BENGALURU: On July 17, another royal scion Yaduveer Krishnadatta Chamaraja Wadiyar will be initiated as a Mason or a Freemason. Before him, his uncle Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wadiyar Bahadur and his grandfather Jayachamarajendra Wadiyar were also Masons.This is shared by Anurag Sahae, the Assistant Regional Grand Master of India, over a chat at his fellow Mason’s advertising agency. If you go by movies and popular myths, such a revelation would have been followed by the murders of the Mason and the listener; instead we are served tea.
Freemasons or Masons, a guild of masons that formed in the early 11 C in England and Scotland, are believed to be fanatically secretive. But, over the years, the powers-that-be have decided to make a more conscious effort to be more transparent with the general public. Sahae, who has been given charge of the Masonry in Bengaluru region which includes Mysuru, Mandya, Tumakuru and KGF, says, “I can tell you where the lodges are, who are the Masons in the city, who the Grand Master is... it is Haracharan Singh Ranaut and the Regional Grand Master for the south is Abraham Markos, but I cannot tell you the rituals.”
The rituals followed by the Masons have spawned memes and conspiracy theories.
Internet sites are dedicated to revealing the secret handshakes, the initiation ceremony involving a hangman’s noose and a rolled up trouser leg and pass codes. But Sahae or any of the Masons won’t confirm it. “It was put in place to keep imposters out,” he says. Powerful people like the rulers of England, Scotland and Ireland were believed to have been Masons, and secrets were shared at their meetings.
But this secrecy also kept the good men out, from fear. “For the longest time, my wife thought there is something wrong with me... but we are not a secret organisation like the Klu Klux Klan,” says Sahae, of the collective which started as a guild 300 years ago. There are many conflicting and dovetailing histories of the Masons. There is one that says that they started as a guild of travelling stone masons at the turn of the 10C, who built great cathedrals and temples after the Normal Invasion of England. The developed a series rituals were to keep the imposters away from the guild, which came to be a collective of the most powerful in England, Scotland and Ireland.
You have to be atleast 21 years to be a Mason. “Younger people, as young as 18 years, have been approaching us to be initiated into the order... they read about us on the Internet,” says Sahae. “But men have to be mature to be a Mason. A Mason has to be a believer of God, has to come out of his own free will and has to be a good man.” Man being the operative word because women cannot be Masons.
There are few women’s only Lodges in the US now. Lodges, by the way, are where the Masons meet for their regular meetings.
The Lodge Sahae frequents meets every third Thursday and have been meeting so for the past 110 years.
“There are 24 lodges in the Bengaluru region,” says Sahae, adding there are 800 to 900 Masons in the city. Yaduveer’s initiation will be at Sri Jayachamaraja 308 GLI in Mysuru, opposite the Mysuru Palace.
Sahae’s parent lodge, or where he was initiated, is the one that stands on Primrose Road. This also houses an elaborate Temple.
Inside the Sacred Temple
The Temple inside the Lodge on Primrose Road is a long room with a chequerboard-design floor. Inside is a circular arrangement of chairs, some of which date back to a hundred years. “Bengaluru masonry is older than a hundred years,” says Sahae. The entrance of the temple is flanked by two elaborately carved pillars, like the ones King Solomon’s Temple are believed to have had. At the far end of the room is the altar at which the Worshipful Master sits on a high chair.
“The Worshipful Master is elected once every year by the Masons, as are the two Wardens, two Deacons and a Tyler under him,” says Sahae. The appointed Tyler sits with a drawn sword outside the Temple when the meeting is in session. Inside the Temple, the Senior Warden sits facing the Worshipful Master and Junior Warden sits to the Master’s left. To the Master’s right sits the Treasurer. Each of the chairs and staff (held by the Master of the Ceremony) have a symbol carved into them. The symbol resembles a diamond and is made up of two masonry tools -- the compass and the square -- crossing each other.