Jaadu Ghar. An Enigma. A Masterpiece of Masonry. Well, no surprises here. Perhaps you would expect such high standards for a temple of Freemasonry. Jaadu Ghar as common people knew it, continue puzzling many even now. Crossing from Zainab market crossroad on your way to Arts Council, you must have seen it zillion of times. The imposing front facade along with its masonic staircase must have caught your eye. Someone may have told you that its a Freemasons lodge. That someone may have been a Freemason himself.
Freemasonry is one of the oldest and most famous (infamous) brotherhood engaged in following centuries old symbolic rituals and promoting the brotherhood. Original Freemasons were, well, masons traveling across regions building stone structures. It explains use of tools such as plumb-rule, squares and compasses in their rituals. The metaphors of operative stonemasons’ tools is widely seen across their documents. The fraternity is organized into independent Grand Lodges each having its own jurisdiction. The Freemasons lodge in Karachi was part of that chain.
The first Freemason lodge in Indian subcontinent was built in Calcutta. A petition was sent by British soldiers in India to constitute a Provincial Grand Lodge in Calcutta. A Provincial Grand Master was appointed in 1728 to promote Masonry in India and the Far East. The first Indian Mason was Omdat-ul-Omrah, Nawab Carnatic who was granted membership of brotherhood in 1775. The lodge in Karachi was built in 1914 in its current location but the original Masonic Lodge was built in 1845 in Karachi which eventually was handed over to Sindh Club administration. It has characteristics of Edwardian and Victorian style architecture.
Freemasonry was banned by Bhutto Govt. in 1972. Freemason lodges in Lahore and Karachi were sequestered and belongings confiscated. It was a result of strong sentiments against Freemasonry which was considered Zionist and its activities believed to be black magic. It might be of interest to know that Rudyard Kipling was inducted in the brotherhood in The Freemason Lodge in Lahore.
The best time to visit Karachi Lodge is on a Sunday morning. Open the rusty gate and move to the front of the building. Take a moment and appreciate the front facade with round pillars and wooden staircase. The space in front has the tablets marking the names of founding members and its office bearers. Most of the tablets have Freemason logo engraved on them. The biggest of them is inscribed on the wooden structure. Take the stairs and see the hall on first floor. Take a special note of the floor, reminiscent of Hollywood masonic flooring, it has survived through the years. The Department of Antiquity has been working on restoring the building in its original state. A lot of accessories like alien plaster has been removed and original like stone has been used where needed. A wildlife museum is planned to be established in this building.