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From Devonshire to Bengaluru - Brotherhood Across the Globe



Manoj Chitnavis, the current Immediate Past Master of St. Georges Lodge in Exeter, said we all like visiting lodges in our own areas either by invitation or for special events and Installations. In his case, he had been in Bangalore assisting with family issues for four months, and during this downtime, he had been sitting around in the hospital and getting fed up.

Eventually, having obtained the Wi-Fi code from hospital staff and reading online newspapers, he looked up Indian Freemasonry and discovered that the lodges in India were split up into four geographic regions rather than English Provinces. He fired off an email to the region in South India based in Chennai (Madras as it was), and at the same time, he contacted his own lodge secretary for a visitation certificate/letter.

Alas, having not received a response from the regional office, he gave up on the idea of visiting after a week. Having returned to the UK, he thought, okay, all done, forget it, and try again the next time he went to India.

As it happened, he had to fly back within a fortnight. This time, he packed his regalia, as he had no real baggage. A few days after arrival, he rang the regional office, whereupon he managed to speak to a member of staff who took down some details as to who he was, where he was from, and what type of Lodge he wished to visit, considering there were about 14 Lodges in the city all with thriving membership so that he could be directed to an appropriate one to suit him and of English Constitution ideally. Following on from the phone conversation, he thought this was just a formality to appease him and be polite to pacify a Brother who was over-visiting our country. How wrong he was!

The following evening at about 9 pm Manoj received a phone call from a Worshipful Master of a lodge within the city of Bangalore (or Bengaluru as it is now called).

On exchanging pleasantries, he was informed that the next Lodge meeting would be on the first Saturday of the month, and he would be very welcome to visit Lodge.

Given that the city of Bangalore is quite large and, together with the traffic chaos, a short distance of about 10 miles would take at least two hours to drive. Not having any transport, he said he would get a taxi.

The Brother responded, 'There is no need for a taxi. Our Inner Guard will pick you up in good time for a five o'clock start.'

Manoj was excited at the thought of visiting a Lodge in India, so he prepared himself and looked up as much information as he could. (There are 14 Lodges in the city, but only one has a website. Lodge Star of The South had just recently celebrated its centenary.)

Two days before the meeting, Manoj had another phone call, this time from the Lodge Secretary, who checked whether he had brought his regalia; if not, they were prepared to lend him some. He then informed Manoj that as he was visiting from overseas, their Regional Provincial Grand Master, or his Assistant, would also be travelling/flying in to meet him!  Hence, at short notice, the whole team in the Lodge had to ensure that things were tidy and all "square and perfect" for the evening, which was to be a Double Raising.

His transport and time were confirmed. On Saturday, he was picked up as agreed, and en route, they also picked up the Senior Warden. Both were very friendly but a little frightened and shy as they had a designated passenger as a VIP plus the Regional Officer coming along to their meeting.

Manoj, too, was obviously also quite nervous and excited about this upcoming meeting. During the journey, the two Brethren went over their ritual bits. The journey took a lot longer than expected, as after the massive drought Bangalore was experiencing, the heavens opened the floodgates on that particular day for a torrential downpour. Manoj had not experienced this type of continual rain before; the noise on the car roof, and the incessant honking of horns and the slowness of all the drivers trying to avoid massive pools which looked like lakes despite this being a main road with surges of dark muddy water gushing past in some areas as if we were going across a fast-flowing streams/rivers in some cases.

"Don't worry, sir, this is quite normal" - he was told on several occasions.

When this happens in India, the traffic jams get worse, and one can forget where the potholes are, and they become very large ("Oh, it's enough to engorge a whole car, sir, in some cases!")  . This was not reassuring at all, plus the time was ticking on. It was obvious they weren't going to make the five o'clock start. Manoj queried this and was told not to worry, that given the circumstances, they would delay the proceedings for the evening. This was confirmed by the Senior Warden sitting at the back.

On arrival into the centre of Bangalore city, the road became a little more driver-friendly, and this particular passenger felt a sigh of relief.

Upon entering the purpose-built Masonic building, Manoj was amazed to find that some of the officers were lined up to welcome him into the building. He was offered a masala chai (a sweet milk tea with cardamom, cinnamon and clove spice in it) and some hot finger nibbles. Alcoholic drinks are not the done thing prior to Lodge meeting.

He was shown to the robing room where the Assistant Regional Grand Master of Southern India was waiting with a few of his Grand Officers. 

The Director of Ceremonies welcomed Manoj again and placed him to the left of the Worshipful Master when he pointed to the fact that he was not a senior member of the Craft in England and really should not sit there, and they said, 'no, you are a special visitor so it has been decreed that you will sit here.'

An observation made at this stage was that there was no carpet he was standing on a highly polished black-and-white chequered marbled tiled floor.

Despite the downpour, the temperature in the temple was quite high, so you could hear the air conditioners and fans rattling away, which did not help the acoustics.

The Lodge Manoj discovered has a membership of 110+, with approximately 55 attending that evening.

The Lodge was opened in due form, and the Worshipful Master welcomed everyone. The Assistant Regional Grand Master was then perambulated in and offered the gavel. He held the gavel and commented on what a delight it was to be there on this wet, hot, and humid evening, but he wasn't the special guest; this evening, Manoj was.

What was even more surprising was that he had done his homework as Manoj was introduced fully with his professional background and qualifications, as well as the details of his own Lodge, its founders and a brief history (details which Manoj had not supplied), so you can imagine how surprised he was.

The Double Raising was carried out with great pomp and excellence.



During the Third Rising, he was asked to give greetings on behalf of the visitors, of which there were two visiting Worshipful Masters present.

The differences he spotted with the Lodge apart from the flooring were:

  • They all then moved into the centre of the Lodge to sing the National anthem.
  • The Festive Board had two toasts right at the start and was over a buffet meal of vegetarian and non-veg curries, rice and accompaniments, with no formal seating plan. (Alas, his taste buds are too Westernised, as he found the food to be fairly spicy!)  
  • The Worshipful Master manned the bar (it was noted that he was responsible for supplying the alcohol for the evening!)

Luckily, Manoj had taken along with him a supply of the original Devonshire Provincial ties, which he offered as gifts to the Worshipful Master and the Assistant Regional Grand Master.

So, what did he conclude from all this visit and experience?

Well, visiting should not be limited to your local lodges.

Using the “old phrase” in its truest form:

Having arrived as a stranger

I was greeted as a friend

Welcomed as a comrade

Received as a dignitary

Trusted as a confidante

And embraced as a brother.

Manoj’s tips to all following his visit are:-

  • If you can manage it, visit overseas lodges, but check with your secretary beforehand as not all lodges are recognised by UGLE.
  • Check what is needed: EG Visitation letter/GL Certificate.
  • Make early contact.
  • Take along a little gift of some sort.
  • Check on the protocols of the Lodge.

Remember, Freemasonry is international and enjoy it, be prepared to answer questions on how things are done at home.


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