A Brief History of the Allied Masonic Degrees in India
by R.W.Bro. Jainendra Nath Chandla
Majority of the additional degrees worked in England in the early part of the nineteenth century originally came under the patronage of warrants granted by the Antients, who held that Craft Warrants entitled Lodges to work any Masonic degree to which they had knowledge and members available who could work it. Upon the formation of the United Grand Lodge various groups of degrees were gradually organized into separate Orders each with their own governing body.
By the end of that century a large number of unrelated Degrees of no direct interest to any Grand Body were still being worked in different parts of the country. In the late 1870's it was agreed by the then Grand Secretaries of the Craft, Mark, and Ancient and Accepted Rite to establish a ‘Grand Council of the Allied Masonic Degrees in England and Wales and the Colonies and Dependencies of the British Crown.
The headquarters would be at Mark Masons Hall. It was also agreed that no new body purporting to be a Masonic body could be legally established in England without the consent of the Governing Bodies of the Knights Templar, the Ancient and Accepted Rite, the Mark Masters, the Red Cross of Constantine, the Royal and Select Masters, and the new Grand Council; and that any new body established with such consent should be under the direction of the Grand Council.
Thus was born Grand Council, which we know now as the Grand Council of the Allied Masonic Degrees of England and Wales and Districts, and Councils Overseas Calcutta was the first place in India where freemasonry started. It was no exception for the Allied Masonic Degrees as well where the first Council with the name and style of Excelsior Council No.6 started working with a warranted dated 24th June, 1881 where the Order is flourishing with the senior most member of the Order in India V.W.Bro. K.P. David.
The second Council of the Order named after the founder Grand Master of the Order of Allied Masonic Degrees Raymond Portal No. 17 worked for a small period of time and for the want of members of the Order in the cantonment of Ferozepore it worked for a small span and was defunct from 1906, It was reponed in September, 2011 as a peripatetic Council to meet anywhere in the District of North & East India. In March 1950 we had Fort William Council No. 57 consecrated. The Council worked for a short time and then its warrant was surrendered to the Grand Council.
After the independence of India the capital of India shifted to New Delhi and Bombay became the financial capital of India. In August 1955 a warrant was issued for Raza Council No. 58 to meet at New Delhi, This council was instrumental in introducing the Order to the Northern Region in India where the Council still functions Likewise Raza of Rampur Council got its warrant in November 1956 to function at Bombay where it functions till date.
The next was Kirkee Council No. 61 to be warranted in Bombay in 1959. Next came Umesh Council in 1975 in the industrial town of Kanpur. It worked well but with none of the youngsters involved in the Order at that time, it soon faded by the end of 1989. This council was shifted to Qudsia Bagh, Delhi where it is functioning well and growing gradually since 2011. The Order functioned with the three to four Councils functioning till the end of the last century.
The new century brought about a boost in the Order: two new councils were petitioned one in Bombay and the second in Shimla. It was after a big gap as can be seen in the numbers allotted to these two councils that the Order had an addition to its councils within India almost after 28 years. A team led by the Grand Master of the Order visited India and consecrated Capt. Sam B Aga Council No. 193 at Bombay and The Great Himalayan Council No. 194 at Shimla in December,2004.
Around the same time a few committed Masons from Southern India received the Degrees of the Order at Mumbai and petitioned a new council with the name of The Coromandel Council No. 203, Thiruvananthapuram Council No. 206 and Michael Herbert Council No.214 being established in Chennai, Trivandrum and Hyderabad respectively. By this time the Order came to life and we soon saw another Council with the name of Goindwal being consecrated in February 2007 in New Delhi and another Council with the name of Shanker Council No. 216 was consecrated at New Delhi in 2008.
The Order had virtually taken off by this time and in May 2009 we saw further additions to the Allied family when Calicut Council No. 221 and Kasargod Council No. 222 were established in the Southern India. With the growth of the Order that had taken place, the Grand Council deemed it fit to constitute two inspectorates: one to oversee North & East India and the other for Southern and Western India. In May 2009 the Inspectorates formation gave a further boost to the Order and it grew with leaps and bounds.
In September 2011 the Inspectorate of North & East India was converted to a full-fledged District. At the same time Southern India was constituted as a separate District, and, Western India was constituted as an independent Inspectorate. Raymond Portal Council was reopened as a peripatetic council which would hold its meetings at different places whereby brethren at different locations could take the advantage of the Council and receive the Degrees of the Order. Soon a number of brethren were conferred the degrees of the Order at Kanpur and they petitioned for two new Councils.
The Royal Cawanpore Council No. 250 and the Aryan Council No. 251 were consecrated at Kanpur in March 2012, which hold the flag of the Order in the industrial town and are on a gradual growth ever since they were consecrated. The Brethren of Shimla petitioned another Council, which was consecrated in May 2012 with the name of Ravenswood Council No. 253, which meets at Shimla and Chandigarh. A good number of brethren from Chandigarh have been inducted into the Council and soon this Council will be holding majority of its meetings at Chandigarh and ultimately at Chandigarh, which was the very aim to establish this Council and establish the Order at yet another geographical location and at this time in the City Beautiful.
As I have stated earlier that major membership of Freemasons in India is in Southern India. We have seen the Order growing with geometric progression in Southern India where Visakha Council No. 256, was Consecrated in September 2012.
Now the Inauguration of the Grand Council in India to govern the Order of the Allied Masonic Degrees with its headquarters at Chennai, will further give a dynamic boost and the Order would reach available Masonic centers in the country.