by Dr. M. Enamul Karim
Since December 27, 1728 when permission was granted to George Pomfret to open Lodge East India Arms in Bengal. Freemasonry was mostly confined to the eastern part of the Indian sub-continent for a hundred years. In making people aware that “we are all brethren, and that he who is placed on the lowest spoke of the fortune’s wheel, is equally entitled to our regard with him who has attained its highest round” Masonry was regarded as a humanizing force within the caste-ridden British army in India by checking savage tortures inflicted on the ill-paid soldiers by their superior officers. It infused a greater sense of brotherhood, goodwill and charity among the Anglo-Indians of different social and professional status “whose social caste restrictions are almost more inexorable than those of the Hindu whom he affects to despise on that account” However, Freemasonry as an institution was composed entirely of the Anglo-Indians up to the middle of the nineteenth century.
With the expansion of British political and military power into the north-western sector of India from the 1830’s onward, there occurred “a remarkable extension of Masonic activity to the N.W. Provinces and the Punjab in the years 1834-1840.” The British victory in the Second Sikh War of 1848-49 and the annexation of the Punjab by Lord Dalhousie brought more military and civilian personnel to the conquered area. The result was the establishment of five Masonic Lodges between 1849 and 1856, prior to the outbreak of the Sepoy Mutiny. During the distressing time of the Sepoy Mutiny, 1857-58, when the racial, cultural and political relations between the Indians and the English had culminated in armed hostility and violence, the Punjab had remained loyal to the British. But the political climate of the sub-continent was deeply charged with mutual distrust and suspicion. When, therefore, the Lodge Hope and Perseverance was formed at Lahore, capital of the Punjab, on December 27, 1858, one of its aims was to foster “the bonds of Brotherly Love” between the two races. Writing on the one hundredth anniversary of the founding of the District Grand Lodge of the Punjab of which the Lodge Hope and Perseverance was the most important member, Rustum Sohrabji Sidhwa states: “The District Grand Lodge of the Punjab . . . during its hundred years of existence has not once found itself cornered or pushed into any political or religious malaise, at the instance of any member . . . The Fraternity have themselves kept their politics and religions to themselves . . . Setting aside political, social and religious ailiations, he is taught to recognize the bonds of Brotherly Love that bind him with his fellow creatures . . . .” In order to encourage Indian participation in Lodge Hope and Perseverance, the site for its permanent building was selected in the old Anarkali section of Lahore where the Indians resided, away from the exclusive Punjab Club. At the time of laying the foundation stone for this building, local people were invited. The Freemason’s Magazine reported on November 5, 1859: “one hundred and fifty native Chiefs assembled for the ceremony [laying of the foundation stone] on 6th September, 1859, at which Wor. Bro. H. D. Sandeman officiated.”
The Indian involvement and association with the Freemasonry of the Punjab became increasingly important in the sixties and the seventies. In fact, an Indian Parsi, Dhanjibhoy Camadore, was elevated to the highest degree in the Lodge Light in the Himalayas No. 1448 at Murree in the Punjab. Reporting on the activities of that Lodge in 1876, Wor. Bro. MacKesy stated: “The Lodge is under the rule of Wor. Bro. Dhanjibhoy Camadore, a Parsi gentleman. This is I believe the first instance which has occurred in the Province of a Parsi Brother having attained the Eastern chair. I trust it will not be the last. Wor. Bro. Dhanjibhoy having proved himself to be in every way worthy of and qualified to fill the high office to which he was unanimously elected.”
When Rudyard Kipling returned to India in 1882 as a young journalist, Lahore had five Masonic Lodges. There were the Lodge Hope and Perseverance No. 782, Fidelity Mark Lodge No. 98, Mt. Ararat Ark Mariners’ Lodge, Lodge Industry No. 1485 and St. John the Evangelist No. 1483 located at the British army base at Mian Mir, outside the city. Of these Lodge Hope and Perseverence No. 782 was the most active and its Masonic Hall became the focal point of Masonic activities from all over the Punjab. This Lodge sponsored the formation of The Ravee Lodge No. 1215 at Lahore on January 20, 1868. The installation ceremony of the Indus Lodge was held at its premises in December, 1869. The District Grand Lodge of the Punjab was formed in this Lodge on March 12, 1869 and Major Charles McWhirter Mercer was installed here as the first District Grand Master. In April of 1872. the Masonic Hall of the Lodge Hope and Perseverance No. 782 became the official headquarters of the Punjab District Grand Lodge. According to Harry Carr the total Masonic population of the Punjab under the District Grand Lodge was about 650 in some twenty Lodges.
Whether Kipling had any previous family connection with Freemasonry is uncertain. Albert Frost suggested that in the seventeenth century when the Kiplings used to live near Richmond in Yorkshire, several of them were Freemasons at York. However, Rudyard’s father, Lockwood Kipling, was quite knowledgeable in Masonry. In his autobiography Rudyard Kipling mentioned how he “got the Father to advise, in decorating the bare walls of the Masonic Hall with hangings after the prescription of Solomon’s Temple.” Harry Carr stated that Lockwood Kipling was often called as “Bro. Lockwood Kipling.”
When the Duke of Connaught, Grand Master of Bombay, was expected to visit Lahore in 1886, the responsibility of developing an elaborately designed address for presentation to him was entrusted to the Lahore School of Art of which Lockwood Kipling was then the Principal. It is interesting to note, however, that Rudyard Kipling portrayed his father in the image of the Curator of Lahore Museum, who is the embodiment of the Masonic virtues of brotherly love and charity in his dealings with the Lama in Kim.
Rudyard Kipling’s personal impression of Freemasonry dated back to his early Southsea days which he recollected in Something of Myself. “And somehow or other I came across a tale about a lion-hunter in South Africa who fell among lions who were all Freemasons, and with them entered into a confederacy against some wicked baboons.” This early impression had left its mark by this association of Freemasons with forces that represent good opposing the ‘wicked’.
Though Kipling became a member of the exclusive Punjab Club like other Anglo-Indians at Lahore, his personal association with it was not a pleasant one. Being only 17 or 18, Kipling did not feel at ease with the older and experienced members of the Club and Harry Carr pointed out that he “was a none-too-popular honorary member of the Punjab Club as he was too young for full membership” He was “told every evening of the faults of that day’s issue(Civil and Military Gazette) in very simple language,” mentioned Kipling in his autobiography. The only personal situation that he alluded to in his autobiography in regard to the Club was when the members had hissed at him for the C. & M.G.’s policy on the Ilbert Bill. Young and shy that he was, Kipling felt very embarrassed and uncomfortable.
By contrast, Lodge Hope and Perseverance No. 782 welcomed him with warmth and friendliness, even though at the time of his initiation into Masonry on April 6, 1886, he was eight months short of the minimum membership age of twenty-one. He was unanimously elected to the membership of the Lodge which had people of various faiths and professions. Within a few months he was elected to the position of an Acting Secretary which post he held till January 10, 1887 when he was unanimously elected as Secretary of the Lodge at a regular meeting. He remained its Secretary for a period of about ten months up to November 7, 1887. Kipling’s unanimous election to membership and secretaryship of Lodge Hope and Perseverance at such an early age is a testimony to his personal interest and zeal in Masonry as well as the degree of trust, confidence and goodwill of both Europeans and Asiatics that he had earned by his sincerity and devotion to the Masonic ideals.
During his secretaryship of the Lodge Kipling got the interior decorations of the Masonic Hall done and “attended every monthly meeting up to and including August 15, 1887.” On April 4, 1887, he presented a paper on the ‘Origins of the Craft’ and three months later, on July 4, 1887, he read another paper entitled ‘Some Remarks on Popular Views of Freemasonry’. J. J. Davies referred to these papers in his farewell address to Kipling: “Bro. Kipling has also contributed towards the welfare of the Lodge by a series of lectures which he delivered . . . of a nature both interesting and instructive . . .”
Kipling’s continued interest and enthusiasm in Masonry resulted in his unusually quick elevations in Masonic degree. Exactly four weeks after his initiation, he was passed to the Second Degree on May 3, 1886, and in another seven months’ time, on December 6, 1886, he was raised to the Sublime Degree, which is the status of a ‘Master Mason’. At that time Kipling was still 24 days short of the minimum membership age. From the Masonic point of view, this was a remarkable accomplishment, and young Kipling was regarded as “an ornament to his lodge and a bright light in the Masonic Circle.” R. E. Harbord and Basil M. Bazley indicate that it was “an unique position” that the Minutes recording his raising were entered in his own handwriting “he having acted as Secretary to the meeting at which he was raised.” The praises and compliments that Kipling received from his Masonic friends were prior to his literary fame in India. At his farewell ceremony in the autumn of 1887 when Kipling was transferred to the Pioneer at Allahabad, J. J. Davies paid high tributes to Kipling’s Masonic activities: “Those of us who have watched his conduct since his initiation feel sure that he has before him a successful Masonic career, for the thoroughness with which he conducted his duties was prompted by a lively interest in his work and by a keen desire for a deeper insight into the hidden truths of Masonry.” E. C. Jussawallah, an Indian Mason, recorded Kipling’s reply to Davies: “He(Kipling) said he would always remember with pride and affection the meetings he had attended at Lodge Hope and Perseverance whereby he had formed friendships which would leave a lasting impression on his memory.”
When Kipling moved to Allahabad from Lahore, he retained his full membership of his Mother-Lodge for a period of over six months as his letter of March 22, 1888, indicated. Addressed to Lodge Hope and Perseverance at Lahore, the letter was read out at the Regular Meeting of the Lodge on April 2, 1888, with F. Koenig in the chair.
Dear Sir and Worshipful Master,
It is with deep regret I have to inform you that I am now permanently transferred to Allahabad and therefore forced to abandon any active connection with my Mother Lodge . . . I have of course no intention of withdrawing my name from the Lodge Roll and shall be obliged if you would have me put down as an Absent Brother . . .
I send herewith Rs.24 P.M. subscription and shall always look back with keen pleasure to my Masonic life in ‘Lodge Hope and Perseverance’ and, if at any time, I can do anything to further its aims and objects, am entirely at your disposal. Convey my warmest and most fraternal regards to the Brethren and
Yours faithfully and fraternally
(sgd.) Rudyard Kipling
According to his wish, Kipling was recorded as an ‘Absent Brother’ in the register of the Lodge. In November, 1929, he presented to his Mother-Lodge a Gavel composed of stone from the quarries from which was obtained the material for the building of King Solomon’s Temple at Jerusalem. It bore the inscription: Presented to Lodge Hope and Perseverance by Bro. Rudyard Kipling. In 1935 Kipling was elected an Honorary Member of the Lodge as recorded in a Circular of the Regular Meeting held on May 7 of the year. In recognition of his life-long attachment to and love for his Mother-Lodge, Lodge Hope and Perseverance was given the subsidiary title of ‘The Kipling’s Lodge’ in December of 1936, eleven months after his death. It was an act of signal honor that Lodge Hope and Perseverance showered on its youngest secretary and one of its most devoted Masons.
In addition to his Mother-Lodge, Kipling was also associated with Fidelity Mark Lodge No. 98, Mt. Ararat Ark Mariners’ Lodge and St. John the Evangelist at Mian Mir. According to Albert Frost, Kipling was “advanced in the Mark Degree in Fidelity Mark Lodge No. 98 at Lahore, on 14th April, 1887, and was elevated in Mt. Ararat Ark Mariners’ Lodge on the same day.” Kipling used to visit the Lodge at Mian Mir which consisted mainly of military personnel. “Amongst the Members of that Lodge at this time were Surgeon Terence Mulvaney of the Army Medical Department and Lieut. Learoyd of the Royal Artillery, both men he(Kipling) must have met and from whom he may have borrowed the names he made so widely known” in Soldiers’ Three.
In Something of Myself Kipling recalled his association with Lodge Hope and Perseverance. “In ’85 I was made a Freemason by dispensation being under age, because the Lodge hoped for a good Secretary. Here I met Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, members of the Araya and Brahmo Samaj, and a Jew Tyler, who was priest and butcher to his little community in the city. So yet another world opened to me which I needed.” What this ‘another world’ might have meant to Kipling becomes more evident if one reads his letter to the Times and reprinted in the Freemason on March 28. 1925. “I was Secretary for some years of Hope and Perseverance Lodge No. 782, Lahore, which included Brethren of at least four creeds. I was entered by a member of Brahmo Samaj, passed by a Mohammedan, and raised by an Englishman. Our Tyler was an Indian Jew. We met, of course, on the level, and the only difference anyone would notice was that at our banquets some of the Brethren, who were debarred by caste rules from eating food not ceremonially prepared, sat over empty plates.” Both the statements clearly suggest that Kipling’s Mother Lodge was the meeting ground of Masons of diverse races, religions and cultures on the level of equality, brotherhood and friendship. It was an unique world of man’s essential oneness that transcended social, religious and political distinctions and barriers. This vision is best reflected in Kipling’s poem, The Mother-Lodge which is, of course, Lodge Hope and Perseverance.
Written in Vermont in 1894, the poet underlines the difference between the Masonic atmosphere of brotherhood and fellow-feeling and the outside world of formality and impersonality:
Outside — ‘Sergeant! Sir! Salute! Salaam!
Inside — ‘Brother, ‘an’ it doesn’t do no ‘arm’,
We met upon the Level an’ parted on the Square.
Not only Englishmen and Indians met ‘upon the Level’ but also Indians of different religious groups and Anglo-Indians of varied social status as well. Hence, Beazeley, Rundle and other Anglo-Indians sit down and smoke with Bola Nath, the Hindu, Din Muhammed, the Muslim and Amir Singh, the Sikh. With nostalgic yearning the poet desires to return to his Mother Lodge in India where Europeans and Asiatics could meet in a spirit of love and brotherhood without any distinction of class or colour, race or creed:
I wish that I might see them,
My Brethren black an’ brown,
With the trichies smellin’ pleasant
An’ the hog-darn passin’ down,
An’ the old Khansamah snorin’
On the bottle-khana oor,
Like a Master in good standing
With my Mother-Lodge once more.
In fact, of the twenty-six members of Lodge Hope and Perseverance during Kipling’s time, six at least were Indians. They were Sirdar Bikrama Singh, a Sikh, Mohammed Hayat Khan, a Muslim Assistant Commissioner, Babu Protul Chander Chatterjee. M.A.. Pleader, a Bengali Hindu, Gopal Das, another Hindu, Dr. Brij Lal Ghose, Assistant Surgeon and also a Hindu, and E. C. Jussawalla, a Parsi merchant. It is likely that the Hindus might have belonged to Brahmo Samaj and Arya Samaj which were reformist movements within Hinduism. Both Sirdar Bikrama Singh and Dr. Brij Lal Ghose were members of the Punjab Jubilee Committee set up for celebrating the Jubilee of Her Majesty the Queen in 1887. They were actively involved with the establishment of the Punjab Public Library at Lahore. Babu Protul Chander Chatterjee was a member of the Punjab University Senate, and along with Sirdar Bikrama Singh, had addressed the public meeting at Lahore on February 3, 1887 in regard to the celebration of the Jubilee. Some of the Indians had held high positions at Lodge Hope and Perseverance during the 1880’s when, as Percival Spear points out, the “virtual exclusion of Indians from all high office(in British Administration in India) was increasingly resented.” Dr. Ghose “is regularly shown in high office at meetings of the District Grand Lodge and its Committees” while Jussawalla had recorded the proceedings of the meeting held in the summer of l887. Lt. Gen. Sir George Macmunn stated from his personal knowledge that the ‘Europe Shop’ of the Parsi Mason, Framjee Edulji, mentioned in The Mother-Lodge, really existed. C. Grey, Kipling’s contemporary in the same Lodge, remarked that Lodge Hope and Perseverance was a “rich mine of humanity”.
His association with Freemasonry was life long. During his eighteen months’ stay at Allahabad where he was very busy in his dual capacity as Editor of Week’s News and Sub-editor of the Pioneer, he found time to attend the Installation meeting of Lodge Independence with Philanthropy No. 391 on December 22, 1887. He joined this Lodge on April 17, 1888. It was the fourth largest Lodge under the District Grand Lodge of Bengal known for its ‘mixed’ membership of Indians and Englishmen, having a “substantial proportion of non-European members.” Kipling had preferred to join this Lodge instead of Amity and Independence Lodge (also at Allahabad) which was composed mostly of Englishmen.
On his way to England via the Pacific in 1889, he saw a Masonic Lodge at Penang and his instant joy was recorded by himself in From Sea to Sea: “I ran away to the outskirts of the town, and saw a windowless house that carried the Square and Compass in gold and teak-wood above the door. I took heart at meeting these familiar things again, and knowing that where they were was good fellowship and much charity, in spite of all the secret societies in the world. Penang is to be congratulated on one of the prettiest little Lodges in the East.”
Kipling’s association with Freemasonry continued in Europe, though not so actively as it was in India. In London he was a member of the Authors’ Lodge as well as The Motherland Lodge. An honorary member of Canongate Kilwinning Lodge No. 2 of Edinburgh, Kipling was the founder-member of two lodges connected with the War Graves Commission. He had named these as The Builders of the Silent Cities No. 4948 in England and No. 12 in France. 
Throughout his life Rudyard Kipling had a deep, personal attachment to his Mother Lodge at Lahore, which best embodied the Masonic ideals of Brotherhood, Love and Charity between people of different races and religions. Being a profound humanist himself, the Masonic philosophy had a special, personal appeal to him. Though he included Masonic symbolism, analogy and cognate mysteries in many of his writings,  nowhere does his Masonic vision of life so deeply permeate his creative imagination as in his last great work on India, Kim.
The Kipling Journal. March 1974. Vol. XLI No. 189