Visitors go on a temple tour at Freemasons Hall in Egmore

March 06, 2023 09:41 am | Updated 09:41 am IST

T N Manoharan

T N Manoharan

In the main temple — one of the three — at the Freemasons Hall in Egmore, T N Manoharan is standing, his frame stretched to its full height, in front of a hallowed table and chair. It is March 4, and after planet earth approximately completes rotations (each signifying one day) on its axis — a language freemasons would be at home with — the right to be behind that table and parked in that high-back chair would be his, along with the reins of the Regional Grand Lodge of Southern India (RGLSI).

A casual sweep of the eye across this expansive hall — which the freemasons call their main temple — captures objects that together create an otherwordliness that remain impenetrable and fascinating at the same time.

Fortunately, the freemasons demystify it for this reporter, just as they did for many others that visited the Hall later that day.

There are two other table-highback chair combos across the room, one belonging a senior warden and the other to a junior warden. On each table is parked a square stone, so neatly-cut that it has risen to the dignity of being called an ashlar, that piques curiosity.

The ashlar on the senior warden’s table is velvety-smooth, suggesting refinement and at a deeper level, a higher mark in the progression towards excellence.

The ashlar on the junior warden’s table is rough to the touch, suggesting a journey that has more ground to cover.

The smooth ashlar

The smooth ashlar

In every direction, a symbolism waits to be unwrapped. The symbols are derived from objects (largely measuring tools hugely indebted to geometry for their existence) handled in masonry and construction, a metier associated with the origins of the movement.

These tools — which include a plumb and a level (similar to a plumb but employed in the measurement of surfaces that are horizontal) — are pressed into service as analogies that carry universal and spiritual truths in their bowels.

A massively-sized, glittering letter “G” hangs from the ceiling. Manoharan, who will be installed as Regional Grand Master of RGLSI on March 11, explains that it represents the “great geometrician of the universe” — a term freemasons use for god.

Almost every object found in the hall — the chairs and tables, reportedly made of teakwood — have weathered innumerable summers. Two wooden boxes are plonked on a table, and they are offering boxes that go around the hall after a meeting.

The doorway to the temple is flanked by two ornamental metal pillars that had reportedly come as a gift to the “Freemasons of South India”.

TN Manoharan to be installed as Regional Grand Master on March 11

The Regional Grand Lodge of Southern India (RGLSI) covers five states — Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana — and also the Union territory of Puducherry. It has 177 lodges (as freemasons call their clubs) across this surface area, according to a press release.

On March 11, 2023, the current Regional Grand Master, Right Worshipful Bro. VG Madhusudan will hand over charge to Right Worshipful Bro. TN Manoharan, who will take over as Regional Grand Master of RGLSI for a term of three years, the release notes.

Over 1,500 masons from across the region and outside will attend the annual investiture at the Chennai Trade Centre, the release adds. Manoharan is a chartered accountant by profession and a Padma Shri awardee, known for his contribution towards the revival of Satyam Computers Ltd. Currently, he is an independent director and part-time chairman at IDBI Bank.

Three permanent projects on the drawing board

A week ahead of being installed as the Regional Grand Master of the Regional Grand Lodge of Southern India (RGLSI), TN Manoharan spelt out to The Hindu the vision for the freemason movement in South India he would carry to his three-year tenure.

He notes that at the regional grand lodge level, his vision is to put in place three permanent projects, one for each year, in addition to running the regular projects that come up on the basis of needs and demands.

Manoharan explains: “I want to establish an institution for spastic children so that every year the successive leadership will create a corpus. The second permanent project is about creating an institution that would provide support to the visually challenged in collaboration with institutions that are already working for their welfare, with the aim of making them employable. The third permanent project is to fund the higher education of meritorious students from underprivileged backgrounds who have had to stop with school education due to lack of financial resources at home.”

Young at 163

Two oversized minute books are laid out proudly on an elongated table. Washed in yellow, the pages bear the unmistakable look of age. They however come with the strength of a paper just out of a Fourdrinier machine, thanks to a restoration exercise they were sujected to. One hundred and sixty-three years old, these minute books carry the thoughts and deliberations of many a freemason meeting over the decades. 

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