Lodge Rising Star is the First Lodge founded for admitting the natives of India to the privileges of Freemasonry. At the time of its institution in 1843, there were supposed to be many difficulties in the way, difficulties of race, difficulties of social custom, of political equality, differences of enlightenment and perhaps many others. But there were stout hearts who, headed by Bro. Dr. James Burnes, maintained and desired to prove that masonry belonged to no creed or colour, to no climate or race. It was the Universal Patrimony of mankind. It was the one touch of nature that makes the whole world kin, and Lodge Rising Star thus came into existence. The Foundation of that Lodge has broken the spell of ages.
Lodge Rising Star of Western India was constituted on 15th December 1843 and is more than 168 years old today. It celebrated its 151st anniversary on 15th December 1994. The 151st Birthday of any institution is indeed a matter of great gratification, and righteous rejoicing to its members, and the Lodge has done well in the Craft by its useful existence.
The accomplishments and the achievements of the Lodge are many but one can only review a few of them.
Freemasonry first came to India in 1728, when a Lodge was founded in Bengal, but till our Lodge was founded, Freemasonry was the privilege of Europeans only. Our Lodge is the First Indian Lodge and was founded in order to give the Light of Freemasonry to Indians, at the meeting held at the Town Hall in Bombay (as Mumbai was then called) under the Warrant granted by Rt. Wor. Bro. James Burnes, the then Provincial Grand Master of Western India under the Grand Lodge of Scotland. The circumstances under which the Lodge came into existence are both illuminating and interesting.
The Lodge came into existence as a result of the movement started in or about 1840 by the late Mr. Maneckjee Cursetjee, a prominent citizen of Bombay. Mr. Maneckjee had applied to the Old Lodge Perseverance No.546 (then under the English Constitution) to be initiated into Freemasonry. His application was rejected not on any ground of personal disqualification or demerit, but solely on the ground that he was an Indian. It was alleged that if one Indian was admitted into Freemasonry, then it would be difficult to exclude others and that as social intercourse in those days between the Europeans and the Indians was hardly any, it would be difficult for the Europeans to know the qualifications of an Indian Candidate and to assess his merits for admission into Freemasonry.
Fortunately, Mr. Maneckjee was blessed with an undauntable spirit and on his rejection to the portals of Freemasonry, he started an agitation for the admission of Indians into Freemasonry. This just cause found favour with the Duke of Sussex (the uncle of Queen Victoria) who was then the Grand Master Mason of England. In 1841, Mr. Maneckjee set sail for England with a view to become a Mason then under the patronage of the Duke of Sussex, but when he reached England, His Grace was on the Continent. Mr. Maneckjee then went to Paris. Due to the good offices of the Duke of Caze, the Most Venerable of the Grand Orient of France, Mr. Maneckjee was initiated in Lodge A La Gloria de l'Universe, one of the first Lodges in France, and became in 1842 the first Indian gentleman in Western India to see the Light of Freemasonry.
On his return to Bombay, Bro. Maneckjee Cursetjee was asked to visit Lodge Perseverance No. 546 (then under the English Constitution), but he declined to do so. He was then proposed as a joining member in the said Lodge, but the proposal was lost on a ballot solely on the ground of his Indian nationality. Many members of Lodge Perseverance then met, and decided that it was advisable in the interests of the Craft to admit properly qualified Indians into Freemasonry, and that a new Lodge should be formed for the admission of Indians. Accordingly, twenty seven Masons presented a representation dated 19-11-1843 to the Provincial Grand Master of Western India, Right Worshipful Brother Dr. James Burnes, praying that they may by a dispensation be constituted into a Lodge, and that the Provincial Grand Master should give it a name, and become the first Master of the New Lodge. The representation was favourably received. Accordingly, the aspirations of Bro. Maneckjee Cursetjee took a concrete shape and this Lodge was duly formed with Rt. Wor. Bro. Dr. James Burnes as it's first Master and Bro. Maneckjee Cursetji as its first Secretary to carry on in the Lodge the work of three degrees of St. John or Craft Masonry and to spread the Light of Freemasonry to the Indians.
On the day of its formation, the names of Mr. Ardeshir Cursetji Wadia ( an eminent Engineer and the first Indian to be made a Fellow of the Royal Society) and of three Moghul Mohamedan Merchants were proposed for Initiation. At the next meeting in January 1844, Mr. A. C. Wadia and Mr. Mirza Ali Mohamed Shoostry were initiated, and for the first time in a Masonic Lodge the Zend Avesta, and the Quran (and a little later the Bhagwad Gita) were put alongside the Bible on the Altar. Towards the end of 1845, the Lodge got its Charter which is dated Edinburg, 2nd December 1844, and bears No.403.
|Rt. Wor. Bro. Dr. James Burnes, Provincial Grand Master of Western India, and first Master of Lodge Rising Star, and Honorary Member for life
|Rt. Wor. Bro. Maneckji Cursetji, Pioneer of Freemasonry in Western India
|The Lodge completed its first year successfully with 50 members on its roll, and resolved to reinstall Bro. Dr. James Burnes as its Master for the second time, which was done in the presence of two distinguished visitors from abroad, namely, The Marquis de Farriere La Voyar, French Ambassador enroute to China, and Viscount Sandall. The Lodge resolved in 1844 to commemorate its foundation, and to express its sense of gratitude to its founder, Bro. Dr. James Burnes by striking a Medal known as the Fundators or Burnes Medal bearing the effigy of Bro. Burnes on the obverse, and a suitable inscription indicative of the object of the Lodge, on the reverse.
The Lodge began to grow in strength from year to year, and functioned regularly. Despite the religious bigotry and false notion prevailing in those days that Freemasonry was based on Christianity, and joining it would mean disloyalty to ones own religion, the Lodge continued to flourish. The year 1846 began for the Lodge with sixty members on its roll and ended with an increase of 17 new members. The above was creditable and indicative of the high value set on Freemasonry during those days despite the fees being high. The fees for conferring the Three Degrees in our Lodge around 1851 was Rs.300, which seems rather high considering the then purchasing power of the Rupee and our present fee of Rs.600 for the same. The monthly subscription then was Rs.4 and Life Membership fee was Rs.100.
In 1845 Very Worshipful Brother W. A. Laurie, the Grand Secretary of The Grand Lodge of Scotland was unanimously elected Honorary Member. There is no record in the minute book of minutes of meetings held during the year 1856. There was a proposal for Admission, but the result was unfavourable. It appeared that the ballot was abused, and the Lodge was closed pending the decision of a higher authority as to the proprietory of its ever being opened again. Simultaneously, there was also a paucity of members. In 1857 the Provincial Grand Master was present at a meeting held at the residence of Bro. Maneckjee Cursetjee, and Bro. Maneckjee Cursetjee was elected Master. Thus the Lodge was then able to resume normal operations. This period of turmoil for the Lodge is coincident with India's first (unsucessful) war of independace against the British rule in 1857. In 1864, all the Office Bearers of the Lodge were for the first time Indians.
In the beginning, the Lodge found good support inter alia from Parsees and Persian merchants in Bombay, who joined the Lodge in large numbers. It appears that for the benefit of Persian members the important part of the proceedings were at times translated into Persian.
The Lodge celebrated the completion of its 50 years on 15th December 1893
with great eclat. A Jubilee Medal was struck as shown alongside. A Jubilee Medal in gold was voted
for presentation to Bro. F. D. Petit, the incoming Master, and forty other medals in silver were ordered. On the obverse of all medals was the effigy of Bro F. D. Petit and the inscription "Jubilee 15th December 1893, Lodge Rising Star of Western India No. 342 S.C.". On the reverse is shown a star rising from the sea, and on the rim was inscribed "Brother Framji Dinshaw Petit installed 15th December 1893." The medal presented to Bro. F. D. Petit had on its obverse a broader rim than the other medals, on which was inscribed "To Right Worshipful Brother F. D. Petit from Lodge Rising Star No. 342 S.C., Bombay 15th December 1893."
Bro. Framji Dinshaw Petit was installed into the Eastern Chair by Bro. Rustom K. R. Cama. A sketch of the history of the Lodge prepared by Bros. Sir Phiroze C. Sethna and P. M. Kanga was circulated at the celebration.
Bros. Sir Pherozesha M. Mehta, A. F. Moos, D. F. Karaka, Rahimtulla M. Sayani and Dr. A. Pandurang who were subscribing members, were amongst others honoured by their being made Honorary Members of the Lodge. Bro. K. R. Cama gave an account of the foundation of the Lodge at the said meeting, and concluded by praying that some of the younger members who were then present may live long enough to celebrate the Centenary of the Lodge. The above wish came true as Bros. P. M. Kanga and Dr. F.J. Patel were present at and joined in the Centenary celebrations of the Lodge. The above prayer was repeated by the Ruling Master, Bro. Dinshaw D. Romer during the Centenary Year for the next celebration and also came true on the 125th year Celebration. The wish came true for many on the Sesquicentennial Celebrations. Members may be interested to know that the Past Masters Jewel of gold voted to Bro. Sir Pherozesha M. Mehta by the Lodge, is in the possession of the family of late Bro. Savak P. Dadachanji, Past District Grand Master of Western India.
The Centenary Celebrations of the Lodge commenced in 1942 under the energetic and
able Mastership of our Veteran Mason Bro. Dorab A. Patel. On 15th
December 1943, the Centenary Day, a very senior and worthy Past Master,
Bro. Dinshaw D. Romer was installed in the Eastern Chair, and all his
Office Bearers were Past Masters. The Lodge elected Most Wor. Bro. Capt.
John Christie Stewart of Murdostoun, the then First Master Mason of
Scotland and Rt. Wor. Bro. Sir Patrick Blackwell, the then Grand Master,
All Scottish Freemasonry in India, to be Honorary Members.
A Centenary Medal with the effigy of Bro. Maneckjee Cursetjee was struck, and a full size portrait of late Bro. Sir Phiroze C. Sethna, a Past Master of our Lodge, and Grand Master Depute, A.S.F.I., painted by Bro. Sorab M. Pithavala, a member of our Lodge, was unveiled in Freemasons' Hall on the Centenary Day. A brochure containing a short history of the Lodge, prepared by Bro. F.B. Vachha, was printed and circulated on the Centenary Day. The Lodge will always remain indebted to Bro. Vachha for his labour of love and also to Bro. D.F. Wadia for his admirable and illuminating History of the Lodge from 1843 to 1911.
With the passage of time none of the lodge members had a centenary jewel. In August 2013 a member spotted a centenary jewel for sale on eBay, and our Bro Shavak Kapadia was quick to procure it from eBay. The picture shown is the one procured from eBay; and the lodge is indeed indebted to Bro Shavak Kapadia for this jewel.
The 125th year of the Lodge commenced with Bro. Dr. Dinshaw F. Boga as its Master. The Lodge celebrated its 125th Anniversary with a Rededication Ceremony on 14th December 1968. On this day, Bro. Rusi N. Sethna, a worthy Lewis, was installed in the Eastern Chair.
The condition of the Lodge was sound and satisfactory. The Lodge had 47 members, out of which 19 were Past Masters. There were three Distinguished Service Members with a record of over 40 years' membership. Many of the members have been honoured by the conferment of high ranks in the District Grand Lodge of Western India. Moreover, Bro. Eduljee M. Cassinath, a child of our Lodge, was the Grand Superintendent of the Grand Chapter of the United Scottish Royal Arch Freemasonry in India and Pakistan. The younger element was both talented and promising and well matched our seasoned Seniors. The members held distinguished and respected positions in various walks of life, and were good men and excellent masons. The financial condition was sound under the experienced and watchful eye of the Treasurer, Bro. Dinshaw S. Tata, who bore that burden for more than twenty years.
The Lodge celebrated it's 150th anniversary on 15th December 1993.
A special jewel (as shown alongside) was struck and made available to members. Two senior members, late Bros. Dinshaw Tata and Savak Dadachanji, were honoured by conferring on them the Distinguished Service Membership.
As was the case in its very early years, the Lodge had again passed through difficult times with a depletion of funds. However due to the timely and valiant efforts of some of its Brethren, and the spontaenous response of all members, the financial status of the Lodge was quickly put on an even keel. The Lodge has no dearth of dynamic and sincere Brethren to guide it's destiny. There have also been very learned and hard working members, as also quiet and sincere workers, who have shouldered more than their fair share of administrative duties.
Past Master's Jewels (as shown along-side) are voted to Past Masters of the Lodge in recognition of their valuable services rendered. Successive Masters have strived to put the Lodge on an even sounder financial footing and to continue to improve the quality of membership. As on October 1999, the Lodge has 48 members on it's rolls.
The Lodge celebrated it's 175th anniversary on 15th December 2018 with Bro Nimo Punwani as Right Worshipful Master. A gala evening was held for the members at the Freemasons Hall when a cake (presented by our very own member who is a chef, Bro Mehernosh Khajotia) was cut. Memories of that enjoyable evening are available for viewing here. A special jewel (as shown alongside) was struck in silver and made available to members and presented to our District Grand Master Bro Kersi Limathwalla at the following Installation meeting. The jewel was modelled on the lines of our Burnes Medal, and was thus released 175 years after the Burnes medal. At that meeting souvenir was also released, which is availabe here.
During the last twenty five years our Lodge was under study for it's contributions to Bombay city by it's "natives" by researchers from the USA. One was a doctoral thesis by a student in the USA, who documented how our Lodge members, who were of diverse faiths, worked together to set up institutions (many of which survive to this day), in areas of education and especially education of women, which was the need of the hour in late 17th century Bombay. Those "merchant princes" as they were called, met together, and implemented grand plans with huge edifices, that helped the growth and development of Bombay as a prime city.
There was another study enumerating our Lodges' contribution that high-lighted "Freemasonry and the Architecture of the Persian Revival, 1843 - 1933". So, our Lodge has played its part in the history of our city, and we hope to carry on that tradition, adhering to, working by and promoting Freemasonic tenets.
Subscribing membership of over half a century in any institution is a rare event, and a matter of jubilation when it occurs. Bro. Dr. Sir Temulji B. Nariman, a child of our Lodge, and the first Indian Grand Master, A.S.F.I. was the first member of our Lodge to be fortunate enough to celebrate his Masonic Diamond Jubilee in 1938.
During the 25 years following the 125th Anniversary celebrations in 1968, the Lodge celebrated the Masonic Diamond Jubilee of Bro. Nusserwanjee H. Sethna in 1975. This is only the second Masonic Diamond Jubilee celebrated in the history of this Lodge. It is our great loss that neither of these two Brethren is in our midst today.
In the 156 years of our existence, only a dozen have been lucky enough to enjoy a membership of a period of over half a century. They are Bros. K. R. Cama, M. C. Murzban, Dinshaw Bomanji Vakil, Dr. Sir Temulji B. Nariman, Rustom K. R. Cama, P.M.Kanga, Dr. Sorab C. Hormusji, Nowrosjee Hormusjee Contractor, Dinshaw Dorabji Romer, Hormasjee Ratanshaw Dadabhoy, Sir Jamshedji B. Kanga, and Nusserwanji H. Sethna. We pray God that in times to come, more of our members will join this group.
The enlarged view showing the details of some of the medals/jewels are available if you will click on the pictures.