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What is Pagoda?
The pagoda is the monument where Buddha is worshipped and people meditate as per his instructions. The pagoda is also called as stupa. When Buddha left the earthly world, never to return back again, his remains were enshrined in ten stupas mostly in the northern parts of India. Later, a number of stupas were constructed and with the requests of care takers of these stupas, Buddha’s relics were distributed to them also. At present there are number of pagoda or stupas where the relics are kept and worshipped and many people from across the world come to pay respects to Buddha and meditate in the presence of his relics. The biggest pagoda of the world is Shwe Dagon Pagoda, located in Burma.
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Global Vipassana Pagoda
Vipassana is the meditation technique taught in tradition of Sayagyi U Ba Khin, renowned teacher of this mediation from Burma. Vipassana means to see the things as they really are and not as they seem to be or as they should be. It is a simple and logical process for purification of mind through self observation. Vipassana helps removing negativities of the mind and live a happy and peaceful life. In present days the technique is taught by Principal Vipassana teacher Satyanarayan Goenka, popularly known as Goenkaji, and his chain of teachers.
To learn Vipassana one has to take 10-Days residential course at any of the Vipassana meditation centers spread across various parts of India and the world. There are number of Vipassana mediation centers where there is pagoda. These the hollow pagodas made with special technique. The internal parts of these pagodas are hollow and a number of small rooms, called as cells, are built, where the meditators can meditate peacefully without any disturbance. These are similar to the caves like the ones at Ajanta and Ellora. The pagodas built in other traditions are solid one, where the upper part is solid and in the bottom part statue of Buddha is kept for worshiping.
Global Vipassana pagoda has been developed as the mark of respect and gratitude by Goenkaji for his teacher Sayagyi U Ba Khin. The Global Vipassana Pagoda was conceived as a place where people belonging to all regions, religions, sects, races, creeds and castes of the world can come together to meditate and find peace within themselves and generate peace and harmony for the entire world.
Must read on next pages: Salient Features of Global Pagoda and Construction of Global Pagoda
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At the center of the global vipassana pagoda is a huge hall of 280 feet in diameter where about 8000 people can comfortably sit and meditate. It is almost equivalent to single football ground. The inner part of the pagoda consisting of the hall has been built in the form of the huge dome that too without any pillars. Thus the dome of 280 feet diameter without any pillars, just imagine! The whole dome is made up of stone structure. This makes global pagoda as the biggest pillar-less stone dome structure in the world. The previously built largest stone dome structure is Gol Gumbaj in Bijapur, which is 90 feet in diameter.
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Salient Features of Global Vipassana Pagoda
Global Vipassana Pagoda is considered to be the modern day wonder, let us see its salient features to know why it is called so (refer the images above):
1) At the center of the pagoda is a huge hall of 280 feet in diameter where about 8000 people can comfortably sit and meditate. It is almost equivalent to single football ground.
2) The inner part of the pagoda consisting of the hall has been built in the form of the huge dome that too without any pillars. Thus the dome of 280 feet diameter without any pillars, just imagine! The whole dome is made up of stone structure. This makes global pagoda as the biggest pillar-less stone dome structure in the world. The previously built largest stone dome structure is Gol Gumbaj in Bijapur, which is 90 feet in diameter.
3) The height of this stone dome structure is 325 feet, which is almost equivalent to 30 storey building. So here we have huge tone dome of 280 feet in diameter, 325 feet in height and without any supporting pillars in the middle of this hall or dome. This is totally unimaginable and seeing this monstrous structure with eyes one just can’t believe in what he/she s seeing. It is the world of dream, of the completion of unthinkable work.
4) The whole pagoda, including the dome is made of large stones. About 2.5 million tons of stones have been used in the construction of the pagoda.
5) The stones at the top of the dome have been placed with lock and key arrangement. Due to this the stone in the dome can be lifted only from the external sides of the dome and they just cannot fall inside the dome.
6) To complete this unbelievable structure 3.87 million man-days were required. The work on pagoda started in the October 1997 and got completed in November 2008.
7) The estimated cost of the main pagoda and one small pagoda has been one million and four hundred thousand US dollars. The work of three small pagodas is yet to be completed. The work has been supported selflessly by the Vipassana meditators and devotes throughout the world.
8) The original relics of Buddha have been enshrined in the main pagoda.
9) The Global Vipassana Pagoda has been designed as the replica of Shwe Dagon Pagoda of Myanmar as a mark of respect for the country that preserved non-sectarian scientific teachings of Buddha in pristine pure form at the times when they were lost from the country of its origin, India.
10) The structure is estimated to exist as a beacon of Peace and Harmony for the next 1000 years.
Must read on next page: Construction of Global Vipassana Pagoda
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The construction of Global Vipassana Pagoda has been very tough for the structure has seen many ups and downs. 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. The Global Vipassana Pagoda is located in Mumbai, the financial capital of India. The site is located near Essel World, in Gorai, Borivili.
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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.
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