AT DOWNEY UNITED No. 220, A MASON ARTIST LEAVES HIS LEGACY ON THE WALL

There's no missing this Egyptian-inspired mural.

By Justin Japitana

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When it comes to Masonic artwork, there’s everything else, and then there’s what’s going on at Downey United № 220.

So when Raj Champaneri passed away last June, there was little doubt that his memory would live on inside there the lodge, where he’d been a member since 2014. In fact, his legacy there isn’t likely to be forgotten anytime soon: After all, he’s the member behind the show-stopping, Egyptian-themed mural and sculpture that covers the hall’s entire 16-foot-long eastern wall.

Mason artist Raj Champaneri poses with California Past Grand Master Stuart Wright in front of his massive Egyptian-inspired wall mural known as the Raj Mahal, at Downey United No. 220.The massive, Egyptian-inspired wall art known as the Raj Mahal, executed by Mason artist Raj Champaneri, at Downey United No. 220.
Mason artist Raj Champaneri poses in 2019 with California Past Grand Master Stuart Wright in front of his massive Egyptian-inspired wall mural known as the Raj Mahal, at Downey United No. 220.

 Affectionately known as the “Raj Mahal,” the piece includes an 8-foot-tall golden square and compass that juts out from the wall, creating a floating effect. On either side of it are two life-sized sarcophagi, painted to appear three-dimensional. Behind them, the wall is plastered in elaborate hieroglyphs and plexiglass replicas of Masonic jewels.

In 2020, Champaneri explained, “The closer you get to the wall, the more character it reveals.”

Champaneri was an artist and designer outside of lodge, too. Among his creations are his so-called “Exoticmishaps,” a collection of meticulously crafted dioramas of car crashes involving luxury automobiles. Another series was his “Goldgraphs,” images made with paint mixed with ground-up metals and diamond dust. In his career, Champaneri produced works for the likes of Queen Elizabeth and Janet Jackson.

(Champaneri certainly wasn’t the only Mason artist in the state. Read more about the long history of Masonic folk art—and some California Masons keeping the tradition alive.)

However, at least for the members of Downey United № 220, it’s the Raj Mahal that will live on, a testament to the mysticism and wonder that Freemasonry inspires.

Mason artist Raj Champaneri's massive Egyptian-inspired wall mural known as the Raj Mahal, at Downey United No. 220.The massive, Egyptian-inspired wall art known as the Raj Mahal, executed by Mason artist Raj Champaneri, at Downey United No. 220.

PHOTOGRAPHY:
Matthew Reamer (top)
Raj Champaneri (inset and below)

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