A City of dreams that never sleeps, and yet never dims in its shine and lustre. At least, that has always been an impression that I have carried with me everytime I have returned back to Mumbai. It always feels timeless, inclusive, and yet always secretive, baring it’s soul to very few. It’s been 25 years now since my footsteps in the city, and yet I have barely scratched the surface to the multiverse of Mumbai. But here is a recent tourist addition to Mumbai darshan.
Opened to the public in 2008, the Global Vipassana Pagoda, located in Gorai is a meditation hall with a 96 meter-high stupa that has been modelled after Myanmar’s Shwedagon Pagoda. The spire of the pagoda is covered in real gold and topped with a decorative umbrella piece which were donated by Myanmar. The wooden main doors to the structure were also hand-carved in Myanmar, whereas the main building material was composed of sandstone brought from Rajasthan. While the pagoda seeks to be a symbol of re-awakening of the Buddha’s teachings in India, it is also serves as an expression of thanks to Myanmar for preserving his life lessons.
Less than a decade old, the breathtakingly beautiful pagoda contains the world’s largest stone dome built without any supporting pillars. The dome is twice the size of the dome of the Gol Gumbaz in Bijapur, which was previously known as the largest hollow stone monument in the world. The height of this dome is approximately 29 meters, while the height of the building is 96.12 meters. The pagoda’s construction blends the best of ancient Indian – the technique of interlocking stones, and modern technology.
While technically, constructions are still ongoing, with plans to add and expand more to the existing structure. However, the main highlight of the pagoda are the three domes.
The first and largest dome enshrines the bone relics of Gautama Buddha within the central locking stone of the dome, and was completed on October 29, 2006. The dome also holds the record for being the world’s largest hollow stone masonry structure containing relics of Buddha. The relics were originally found in Bhattiprolu, Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh, and have been donated by the Mahabodhi Society of India and the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka to be kept at the Global Vipassana Pagoda. The second and third domes, along with an auxiliary dome adjoining the second dome, sit atop the first dome. Construction of the third dome was structurally completed on November 21, 2008.
The inside of the pagoda is hollow and serves as a very large meditation hall with an area covering more than 6000 sq m (65,000 sq ft). The massive inner dome seats over 8000 people, enabling them to practice the non-sectarian Vipassana meditation as taught by Mr S N Goenka, and now being practiced in over 160 centres in more than 60 countries. Access to the inside of the meditation hall is granted only to the members; all other visitors can view the inside dome from visitors’ gallery.
On June 2013, after reviewing 350 destinations, the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) in partnership with ABP Majha, a Marathi news channel declared the Global Vipassana Pagoda as one of the “One of the Seven Wonders of Maharashtra”.
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