As an architectural wonder that helps promote peace and harmony, the Global Vipassana Pagoda near Gorai in Mumbai is a landmark monument that brings us closer to the philosophies and teachings of the great Buddha. It also has the distinction of being Asia’s tallest stone structure that majestically rises against the background of the shimmering waters of the Arabian Sea.
The Global Vipassana Pagoda has been the inspiration of the well known Vipassana meditation master Acharya S N Goenka and is representative of the teachings of Gautama Buddha. It is also an expression of the country’s heartfelt gratitude towards Emperor Ashoka and the chain of Buddhist masters starting from his teacher Moggaliputta Tissa up to the present day’s Burmese Vipassana masters like Ledi Sayadaw, Saya Thetgyi and Sayagi U Ba Khin for protecting, preserving and spreading Buddha’s teachings in India and abroad.
Built on the lines of famous Shwedegon Pagoda of Yangon, where the hair relic of the Buddha is enshrined, the Global Vipassana Pagoda houses genuine bone relics of Buddha. Some of these relics were found by the archaeology department of the imperial British government in the ruins of a ‘stupa’ in Bhattiprolu in southern India before the Second World War. They were then kept in the Museum of London and were returned to the Mahabodhi Society of India after the war. The Society presented them to Acharya Goenka to place in the Global Vipassana Pagoda for the benefit of the countless faithful who come here to meditate.
The monument is a three-storied huge hollow stone structure painted in a shining Thai golden paint. It is the world’s largest pillar-less dome especially designed for meditation. For this very reason, it is called the Vipassana Pagoda. Keeping in view the convenience of those who wish to meditate, the relics are enshrined in the centre of the middle dome and a revolving stage is created in the centre of the main dome at the ground level so that meditation can be done around it while listening to the sermons. It has the capacity of accommodating over 8,000 meditating people at a time.
The top key stone depicting the Dhamma Wheel suspended at a height of 90 feet weighs almost 4 tonnes. Besides the main pagoda there are two smaller pagodas of 60 feet height built on both sides in the north and south. The northern pagoda has a meditation hall used for teaching Anapana meditation to the general public whereas the southern pagoda contains 108 meditation cells. A grand Ashoka pillar with the Dhamma Wheel similar in shape and size to the original pillar in Sarnath has been constructed to the east of the Global Vipassana Pagoda.
The imposing complex houses a vipassana centre called Dhammapattana to the southwest of the main pagoda at the basement level where students’ courses of ten days’ duration are being conducted regularly since October 2007. The centre is well-equipped with 100 air-conditioned rooms and a meditation hall. Recently a research centre devoted to the study of Pali language and Buddha’s teachings has been established near it. There is also an audio-visual centre and a gallery of wall mounts and photographs adjacent to a book and souvenir shop. Service facilities such as rest-rooms, offices, quarters and a food court are located on the ground floor of the basement area.
Distance from Mumbai: 42 kms from the domestic airport terminal in Mumbai