Lodge Cochin: ‘Secretive’ hub of Freemasons since 1921

Secretive societies have always captured the public imagination, with their presence in literature and films.
​  Lodge Cochin   ​
​ Lodge Cochin  ​

KOCHI:  Secretive societies have always captured the public imagination, with their presence in literature and films. Novels like Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code to films such as Prithviraj’s Lucifer have fuelled discussions and conspiracy theories on groups such as the Priory of Sion and the  Illuminati, and their mysterious powers. 

It may come as a surprise that a ‘secretive’ – or misunderstood, rather – group known as the Freemasons has been active in Kochi for the past 100 years, with its meeting place at an old building near Nazareth beach –  Lodge Cochin. 

According to the Freemasons, their history traces back to the Biblical figure Hiram Abiff, who was the chief architect of King Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem. He was killed by three men who sought to learn his secrets. While the exact origins of the Freemasons are shrouded in mystery, historians believe they started as a guild of stonemasons who guarded their trade secrets and knowledge.

Masonry, as a fraternity with a codified constitution, emerged in England with the founding of the Grand Lodge of England on July 24, 1717. Important historical figures, from famous Mozart to George Washington, were said to be part of the Freemasons. 

The fraternity came to India with the arrival of the British, and several luminaries – including Swami Vivekananda, J R D Tata and Motilal Nehru – had reportedly associated with it at various points of time. 
Lodge Cochin or Koder Hall, established in 1921, is a historic landmark in Fort Kochi. It has served as a meeting place for Masons in the city for over 100 years.  

Places where Masons hold their meetings are called ‘Lodges’ because, in the past, masonic meetings were held in local lodges where members who travelled from afar could stay. Lodge Cochin members say the fraternity is just like any other social welfare organisation, but with a set of elaborate, unique rituals. 

The Kochi unit falls under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of England, and the members focus on “the betterment of their community”, says senior Mason W C Thomas, who has been part of the fraternity since 1976.  “We do a lot of charity and focus on three areas, housing, health, and education. We wanted to do something big as part of our centenary, and we are actively considering this,” he adds. 

“The lodge was established in 1921 and the centenary was in 2021. Due to the pandemic, we weren’t able to do anything.” As a charitable project, Thomas says, Lodge Cochin has undertaken the renovation of a school in Vypin, and the reconstruction of some houses in Chathamangalam and Tiruvalla. “We mostly use our own funds, and external support only while taking up large projects,” he adds. 

Thomas says the Freemasons don’t seek out members. “Those who are interested in joining can talk to one of our senior masons. Freemasonry is a secular fraternity. The only non-negotiable requirement is belief in God, any God, and the one joining should do so only on their own accord,” he says.

There & Then
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