For those staying in South Mumbai, or even Andheri for that matter, Gorai seems like another planet altogether. Maybe we’re so used to everything being a stone’s throw away – entertainment, restaurants, malls…
But since I’ve shifted houses last month, I’ve started exploring the other side of Mumbai. The side with charming leafy lanes, little creeks and frequent power cuts. It was on such exploration ride that I stumbled upon a dreamy, surreal gold Pagoda rising up like a mirage.
Global Vipassana Pagoda
This monument turns out to be the Global Vipassana Centre and it’s tall spire made of real gold can be seen from quite a distance, since it is surrounded by undulating hills and grassy flat lands. From the first time you spot it, it takes another 40 minutes or so to actually reach the main entrance, driving along roads as they snake through villages and along the coastline.
On the way, don’t be surprised to find a bunch of cops or two, looking for a reason to fine you. If, after reading this blog post, you decide to visit, here’s a tip – carry your helmet, vehicle papers and if your vehicle doesn’t have side mirrors, get those too!
Coming back to the Global Vipassana Pagoda, it was built in the year 2000 and consists of three sub domes. The first and largest one contains the bone relics of Gautam Buddha. The second and third sit atop the first, making it the world’s largest stone dome built without any supporting pillars. The 96 meter high stupa is modelled after the Shwedagon Pagoda in Myanmar and is built using the ancient technique of interlocking stones.
There is no entry fee to enter the pagoda and if you love experiences, participate in the free 20 minute Vipassana training in the 8000 seater hall below the pagoda! It is believed that the powerful vibrations emanating from Buddha’s relics provides a serene environment for meditation and it is for this reason that the pagoda attracts thousands of devotees every year. You can even sign up for the 10 day Vipassana course, and having known people who’ve completed it, the reviews are fabulous! Get more information about Vipassana here.
As you enter through vibrant red and gold sculpted pillars and pass the giant statue of a lion-dog, you’ll find yourself face to face with a huge gong tower. To the right is a beautiful statue of Buddha in a golden robe sitting on an ornate throne which seems to be the centre of attraction here. With several tourists pointing cameras and taking selfies in front of the statue, you may have to wait a while to get a shot sans photobombing.
Security at the pagoda is strict, unlike the one at Gateway of India and the many malls we have in Mumbai. I couldn’t help but notice how well maintained the pagoda is even in terms of the vegetarian food court and provision of drinking water facilities.
Sadly, I didn’t get to spend a lot of time at the pagoda since I arrived just 10 minutes before visitors were turned away (thanks to the police on the way wasting good 20 minutes looking for a reason to fine us.) If you have your own transport, wait until it gets dark to witness the gleaming pagoda lit up!
The pagoda features on the list of “the Seven Wonders of Maharashtra” and is definitely a must-visit if you’re from Mumbai. If you’re just visiting for a couple of days, you may want to give this a miss since the travel itself will take a good chunk of your time.
- If you’re travelling by public transport, make your way to Borivali Station on Mumbai’s Western Railway Line. Exit on the Western side and take a bus (number 294 or 247) or an autorickshaw to Gorai Creek, about 4 kms from Borivali Station. You can get either board the Esselworld Ferry and get off at Esselworld Jetty or the regular ferry which is at a fraction of the cost.
- If you’re travelling from Thane/Nasik/Igatpuri/Pune/Navi Mumbai, travel on Ghodbunder Road until you reach NH8 – Mumbai Ahmedabad Highway and turn left towards Mumbai. At the Mira-Bhayandar Crossing take a right towards Mira-Bhayandar and go straight until you reach the Golden Nest Circle. Then take a left and stay on the main road until you cross Maxus Mall, after which you need to take a right turn at the end of the road and then a left at the T-junction. From here, simply follow the directions to Esselworld of Global Vipassana Pagoda that you will see before you. When you reach Esselworld, take a right turn and head straight until you reach a Helipad. At the helipad, take another right to the Global Pagoda through the Sanchi Arch.
- If you’re travelling from Mumbai City/Airport – Get on Western Express Highway and go North towards Borivali/ Dahisar. Cross the Dahisar toll booth and go straight. When you reach the Mira-Bhayandar crossing, turn right. From here, follow the instructions given above in point 2.
Hope you manage to take the time out to visit the Global Vipassana Pagoda! Let me know if you come across any new discoveries in your city!
Here’s another fun discovery I’m sure you’ll enjoy – Phoebe’s Farm!