everieprenteiss according to ayr of yr vocations"). There are clear references to the existence of lodges in England by the mid-17th century. Freemasonry is a fraternal organization that arose from obscure origins in the late 16th to early 17th century. Freemasonry now exists in various forms all over the world, with a membership estimated at around six million, including approximately 150,000 under the jurisdictions of the Grand Lodge of Scotland and Grand Lodge of Ireland, over a quarter of a million under the jurisdiction of the United Grand Lodge of England and just under two million in the United States. The fraternity is administratively organized into independent Grand Lodges or sometimes Orients, each of which governs its own jurisdiction, which consists of subordinate (or constituent) Lodges. The various Grand Lodges recognize each other, or not, based upon adherence to landmarks (a Grand Lodge will usually deem other Grand Lodges who share common landmarks to be regular, and those that do not to be "irregular" or "clandestine"). There are also appendant bodies, which are organizations related to the main branch of Freemasonry, but with their own independent administration.

Freemasonry comes to India

In 1717 A.D. when an era of comparative peace and harmony dawned on the European scene, the Grand Lodge of England took shape at a meeting of the local Lodges of London, to elect a Grand Master. A United constitution was drawn up and recognized by all the Lodges. A democratic tradition in the election of the Worshipful Master of a Lodge was prescribed. The Worshipful Master was authorized to appoint his team of officers.

It is therefore of interest that within 12 years of the constitution of the Grand Lodge of England, constituted for the purpose of exercising supervision over the lodges in London, and its neighboring areas, a petition was sent by a few Brethren in India to constitute a Provincial Grand Lodge in Calcutta. The Petition having been granted, a Provincial Grand Master was appointed to supervise Masonic activity in India and the Far East in 1728 A.D.

Full details regarding how the First Lodge was constituted in India, are preserved in the Minutes of the Grand Lodge in London. First a petition was presented on December 28, 1728 and at the end of the minutes of that meeting, the text of the "Deputation" from the Grand Master: "to Empower and Authorize our well beloved Brother Pomfret....that he do, in our place and stead, constitute a regular Lodge, in due form at Fort William in Bengal in the East Indies...." This was signed and sealed "the 6th day of February 1728/9 and in the year of Masonry 5732 (which shows that Grand Lodge used Usher's Chronology in dating the Masonic era - as the Grand Lodge of Scotland still .

The Lodge at Fort William -- that is, Calcutta -- appears in the Engraved List of 1730, as No. 72. It was to meet at Fort William in Calcutta. The coat of Arms was adopted from the East India Company a golden lion, rampant guardant, supporting between the forepaws a regal crown. In 1729, Captain Ralph Farwinter was appointed "Provisional Grand Master for East India in Bengal" and also James Dawson as "Provincial Grand Master" for East Indies.

The Provincial Grand Lodge of Madras was formed in 1752 and The Provincial Grand Lodge of Bombay was created in 1758. Although it appeared in the Roll of Grand Lodge there is no record of how it came into being.

The first Indian Mason was Omdat-ul-Omrah, Nawab Carnatic initiated in 1775. The doors to Hindu Masonry was flung wide-open might one say, by the unstoppable determination of one Mr. P.C. Dutt of Calcutta to become a member of the craft. After much opposition from the Provincial Grand Master (Hugh Sanderman) and nine years after he was proposed for initiation Mr.Dutt became Bro. Dutt in Anchor and Hope, No. 234, in 1872. Twenty-three years later, he was Deputy District Grand Master.

 

THE BIRTH OF THE GRAND LODGE OF INDIA

It was towards the end of October 1959 that the Most W. Grand Masters of England, Ireland and the Immediate Past Grand Master Mason of Scotland met in London to discuss the future of Freemasonry in India. The three Grand Masters considered that "an independent Grand Lodge of India is desirable and that its establishment should....be gradually but actively pursued."

A representative Steering Committee was set up consisting exclusively of Indian Brethren in proportion to the number of Lodges under each of the three Constitutions, with R.W.Bro Lt.Gen. Sir Harold Williams, K.B.E., C.B., as Chairman, with the aim of establishing an independent Grand Lodge of India on the best possible foundations. The Steering Committee met at important centers of Masonic activities in the North, East, South and West of India and its report was unanimously signed early October 1960. On December 1, the three Grand Masters issued "Notes on the proposed Grand Lodge of India for the information and guidance of Lodges in India." Therein they reiterated their declared attitude towards an independent Grand Lodge of India, but left it to Lodges in India to decide whether to opt for or against joining such a body, adding that if the Brethren in India decided in favor of an independent Grand Lodge, they would accept the decision and establish with it the closest fraternal relations and that Lodges not wishing to participate would continue to enjoy the existing rights under their respective Grand Lodges.

Out of a total of 277 individual Lodges in India (excluding Pakistan, Ceylon and Aden, which were excluded for the poll) 145 opted for the new Grand Lodge of India. This represented a little over 52 per cent.

INAUGURAL MEETING

The Grand Lodge of India was officially constituted at ten minutes to six o'clock on Friday the 24th November 1961 in the Ashoka Hotel, New Delhi. There were three delegations from the Grand Lodge of Scotland, Ireland and England in that order.

After the three delegations were received and greeted, the Grand Master Mason of Scotland proceeded with the Consecration. Thereafter, The Deputy Grand Master of Ireland officially constituted the new Grand Lodge saying "in the name of the Grand Lodges of England, Ireland and Scotland and by the command of their Grand Master, I constitute and form you, my good Brethren into the Sovereign Grand Lodge of India, you are empowered henceforth to exercise all the rights and privileges of a Grand Lodge according to the ancient usage's and landmarks of the Craft. May the Grand Architect of the Universe prosper, direct and counsel you in all your proceedings."

After the Consecration and Constitution, the Deputy Grand Master of England assumed the Throne and installed Major General Dr. Sir Syed Raza Ali Khan, G.C.I.E.,D.Litt., LL.D., His Highness The Nawab of Rampur, as the first Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of India. The Aprons, Collars, Gauntlets etc. for the new Lodge were provided jointly by the three parent Grand Lodges.

 In addition to the three parent Grand Lodges, the M.W. Grand Master of the Grand Lodges of the State of Israel, the M.W. Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Alberta (Canada) and about 1,491 Brethren from all over India were present at this historic event.

Masonic Temple

In Freemasonry, a Masonic Temple or Masonic Hall is the room or structure where a Masonic Lodge meets. Masonic Temple may also refer to an abstract spiritual goal and the conceptual ritualistic space of a meeting.

Development and history

Goose and Gridiron tavern, where the Grand Lodge of England was founded.

In the early years of Freemasonry, from the 17th through the 18th centuries, it was most common for Masonic Lodges to form their Masonic Temples either in private homes or in the private rooms of public taverns or halls which could be regularly rented out for Masonic purposes. This was less than ideal, however; meeting in public spaces required the transportation, set-up and dismantling of increasingly elaborate paraphernalia every time the lodge met. Lodges began to look for permanent facilities, dedicated purely to Masonic use.

First Temples

The first Masonic Hall was built in 1765, in Marseille, France. A decade later in May, 1775, the cornerstone of what would come to be known as Freemasons' Hall, London, was laid in solemn ceremonial form spurring a trend that would continue to present day.  Most lodges, however, could not afford to build their own facilities and instead rented rooms above commercial establishments (hotels, banks and opera houses were the most common landlords). With permanent facilities, the term "Masonic Temple" began to be applied not just to the symbolic formation of the Temple, but also to the physical place in which this took place. It began to be applied to the lodge rooms themselves. (A similar transfer took place with the term Masonic Lodge, which in ritual terms refers to the people assembled and not to the place of assemblage. In common usage, however, it began to be applied to the place as well as the people.)

The Belleville Masonic Temple,Belleville, Michigan. An example of a smaller Masonic Temple

In the latter half of the nineteenth century, as the popularity of Freemasonry grew, more and more lodges began to have the financial wherewithal to own their own premises. In many locations this was spurred by changing tax laws that allowed fraternal and benevolent societies to own property and lease space without being taxed as commercial landlords. In larger towns and cities, where there were many lodges, it became economical for groups of lodges to band together and either purchase or build their own buildings with both commercial space and lodge rooms in the same building. The rents from the commercial space going to the upkeep of the lodge rooms. This was especially true in cities where the Grand Lodge met. These buildings, too, began to be referred to as "Masonic Temples", "Masonic Halls", or "Masonic Lodges.

In smaller towns the trend was different. Here, instead of building large impressive buildings in the hopes of attracting multiple commercial tenants, the local lodges tended to build more modest structures, with space for a single tenant, a small meeting hall for public rental, or no rental space at all. In addition, especially in the United States, lodges founded in established communities would purchase buildings that had historic value as lodge members wanted their new lodge to be associated with the history of their local community like their older counterparts. Thus they looked to purchase old churches, schools and the homes of community founders, which they would convert into lodge meeting space. These too began to be known as "Masonic Temples".

Heyday and decline

The Detroit Masonic Temple, Detroit, Michigan. The world's largest Masonic Temple.

Masonic Temple of Santa Cruz de Tenerife(Spain).

The 1920s marked a heyday for Freemasonry, especially in the United States. By 1930, over 12% of the adult male population of the United States were members of the fraternity. The dues generated by such numbers allowed state Grand Lodges to build on truly monumental scales. Typical of the era are theDayton Masonic Centerand Detroit Masonic Temple(the largest Masonic Temple in the world).

However, the good times were not to last. The Great Depression hit Freemasonry as hard as it hit the rest of the world, and both local Lodges and Grand Lodges turned away from erecting buildings and towards helping those in need. World War II saw resources were focused on supporting the War effort. While there was something of a resurgence in the 1950s, the anti-establishment attitudes of the 1960s and 1970s affected membership numbers even further. Lodges began to close and merge. Many lodges could no longer afford to maintain their buildings and sold them to developers. Many Masonic Temples and Halls were converted to non-masonic uses. They were converted to completely commercial spaces, hotels, night clubs, and even condominiums. Many lodges have returned to renting rooms, and there is even a small movement calling for Freemasonry to return to its roots and open their Masonic Temples in taverns.

Naming conventions

When Freemasons first began building dedicated structures the more frequently used term for a Masonic Temple was Masonic Hall. This began to change in the mid 19th Century when the larger Masonic Halls most often found in major cities began to be named with the term Masonic Temple. As time went on more and more American buildings began using the name Masonic Temple regardless of their size or location. In US Freemasonry today the term Masonic Hall is experiencing a revival motivated in part by the public misconception that Masons conduct a form of religious worship in their Temples.

Usage

Though Masonic Temples in their most basic definition serve as a home to a Masonic Lodge they can also serve many other purposes as well. Smaller Masonic Temples will often consist of nothing more than a meeting room with a kitchen/dining area attached. Larger Masonic Temples can contain multiple meeting rooms, concert halls, libraries, and museums as well as non-masonic commercial and office space.

Design

Since their inception the proper design of a Masonic Temple has been a serious subject debate among Masonic scholars. And because of that ongoing debate a number of different standards have been proposed throughout time. Despite attempts at standardization, Masonic Temples often vary widely in design. Even the layout of the lodge room will differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

 

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