Golden Pagoda to bring alive an ancient,golden meditation technique

Twenty six centuries ago,Gautam Buddha had achieved enlightenment through an ancient meditation technique called the Vipassana,which soon became an essential practice among his followers.

Written by Dhanya Nair | Mumbai | Published:January 18, 2009 1:19 am

Twenty six centuries ago,Gautam Buddha had achieved enlightenment through an ancient meditation technique called the Vipassana,which soon became an essential practice among his followers. The scriptures mention Vipassana as a technique of meditation wherein one goes through a 10-day confinement in a place that forbids one to talk,read,write or communicate in any way. It also entails one to spend 10 hours a day,often without moving for an hour at a stretch,watching the breath or experiencing body sensations. Though the art was handed down to the present day by a handful of teachers,the original method and its true meaning were lost somewhere.

Cut to 2009,and the art will get a fresh lease of life,thanks to the Golden Pagoda being built in the western suburbs of Mumbai. Gorai in Borivali will soon be home to modern day’s largest stone monument — the Golden Pagoda,work on which is expected to be completed by February this year. While the Vipassana centre has already started working,the pagoda will be formally inaugurated by President Pratibha Patil on February 8.

The architects and engineers involved in the project are hopeful that once completed it will be modern India’s biggest architectural and pilgrimage wonder. “Our idea was not just to build an architectural splendour but also make way for Buddha’s teachings on Vipassana,” said Vipassana practitioner Vallabh Bhansali.

The pagoda will be a replica of the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon,Myanmar,one of the revered pagodas in the world made by Vipassana’s ancient teacher,Sayagi U Ba Khin. This pagoda will have SN Goenka,the current teacher in the chain of teachers,teaching the art. Apart from being the largest stone monument,it is also the largest dome ever built without any supporting pillars. “Pagodas around the world are generally solid structures. This will be the only hollow pagoda in the world. The idea is to make a massive inner dome,with a seating capacity of 8,000. We have also created the interiors so as to provide a conducive atmosphere for practising the art,” said civil engineer Madan Mutha.

Mutha said the team had to face a lot of challenges. “We have used pink Jodhpur sandstone,tombstone and lime water for the entire structure. We have used the ancient method of stone interlocking,which requires studying each stone,carving it to exact length and design,dressing it up and then laying it with each other,” he said.

The architecture team had taken the help of IIT Powai consultants for the design. “Each stone had to be tested to find if it can survive the weather changes and the sea water. The art of interlocking stones for the purpose of building monuments is a dying art. We had to bring people from Sumpara community in Gujarat for this,” Mutha said.

The centre of the dome will have an elevated,circular stage,which will act as a turntable where the acharya can sit and teach meditation. The size of the dome is twice as large as the Gol Gumbaz dome in Bijapur. Genuine relics of Buddha,donated by the Mahabodhi Society,will also be enshrined in the pagoda. The site will also have two smaller pagodas in the north and the south direction.

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