Other than a bitter dispute that has killed thousands in the Middle-East, what's common between Yasser Arafat, Benjamin Netanyahu and Yitzak Rabin? Or Bill Clinton, George W Bush and Winston Churchill? What united the Rothschilds and the Rockefeller family in the US, despite their enormous wealth? They were all Freemasons - a fraternal and yet mysterious society with its origins in early modern Europe and which now commands a global membership of almost six million people including some of the world's most powerful and the rich.
The coffee-table book, 'Bonding Through Brotherhood: 50 Years of Grand Lodge in India' published on the Golden Jubilee celebrations of the Grand Lodge, is an attempt at not only chronicling the history of the almost 400-year old organisation that has intrigued as well as inspired a host of people across generations and geographies, but also at educating the Indian readers on the movement's 'glocal' character - its global organisation and principles as well as its local history and spread across India. The book also details the activities of the society which includes social work, philanthropy, educational and health initiatives.
So who are the Freemasons? The members insist it is not a religion and instead emphasises secularism by teaching respect for and tolerance towards all religions. It is also not a political party or organisation. It is not a social club either. It nevertheless provides the means of socialising among its members. Freemasons however insist that it is not a secret society. "There is nothing secret or secretive about Freemasonry. Freemasonry does not conceal the time and place of its meeting nor does a member hide the fact of his membership," says the charter on its India website. It further says: "Like many other societies it regards some of its internal affairs as private matters of concern only for its members."
The India story of the Freemasons began as early as in 1728-29 under the British. Some of the most well-known early Freemasons were Swami Vivekananda, Motilal Nehru (father of Jawaharlal Nehru), C Rajagopalachary (former Governor General of India), Maharaja of Patiala and former President of India Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed. The movement however suffered with the exit of the British and was only revived in 1961 with the constitution of the Grand Lodge of India at New Delhi's Ashoka Hotel. Today, the book tells us, India has over 370 Lodges and nearly 400 other Masonic bodies located in 150 cities and towns across the country with a total membership of almost 20,000 Freemasons.
The book has been published in memory of Col Anil Shorey who had originally conceived the idea of the history of Freemasons in India. A Freemason himself, Shorey was the brainchild behind the book, which was later compiled and finished by his fellow Freemasons. 'Bonding Through Brotherhood' is a valuable resource for those interested in knowing about this fascinating and mysterious society, the accounts of which are not easily available otherwise.
Bonding Through Brotherhood: 50 Years of Grand Lodge in India, 2011. Published by the Grand Lodge of India. Price: Rs 1990