Global Vipassana Pagoda (GVP) is a huge structure near the Gorai creek, which you can not miss if you are travelling in the western suburbs of Mumbai around the creeks. It’s built right on the marshland and adjacent to the Essel World theme park. (Until I saw the structure I always thought these creeks are protected areas, but you know money can buy anything).
I checked with many Mumbai residents on the better to reach there. But as usual everyone whom I spoke to had not traveled to that place (its normal you don't prioritize such places if its in your location). Some didn’t even know something like that existed. The website “http://www.globalpagoda.org” had some details and I understood that the shortest distance was to travel by road till Borivali Creek and take a ferry across to Gorai. The other routes are Via Dahisar (through road) which is very long and via Marve (you have to still take a Ferry which is a longer route than the one from Borivali).
I went in my Car. There is a paid parking (for Essel World) at the end of the road near the Borivali creek. I dint find any other parking around there, hence told them that I am going to Essel World and parked my car there. The parking area looked more like a poultry farm and you can very easily run over several hens if you don’t focus on your wheels. You have to walk from there upto the Ferry. There were some police men stationed there to checks your bags. I felt sad for them because the entire place was stinking so badly. It was more of a dump yard than a marshland and you had to walk across the same to take a Ferry. I always thought Mumbai stinks everywhere. But while walking through this, I realized there are places worse than what I thought and the place where I am staying was much better.
There is a local ferry service (charges Rs 5) and the one operated by Essel World (Rs 35 for return). I took the Essel World one since they drop you close to the Pagoda. Otherwise you will have to walk some distance to reach the spot. The moment I went closer to the Ferry I saw the structure of the Pagoda on the other side and it looked amazing. The Ferry was filled with families and kids who were going to Essel World. I wondered how many of these families would want to see the Pagoda or know the importance of these structures. I reached the other side of the creek and saw 2 gates - one for Essel World and another one for the Pagoda. As expected most of them who came in the Ferry took the one to Essel World except few couples and some lost souls like me. You have to walk close to 1 km to reach the Pagoda. Pagodas are tiered structures usually used as a place of worship in many countries in Eastern parts of the world including India. Mostly these were used by the Buddhists. However this structure is more like a Stupa (dome structure). Stupa’s again were used mainly by the Buddhists for worship and meditation. These Stupa’s are said to be having the relics of Buddha in it, which makes the place very religious and creates an aura of energy which can be utilized during the meditation. GVP is no exception, it does have relics of Buddha enshrined in the second dome.
The structure was an architectural brilliance and it was glowing in Gold (not real Gold though). But I was told there are several precious stones embedded at the top of the structure. There was construction going on around the Pagoda. There was a big statue of Buddha near the entrance. The good thing about this place is they are not charging any entry fee. But the catch is that they don’t allow you to enter inside the Dome of the Pagoda. However they have a visitor gallery covered in glass from where you can see interior of the Pagoda and others meditating. Photography is not allowed inside the structure.
There are some guides around who can explain to you the significance of the place. The guides were very patient and explained to us the entire background of this Pagoda and lots about Vipassana meditation (using breathe to control your mind and action, observing sensations throughout the body, understanding their nature, and developing calmness by learning not to react to them).They also tell you that you have to complete the 10 day Vipassana course to enter into the Pagoda for meditation. He also told that there were no fees for the course but you have to be detached from every material, physical things during those 10 days. That was interesting for a meditation course! I found few people inside the dome meditating including some teens. They say you restrict something the curiosity to know more arises - there were many who were asking the guide how to get in.
I came out and went to a photo gallery close by which had huge paintings revealing the life of Buddha. Don’t miss this thinking these are just paintings. These are really big ones and done so well that you wonder how long it would have taken for them to complete this. It will easily take an hour to finish seeing all of them and understand the importance of each picture. You get recorded headsets (Rs 20) which will guide you through the same. There is also a small book stall which had some books about Buddha and the Vipassana meditation techniques.
I felt hungry after that and went to a food court close by. It was run by the GVP authorities and there were a few who were having food there, so I thought of taking the risk. Though I know you get the worst Idli’s and Medhu Vada’s in Mumbai, I am always tempted to order the same when I see them on the Menu card. I ordered a set of Vada and Watermelon juice. (A lady came by and asked the guy sitting in the billing desk to give the complaint register as she felt the food was stale.) I had paid for the same already and couldn’t do much. The vada was upto the expectation of Mumbai (bad). The juice was OK. But I would not recommend this food court. Its better you carry some snacks with you or you can stick to Coke or any other packaged snacks.
There are several facilities which are coming up there and are in construction stage (like library etc). But I guess it will take several years for completion of the entire project. The guide also told me very proudly that they are trying to make this another wonder of the world and there is lot of work happening to ensure all the requirements and facilities for the same are in place.
I felt the best time to visit this place was in the evening. You also get to see the sun set beyond the Pagoda and it’s a great sight. The Pagoda is open from 9am - 7pm. In the night they lit up the entire place with huge colorful focus lights which are directed towards the dome and it looks great even from far. I left the place with some mixed thoughts about the life of Buddha and the beauty of different types of meditations available for us and more importantly the vast knowledge and history behind these structures.
But, all these thoughts vanished once I got out of the area and went closer to the ferry. You have to bear this stinking smell twice if you want to go and meditate there and I think I would prefer not to take that risk. If you like driving, I would always suggest you take the longest route via road. For more information, you may visit the below links. http://www.globalpagoda.org/ http://www.dhamma.org