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In 1730, 13 years after the Grand Lodge of England had been founded in a London alehouse, a Provincial Grand Lodge came up in India—“in due form at Fort William in Bengal in the East Indies", as the Grandmaster’s deputation proclaimed at the time. More Provincial Grand Lodges followed in Chennai (in 1752) and in Mumbai (in 1758), but these were still under the aegis of the English Freemasonry, with all the implicit exclusivities. When one P.C. Dutt wanted to join a Kolkata lodge, he faced so much resistance that he was initiated in 1872, a full nine years after he was first proposed.

Famous Masons: (clockwise from top, left) J.R.D. Tata, Praful Patel, Rajendra Prasad and B.R. Ambedkar.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a number of eminent Indians became Freemasons, but still technically Freemasons under foreign Grand Lodges. Only in 1961, at the Ashok hotel in New Delhi, was the Grand Lodge of India constituted. Peaceably, the new Grand Lodge invited the 277 individual lodges in India at the time to join with it only if they so desired; 145 decided they did. There are now 367 individual lodges in the country.

Nobody can simply apply to become a Freemason. A candidate must be nominated by members of a lodge, the only pre-qualifications being that he must be of good character, believe in God, and be well educated (the last stipulation, although it does not say as much, involves the knowledge of English, since the rituals of every lodge are conducted in English). Once proposed, candidates can be blackballed, although this happens rarely; in his 33 years, Biswakumar has only seen one candidate being rejected by his home lodge.


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