News at Tipitaka Network
Asia's largest pagoda inaugurated in Mumbai
Compiled by Tipitaka Network newsdesk, Sunday, February 15, 2009
Mumbai has a message of peace for the world. The Global Vipassana Pagoda, the largest stone dome in the world built without supporting pillars, was inaugurated by President Pratibha Patil on February 8 on the outskirts of Mumbai, Maharashtra, India.
The President - herself a student of vipassana - drew on the teachings of non-violence and compassion of the Buddha. Speaking on the occasion, Ms. Patil said people created distinctions in their minds and believed them to be true. Today it was the perceived differences that were dividing people.
"A whole ideology of hatred, executed with the instruments of violence and terrorism, is being spread," she said. "In this, many innocent lives are being lost..."
The pagoda will be the symbol of peace and prosperity that will bring together people from all parts of the world – making it a sanctuary of solace.
"Violence and terror will have to be negated and defeated to bring peace in the world," she said.
Pagodas are multi-tiered structures common in China, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Cambodia and other countries where Buddhism is followed.
The modern pagoda structures have been evolved from the ancient Indian stupa, a tomb-like pillared structure where sacred relics could be kept safe and venerated.
Among the personalities present at the inauguration event were Global Vipassana Foundation (GVF) founder S.N. Goenka and GVF chairman Subhash Chandra.
"The people of Myanmar donated the marble used for the flooring and the umbrella placed atop the pagoda. The people of Thailand donated the golden paint typically used in pagodas, which is not available in India. In addition, a Vipassana student's family donated the land while other past students of Vipassana contributed around Rs.80 crore to construct the entire structure," said Chandra.
Messages from Congress president Sonia Gandhi and the Dalai Lama were read out.
The Global Vipassana Pagoda aims to spread teachings of compassion and non-violence propagated by the Buddha and to promote the practise of Vipassana, an ancient meditation technique which seeks to bring about inner peace in an individual.
The 325-foot-high stone monument rises on the green peninsular landscape off Gorai creek in northwest Mumbai and is accessible by a short boat ride.
The pagoda is designed by Indian architect Chandubhai Sompura on the lines of the Shwe Dagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar.
It is a pinkish structure of sandstone brought from Jodhpur, cut and dressed. The entire site covers an area of 11 acres.
The stone blocks were assembled in Mumbai using the technique of interlocking, thus making it an indigenous architectural marvel in its own right.
The inside of the pagoda is hollow and serves as a very large meditation hall with an area covering more than 6000 sq. meters.
The massive inner dome has a seating capacity of 8,000, enabling individuals to practice non-sectarian Vipassana meditation as taught by Goenka, which is now followed in over 100 countries.
The centre of the pagoda contains the world's largest stone dome built without any supporting pillars. The dome is more than three times the size of the large masonry structure - the Gol Gumbaz in Bijapur, Karnataka.
Combining ancient building principles with modern techniques of construction, Sompura guided a structure using the 'interlocking principle of construction' for the huge stones - each weighing around 600-700 kg.
The stones have been brought from Jodhpur as they are capable of withstanding sea weather. The entire structure has consumed over 2.5 million tonnes of Jodhpur stone.
According to Vallabh Bhansali, chairman and co-founder of Enam Group and Trustee of Global Pagoda, the Global Pagoda is the largest stone monument in the world. It is also the tallest pillar-less dome in the world.
"Unlike cement and steel structures, the use of stone and lime mortar gives it strength and longevity, it ensures that the structure becomes more stable with increased height and weight placed on it as the stones grip each other more rigidly to defy gravity. It is expected to last for more than 2,000 years," Bhanshali said.
Many heads have come together to conceptualise, plan and erect the pagoda. A team of Sompura's experts in ornate stone were engaged for their know-how. The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Mumbai was one of the consultants. IIT Chennai is working to improve the acoustics inside the dome.
The monument, under construction for the past 11 years, will open for tourists from 16:00 hours everyday from February 9.
The Buddha's bone relics have been enshrined in the central locking stone of the dome. The grand size and the architectural style of the pagoda is aimed to reinforce India's global image on spiritual tourism map.
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Namo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato Sammāsambuddhassa.
Buddha sāsana.m cira.m ti.t.thatu.