A Brief History of the Global Vipassana Pagoda in Mumbai, India

| © Joe Ravi, CC-BY-SA 3.0 / WikiCommons
Sridevi Nambiar

The Global Vipassana Pagoda, Mumbai’s expression of gratitude to the Buddha, has carved a space for itself as one of the city’s prime architectural and cultural highlights within a relatively short period of time. 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 the largest hollow stone monument in the world.

Inaugurated in 2009 by Pratibha Patil, who was then prime minister of India, the Global Vipassana Pagoda took over eight years to build. While planning for its construction began in 1997, actual work on the primary structure started in 2000 and came to an end by 2008. However, the pagoda complex is still under construction to this day, with additional structures expected to be completed in the near future.

Fashioned after the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar, the Global Vipassana Pagoda bears a spire covered in real gold and topped with a decorative umbrella piece donated by Myanmar. The wooden main doors to the structure were also hand-carved in Myanmar, while the main building material was sandstone brought from Rajasthan. The pagoda’s construction blends the best of ancient Indian and modern technology, preparing it to last a thousand years.

The strikingly beautiful monument was built to honor Gautama Buddha and his wise lessons. The central hall, which accommodates about 8,000 students who can sit and meditate jointly, houses relics of the Buddha and aims to encourage the continuous learning of his teachings. While the pagoda seeks to be a symbol of re-awakening of the Buddha’s teachings in India, it is also an expression of thanks to Myanmar for preserving his life lessons.

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