Construction of Global Vipassana Pagoda
The construction of Global Vipassana Pagoda has been very tough for the structure has seen many ups and downs. The times had also come when there were doubts if the structure will be really be completed. I consider myself fortunate to have been witness the construction of this giant structure and also come across the problems faced by it during construction.
In October 1997, initially the work was started as the RCC structure with huge foundations. When I saw them I could not believe my eyes that even such huge foundations could ever exist. Later, it was realized that since the structure was located on the seashore the mild steel will get corroded fast so the life of the whole pagoda would be maximum 70 to 80 years only, but the desired life was at least 1000 years. So it was decided to dismantle all the RCC structures and look for the alternatives of which the prominent one was stone structure.
Lots of time went in carrying out on research whether the stone structure will be feasible or not. The research was also carried out at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) at Mumbai and it was found that it was feasible to construct pagoda with stone.
Further, the principal Vipassana Teacher Goenkaji expressed his wish to construct the pagoda without any sight hindering pillars. The diameter of the dome was 280 feet and its height was to be of 325 feet, imagining the existence hall of such a magnitude without any pillars was almost impossible for the engineers. The consultants expressed their doubts, while the cost was another factor.
The researchers started studying all the stone structures throughout India and the tradition of people constructing them. They came across a man named Mr. Chandubhai Sompura, an expert architect of the stone structure. He suggested them the idea of locking system of the stones and actually demonstrated the idea by using the pieces of soap. The soaps were cut into grooves on the horizontal as well as vertical sides in such a way that when they were kept one on the other there was interlocking between them in both the directions. Thus the stones could be fitted easily without any risks of their shuttering. After seeing the demo and various rounds of meetings it was decided to follow Sompura’s concept.
This wonder dome, without any pillars is made of huge stones each weighing about 600 to 700 kg. Thousands of stones have been used and each are suspended in the air without any support. The topmost stone of the hall dome weighs about 4 tons and it remains suspended at the height of 90 feet. It’s just horrifying to imagine that thousands of stones are suspended at huge height and thousands of people are sitting in the hall fearlessly with the stones suspending over their heads. But imagine that nothing is going to go wrong!
For increasing the strength of the structure and its longevity, the construction is done using lime and mortar. For the foundation black basalt stones have been used. Now read this, the average depth of the foundation is 30 feet and its width is 20 feet, just mind blowing. While construction utmost care was taken for safety and each layer of across the whole circumference of the pagoda was made separately.
In all 2.5 millions tons stones have been used for global pagoda and all have been carted from quarries in Rajasthan, mainly Jodhpur, which is thousands of miles away from the construction site. Huge manpower expertise has been spent in transportation of the stones, their cutting and fitting.
There are many more mind shattering facts about this mammoth structure. I would recommend you yourself see this structure and get marveled. The Global Vipassana Pagoda is located in Mumbai, the financial capital of India. The site is located near Essel World, in Gorai, Borivili. You can visit the website www.globalpagoda.org for more details.