Masonry in old Calcutta was not all work and no play. It had its lighter veins which made it more attractive to those who chose to participate in it. D'Cruz refers to a Masonic Ball and a Play of 1774. Ladies and Indian dignitaries were invited to the functions. General invitations were sent to non-Masons as well. But the play was not ultimately performed. The editorial of 1 January, 1789 mentioned 'that festive mirth and harmony which ever characterize the meetings of this ancient and honorable fraternity.' On 14 January 1789 a Ball was given by the Freemasons. The ode on Masonry was sung at the Ball. The local paper next day printed it under the heading Poet's corner. But in 1856 when a Lodge proposed to give a Masonic Ball in the Town Hall, the Worshipful Master of Lodge Industry and Perseverance curtly intimated to the Lodge the un-Masonic nature of the whole affair and expressed a hope that no member of Lodge Industry and Perseverance would appear at the Ball as a Mason.' (Guy D. Robinson, op. cit., 221). A Masonic Lottery was proposed to be held on 17 August 1782 but was postponed till 24 August as 'the business of the Supreme Court will not admit their having the use of the New Court House on the 17th instant, the originally propped.' The Commissioners of the Lottery published an advertisement in the local paper to 'pledge themselves to the public that there will be no further delay.'
On the anniversary of St. John the Baptist in 1813 'a numerous assemblage of the Brethren of the Ancient and Royal Craft of Free Masonry breakfasted by particular invitation of the Right Worshipful Master, and Chapter of the Lodge, True Friendship, No. 1, Bengal, at the Rooms of Brother Moore.' 'In the evening, a dinner was given at Brother Moore's Rooms by the Lodge True Friendship, to a large party, consisting of many sojourning Brethren, and a number of Gentlemen of Calcutta, and near the metropolis, who partook of an elegant repast and choice wines.' 'The Band of the Artillery attended during the repast, and contributed greatly to the enjoyments of the evening.' It may be inferred that gentlemen who were not Masons were invited to the dinner.
In 1822 on the St. John's day the Deputy Pro viascial Grand Master invited the Masons 'to a Grand Masonic Banquet to be held in the evening under the same roof.' The Brethren 'reassembled at six o'clock in the evening exactly to the number of about two hundred and forty. The dinner was laid out upon a double file of tables in the upper hall.' 'The dinner was excellent, as were the wines.'
The decoration of, the hall gave shape to fancy. 'Behind the Deputy Grand Master was a large transparency, emblematical of Faith, Hope and Charity, represented by three female figures, classically designed and spiritedly executed, nearly as Lune as life, Faith holding the Cross, looked tip to the Heavens, Hope leaned upon her anchor, and Charity had an infant in her arm. A flying Cherub held a scroll above a large figure, having at one curved end the name of the illustrious Most Noble Grand Master, HASTINGS, and at the other the melancholy word FAREWELL.'
'The spectacle, all in all, was grand and imposing. It must have been in the eyes of the uninhibited a wonderful sight, to see so many men, of such AND rank and station in life, sitting down under the influence of something or other to them impossible to comprehend, which rendered them all equal for the time. It must have been still more surprising for them to observe the perfect propriety of this equality the kind conciliatory affability of men of the higher rank on the one hand, and the modest, quiet unassuming demeanor of men in inferior grades of society, on the other. All was harmony, order and cheerful enjoyment without excess of any kind, good will and peace.' Any further comment on the effect of the spectacle is unnecessary.
We also read, 'After the removal of the cloth, the uninitiated, consisting of the servants, were ordered to withdraw. The "Brethren of the mystic tie" then proceeded more particularly to business, and no doubt many on the other side of the hall concluded that his Satanic Majesty was raised and produced for the entertainment of the company in the usual terrific style a la Tam O' Shanten.'
The editor asked, 'Could there be a finer illustation of the effects of Masonry upon the mind? Two hundred and forty human beings of various pursuits, callings, views and tempers, meet to feast. It is in the power of each individual to exceed, but the strictest moderation or decorum is not for a moment forgotten, and all after some hours of high and rational enjoyment, rise and depart quietly, soberly and peaceably to their respective homes.'
Elsewhere we have set out the report of a Grand Masonic Festival at!Madras. The report was published in the Calcutta paper on 18 July 1811. The comment was, 'As every Brother came, with the happy resolution of pleasing, as well as being pleased, the evening's festivity was complete, sweetened by that harmony which so conspicuously characterises the Masonic Order. With truth and justice we may say, never was there a meeting more social, rational and unaffected.'
'The whole of the evening was passed in the most agreeable manner, pleasingly varied at intervals with constitutional and appropriate Songs by very able, and some, superior Singers.'
The various toasts, so correctly arranged, were drank with a cheerfulness, which added zest to the flavor of the wine, which was capital. The wordings of the toasts, which were given at Masonic dinners, indicate their partiotic zeal, solicitude for Brethren, and awareness of current events. Even political topics connected with the triumph of British imperialism some times formed the subject matters of the toasts.
On 22 December 1774 the Provincial Grand Lodge decided that 'there shall be no music for procession to church, but there shall be music for procession to the ball.'
Yet music was a regular feature of Masonic activities. Songs enthralled the audience. They provided a varied feast to the car. The Masonic Anthem sung on the St. John's day in 1822' consisted of different parts like recitative, solo, chorus and verse. The band of music accompanied Masonic processions. The services of the military band were occasionally requisitioned (1812). Toasts at the dinner table were punctuated with appropriate music. We hear of the 'Masonic tune' and 'the Entered Apprentice's tune' played on proper occasions.
The usual display of things masonic was a recurrent feature. In several reports we read about Masonic Apron'; 'a variety of jewels, appertaining to the High Degrees of Masonry', 'Jewel presented. to Lord Hastings by the United Grand Lodge of England,' 'Grand Chaplain in full canonicals and wearing the insignia of Masonry'.
In 1822 to present the Masonic address to Lord Hastings the Freemasons of Calcutta marched 'in double files' from the Town Hall 'to the Government House, dressed in Masonic Order and wearing their appropriate emblems, according to arrangements before made.' The spectacle within the Government House was impressive. 'The number of ladies who attended was perhaps greater than ever before graced the room on such occasions: and (comments the reporter) we believe that not an Individual was there, who will not ever retain a lively remembrance of the scene.'
Of the Masonic articles, tools 'and implements
displayed from time to time were 'The Holy Writings borne on a
crimson cushion', 'Golden compass,' 'Golden Square, Level and
Plumb.' 'drawn swords', 'the Sword of State', 'Golden Triune'
and `Rods'. In the Masonic ceremonies of laying the foundation
stones of public buildings, cornucopia, silver cups, wine, corn
and oil, etc. were used.
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