|This article originally appeared in the July/August 1988 issue of Light News (Vol. 1, No 5), Houston, TX|
It is a November night like so many others in the south Indian city of Hyderabad. Everywhere one turns, people can be seen attending to their affairs; shopkeepers selling their wares: men standing around and gossiping at the corner panwala, slowly chewing the familiar concoction while occasionally spitting a blood-red mixture of tobacco juice and paan at the nearest wall. Women are covered from head to foot in the typical black burkha, scolding their children as they walk along the footpath. Everywhere the air is a comfortably cool temperature, perfumed with the musky scent that is typical of India.
I am traveling in an older model car with two compatriots, one is a Telugu man who owns a printing company. The other is a Maharastrian who is a bank employee by day, but by night is a high ranking member of a secret society. The car passes Nampali station and moves on toward Gosha Mahal. We are proceeding toward the headquarters of this organization.
We stop at an impressive piece of architecture. I am told building has been headquarters to this Brotherhood since it was given to them by the Nizam of Hyderabad. We pass into the building and my attention is attracted to two massive marble tablets inscribed in Persian. Everything stands as silent testimony to the centuries that this Brotherhood has existed. Passing further, everywhere the mystic symbols of this ancient order may be seen. Everything reminds me of the stories of their secrecy. I remember rumors of the horrible death by mutilation which is supposed to be meted out to interlopers. I wonder if I should be here at all. As we move into the darkness, up a flight of massive stairs, it becomes obvious that outsiders are seldom allowed this far. We emerge into the light and continue down a corridor, where I see three elderly men sitting at a table discussing their business. Soon they become aware of my presence. They smile and welcome me to Deccan Lodge number 20, the local Masonic Lodge.
Oh. East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet." These immortal words of the famous Freemason, Rudyard Kipling, perhaps never have been disproved more eloquently than in the situation of Freemasonry in India. Freemasonry is an ancient order which has existed in Europe for many centuries. Its origins lay in the bands of craftsmen who traveled Europe during the middle ages, constructing churches and other public works. Their philosophy of Brotherhood and free thought did not rest well with the established religious institutions of the time. They were, therefore, driven underground. This is the origin of their desire for secrecy.
European imperialism in the last two centuries carried Freemasonry with it. The first Lodge in India was established in 1730 in Calcutta. The contact European Freemasonry was having with non-Christian religions was indeed a tremendous test of the principle of brotherhood. But those principles were stronger than the Imperialistic or chauvinistic attitudes of that period. Today the Gita, Koran, Zend Avesta and Guru Granth Sahib are all on even footing with the Bible In Indian Masonic lodges.
We have become used to representatives of Eastern orders coming into the West and establishing philosophic footholds. Freemasonry is an example of a Western esoteric philosophy establishing a similar foothold in the East. In small way we can say that after centuries of separation the East and West are philosophically blending. The twain hath met.
© 1998 - 2018 David and Chandrakantha Courtney
For comments, corrections, and suggestions, kindly contact David Courtney at [email protected]