The text of this History of Freemasonry in Madras has been prepared by Bro. Prof. Dr. U. Gauthamadas, a psychiatrist in Chennai, referring to several books, and documents. In case any details are to be reproduced in any manner, it is expected that due credit and acknowledgement will be appropriately given to Bro. Prof. Dr. U. Gauthamadas and to the website of Lodge Prudentia No. 369 GLI.
1870 onwards: Faith and Hope take root
On 11th December 1875, John Miller was installed as District Grand Master in the place of A. Macdonald Ritchie. The Grand Master HRH the Price of Wales visited Madras during this period and a deputation of the DGL presented an address to him at Government House on 15th December 1875. On the 2nd March 1878 R. W. Bro. John Miller died, and a special communication of the DGLM was held on the 6th April to hold a funeral service in his memory. Major A. W. O. Saunders was duly elected as DGM and installed on the 19th March 1879.
In June 1879 a Board of General Purposes was formed for the first time. In the same year Lodge John Miller, Royapuram No.1906, was warranted.
The formation of a new lodge in Madras, named John Miller, took place about October 1879. In 1880 the By-laws of the District Grand Lodge were revised and reprinted and came into effect from the 1st January 1882.
A special communication of the District Grand Lodge was held on the 19th May 1884, and Arthur Morrell Saunders was chosen as a nominee for the office of District Grand Master and installed on the 25th October. The installation of His Excellency Lord Connemara, G.C.I.E., Governor of Madras, as DGM took place in the Banqueting Hall, Madras, on the 24th November 1888. In 1891 Lord Connemara retired, and Col. G. M. J. Moore was appointed and installed as District Grand Master. In 1894 Lodge St.George, Madras No.2532, was warranted.
Ravi Varma and Freemasonry in Madras
(Arthur Oliver Villiers Russell) Lord Ampthill, Governor of Madras (1901-1906), was appointed District Grand Master in 1901. He was an enthusiastic patron of Raja Ravi Varma, that great artist who might be considered the father of Modern Indian Art. Ravi Varma exhibited a striking portrait of Lady Ampthill in the 1904 Madras Fine Arts exhibition. The next year, he exhibited the portrait of Lord Ampthill in his Masonic regalia at the same show in Madras. This portrait can be viewed at the main dining hall of the Freemason’s Hall at Chennai.
In 1906 Herbert Bradley was appointed District Grand Master.
Lodges with Indians
In 1883 Lodge Carnatic, Mount Road was warranted and was the first lodge with a primarily Indian membership. It has continued to flourish and in now under the Grand Lodge of India. On 8 December 1983 Lodge Carnatic No. 39, celebrated its Centenary.
The Lodge Justitia No.3457, was consecrated by R.W.Bro Sir Murray Hammick on the 12th November 1910 at Freemasons Hall, Mount Road, Madras with 23 Founder Members all prominent citizens of Madras and leading members of the legal fraternity. Some of them were Sir C.P.Ramasami Iyer (who later became the Diwan of Travancore), V.Thirumalai Pillai,( the then President of the Pachaiappa’s Trust) who was the Founder Secretary as well as the Officiating Secretary of the consecrating team ( a rare honour indeed) P.M.Sivagnana Mudaliar, K.Desikachariar, S.T.Srinivasa Gopalachari (who in later years became the First Regional Grand Master ) and many more others. It is a matter of interest to note that there are many roads in Chennai which bear the names of some of the Founder members. Except for its first two masters, all others were of Indian origin. Lodge Justitia has completed 100 years of its existence 12th November 2010 and celebrated its Centenary on 3rd April 2011.
Lodge Asoka No.1148 was duly constituted under a Provincial Warrant dated 24th March 1915 granted by the Most Worshipful the Grand Master of all Scottish Freemasonry in India, M.W.Bro the Hon'ble Mr. Justice F.C.O.Beaman, I.C.S, who regularly opened it in the Old English Warehouse, Mount Road, Madras on the 3rd of April 1915. The Provincial Warrant was later confirmed under a Charter from the Grand Lodge of Scotland dated 16th May 1915. On the inauguration of the Grand Lodge of India, it was taken on the Registry of Grand Lodge of India under No.93 and has celebrated its Golden Jubilee. It celebrated its Golden Jubilee on 21st April 1966.
On 1st November 1922 a lodge whose membership was confined to Installed Masters, styled Madras Masters No. 4487, was warranted and consecrated on 24th March 1923 with no fewer than 88 founder members. Among the members of the Lodge were brethren who belonged to English, Scottish, and Irish Constitutions, and the Lodge served as a point of contact between the different Constitutions. The Lodge was conceived by its founders, as primarily a Lodge of research and improvement, and also as a means of bringing into close touch the Rulers and Past Rulers of the various Lodges in the south, with the convention that the newly Installed Master of each year will deliver an Oration on a Masonic subject. A Lodge of Instruction has been attached to the Lodge since 1925.
In 1927 Sir Archibald Campbell, Chief Secretary of Madras Province and District Grand Master of Madras (1922 to 1934) helped found the Archibald Campbell Lodge with 19 Indian and 11 British Freemasons who had each spent time in the other's country. One of the rules of the Lodge till the 1960s was that to become a member of the Lodge an Indian would have to have spent at least six months in Britain and vice versa.