An historic event is going to take place tomorrow in the city. For probably the first time in its history (at least definitely for the first time in India), a freemasons meeting is going to be witnessed by non-masons also. On this momentous occasion, Dr.B.Biswakumar, the eminent neurosurgeon from our city is going to take charge as the Grand Master of India. And making the occasion even more historic is the participation of our Governor, Dr.Surjit Singh Barnala in the function.
This post is a collection of some pieces of information about Freemasonry in Madras that I have been able to gather over the past week.
1.Freemasonry came to the Coromandel Coast in 1752, with the formation of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Madras. This was the second place in India where a freemasons lodge was formed. Freemasonry had arrived in India in 1729 with the formation of a lodge at Fort William, Calcutta.
Edmund Pascal, an officer in the army was appointed as the first Provincial Grand Master of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Madras.
2.The first lodge in Madras city was formed in 1767 at Fort St.George. This lodge ceased to exist in 1791.
3.The oldest lodge in Madras which is still surviving is Lodge Perfect Unanimity. This lodge was consecrated on the 9th of October 1786
4.The first Indian to be initiated into Freemasonry was the Nawab of Carnatic, Omdal-Ul-Omrah Bahadur, who was initiated in 1775 in a lodge in Trichinopoly, then part of the Madras Presidency.
5.The first lodge exclusively for the natives was the Carnatic Lodge, consecrated in 1883. This lodge still exists.
6. The first Hindu to be initiated into freemasonry was Ranaganatha Shastry in 1857. He was initiated in Lodge Perfect Unanimity.
7.Lord Elphinstone,in 1840, Lord Connemara in 1888 and Lord Ampthill in 1901 were appointed as District Grand Masters of Madras. They were also Governors of Madras at the time of their appointment as District Grand Masters.
8. Some places in Madras where Masonic Meetings have taken place:
(A) The present day DGP building on the Beach Road- Was constructed by Lodge Perfect Unanimity in 1840 at a then princely sum of Rs.25000. The Police occupied it some time in the 1860s.
(B) The Pantheon- A public hall used for a variety of programmes, mostly entertainment which stood where the Government Museum stands today
(C) The College Hall in Nungambakkam- part of the DPI campus today.
(D) The Banqueting Hall (now known as Rajaji Hall) inside the Government Estate- This was where Lord Connemara was appointed District Grand Master.
(E) Masonic Hall, Vepery-Am unable to locate where this place is located. Another place is a hotel named Cotsgrave hotel in Vepery-have not heard of this place.
(F) Biden Home in Royapuram- A place for retired seamen- I think some part of it at least still exists
(G) St.Thomas Mount- Am unable to locate the exact place.
(H) Some places in Mount Road, including private residences.
The current premises on Ethiraj Salai or Commander-in-Chief Road as it was earlier known were inaugurated in 1925 by the then Governor of Madras, George Goschen.
Hope to learn about this movement in Madras.