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The Elephanta Caves

The Elephanta Caves , located on Elephanta Island, or Gharapuri, about 11 Km off the coast of the Gateway of India, Mumbai, are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A visit to these caves, excavated probably in the 6 th century CE, is awe-inspiring, and also thought-provoking. Over the years, I have visited the caves a number of times, and also attended a number of talks by experts in the fields of art, history and archaeology on the caves. Together, they help me understand these caves, their art, and the people they were created for, just a little bit better. Every new visit, every new talk, every new article I read about the caves, fleshes out the image of what the island and the caves would have been like, at their peak. I last wrote about the caves on this blog, in 2011, almost exactly 11 years ago. Since then, my understanding of the caves has, I would like to think, marginally improved. Hence this attempt to write a new and updated post, trying to bring to life, the caves of Elephan

Global Pagoda in Mumbai

When I posted my uncle’s travelogue on Kushinagar with its photo of the Pagoda, I had no idea I would be seeing one soon…. No, I did not suddenly travel anywhere east, but the pagoda I visited is right in Bombay!

The Global Pagoda, more popularly known as the ‘Golden Pagoda’ has been built by the Vipassana Foundation at Gorai, on 11 acres of land donated by a devotee. While you can find directions to the pagoda here, it would suffice to say that it is located right next to EsselWorld. That’s all you need to know if you want to visit the place. EsselWorld is probably the most popular destination for visitors to Bombay, and practically anyone can guide you there.

While it is possible to drive right up to the pagoda, we opted to go via the ferry, since it would provide some entertainment for Samhith, who was sure to be bored by any place where it was necessary to be quiet! We drove to Borivli via Thane, picking up my sister, and then proceeded to the jetty at Gorai.

On the way, we passed this truck, and paused to take a pic. Mridula, this one is for you!

The ferry charge from the Gorai Jetty is Rs. 35/- (both ways, per person), and there are two ferries – one taking the tourists to EsselWorld, the other to the Pagoda.

The jetty is flanked on all sides by mangroves, interspersed by the many buildings which have spurted up in the last few years. It was a sorry sight to see, the lush vegetation spoilt by the filth thrown into it, making the whole area stink like a pigsty.

However, even the muck didn’t stem Samhith’s enthusiasm, for he ran around the small place, looking at the tiny insects that crawled out of the water in their shells, and the many water birds which flocked all around.

When the ferry finally arrived, it was surprisingly clean, and we enjoyed the 15 minute ride, seeing more birds and boats along the way.

The pagoda is visible right from the jetty, and presents a pretty picture, inviting us to take a closer look.

Here are more details of the structure that you can see… from the pamphlet handed to us at the pagoda…

The pagoda is a hollow stone monument with an octagonal base that externally rises, uninterruptedly and smoothly, into a needle at the top through a circular bell shape. Internally, it forms the dome of a huge meditation hall. It is structurally designed on two semi-circular domes resting on a solid stone foundation.

A pillar-less hall of 280 ft diameter will seat about 6000 to 8000 meditators.
From ground level to the base of the Pagoda, a height of about 35 feet, consists of a basement, exhibition gallery, circumambulation (Parikrama) path, and canopy.

Apart from the main pagoda, there are two smaller ones with a height of 60ft, two administration blocks, underground tank of 400,000 litres, basement of 50,000 square feet, Parikrama path of 60,000 square feet, four approach staircases, and rain water harvesting tanks of 1,400,000 litres.

Work is still in progress, and it was an amazing sight to see the workers painting the structure, making the concrete figures and statues which will decorate it…. Let me take you on a visual tour of the place as it stands today…..

An audio-visual show about the Pagoda is being developed, but meanwhile, a documentary aired on a TV set in the basement gives us a glimpse of the Vipassana concepts, as well as the ideas and work behind this colossal project. There is also an art gallery lined with paintings depicting the life of the Buddha. While photography is not allowed inside the art gallery, here is a snap of one of the reproductions on their calendar. It will give you an idea of the beauty of the paintings...

There is a small canteen on the premises, which offers basic fare such as Vada Pav, Samosas, Coke and tea/coffee. The Vipassana store next door has a wonderful collection of books related to Vipassana and the Buddha, and some miniature models of the pagoda.

We spent more than two hours just roaming around the area, and finally turned our weary feet homewards. Here are some pics of the return trip.

If this post seemed too long with too many photographs, think again, for I took more than 200 pics!!! If you want to take a look at the other pics, you can see the entire album here, or go through this slideshow....


  1. I can see this from my office window in Goregaon and I always wondered where exactly it. is. Didn't know it was across the creek. And now I can only just imagine the size of the stupa/pagoda!

  2. @ Mridula : Thanks....

    @Mumbai Paused: good to hear that my blog helped you identify the monument.... you should also go there sometime....

  3. I knew it was coming up and then it slipped off my mind. Thanks for reminding. :-)

  4. Woww, cool. You actually went to the Pagoda?!! We wanted to go while i was in Mumbai, right after my Vipassana course in PUne, but dint have time!! :)

  5. @ Nisha" go there next year... most of it should be done by then

    @Aarti: you should go next time... esp since you have done the course... in fact, i wouldnt mind joining u if u do come here......

  6. Nice blog, good effort. I enjoyed reading your of luck

  7. we live far from Mumbai. so can not visit pagoda ripetedly. thanks for posting recent photos of pagoda. also requesting to post photos of recent developments regularly.

  8. thanks for posting recent photos.

  9. @Sadasivam: thanks a lot.....

    @Nitin.. Shall definitely do that/.. when i go there next.... even within bombay, it is too far from where I live, so lets see when i visit it next,,,

  10. Realy Nice blog, great effort. I enjoyed reading your of luck, i am planning to visit the place.


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