Saturday, May 11, 2019

Accommodation and Food Facilities at Vipassana Meditation Gorai Pagoda Center, Mumbai.

Let me confess something upfront.

Before actually starting but after making my final decision of attending the course at the Dhamma Pattana Meditation Center inside the Global Vipassana Pagoda Gorai, Mumbai, I had painted a vague image in my mind (yeah, the worst possible) of the room that was to be allotted.

According to my image, the accommodation room was a one cot dormitory type bed in a congested space already haunted by a couple of creepy crawly creatures (read cockroaches and lizards) and a dirty smelly bathroom with cobwebs here and there that I would dread entering into everyday.

After all, what does one possibly get for FREE, in this day and age?

Oh, yes! Did I tell you… the course is absolutely free of charge run completely voluntarily, sustaining on the donations made by the students.

And so, I wondered of the kind of rooms and food they would provide – about how clean and spacious would the rooms be, would the accommodation for Vipassana be single or double sharing,  would the bathroom be attached or common sharing, will the food – quality and quantity both - be satisfactory enough and keep the engine of my stomach happy?


After a brief scanning of my documents at the Dhamma Pattana Vipassana Pagoda residential quarters, I was allotted room no. 2 which was towards the far end of the ground floor, diametrically opposite the dining hall.

Stepping in, just one glance around the room,
and the picture I had painted in my mind vanished in thin air,
nowhere to be found again!

Residential quarters for students of  Vipassana meditation course Gorai , Mumbai
Enveloped in greenery all around is the residential quarter
for the students of Vipassana meditation course at Gorai center in Mumbai
- My home for 10 days.
Residential quarters for students of the Global Vipassana Gorai Pagoda meditation course, Mumbai

What is the room allotted at Dhamma Pattana Vipassana meditation center in Gorai Pagoda, Mumbai like?

The rooms have just about everything one wouldn't generally expect for free, and though pretty basic, is more of a warm homely room than any random hotel room.

They are not very of course but spacious enough to comfortably accommodate one person, the bed neatly done with two pillows and one coverlet provided.

The bathrooms are attached and pretty clean too.

Besides all the basic amenities, the rooms come equipped with a super cool air conditioner AND yes, it works.

Accomodation room at Global Vipassana Gorai Pagoda, Mumbai
This picture is sourced - but this is more or less how my room looked like...
you get the picture, right?

You are allotted single occupancy (unless you have a problem with being alone and request for double sharing), not to be shared with anyone else which is what one would really expect from a course like Vipassana where one is to observe absolute noble silence for a period of 10 days.

I was impressed - there wasn't a single creepy crawly anywhere in the room, no cobwebs and no mosquitoes to trouble either!

My room was easily the second best thing (after the short conversation with the lady I had previously met in the boat) to have kickstarted my Day Zero of Vipassana meditaion course on an encouraging note.

Garden area outside the residence - Vipassana meditation center Gorai Pagoda, Mumbai
The beautiful garden connecting the residence area -
the only place outside where students are allowed to wander during the break between the meditation sessions.
Beyond the Dhamma Pattana residential quarters - Global Vipassana Gorai Pagoda, Mumbai
Overlooking the residential quarters and the garden, is the imposing Pagoda
where the sacred relics of Buddha are enshrined at the top.


Same was true with the food and if I may add, with the food, the management took the notch even higher.

We had meals 3 times a day – the breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Dining hall - Global Vipassana Gorai Pagoda, Mumbai
This is the dining hall where we sat facing the wall so as to minimize any eye contact or facial gestures.
Picture credit: Kavita Sajnani.

The food is fresh and hygienic - adding to the overall experience with the course.

The best part – it is offered lavishly, whole heartedly and generously to all the students present.

My food sojourn began as soon as I arrived, on the introduction desk itself, on the zero day when I was kindly offered lunch.

At 5 in the evening on the same day, we had a light breakfast of steaming hot idlis and sambhar along with tea / coffee. 

However, on the main course days, evening tea time is a light affair with the platter constituting only of hot and cold beverages like tea, coffee, milk and nimbu paani (lemon water), a plethora of fruits and roasted puffed rice – this was our regular menu for the next 10 days at this hour of the day.

Consequently, as the days progressed, I realized that food here is not just any regular run off the mill thing but is really something to talk home about.

This was especially true for the morning breakfast and lunch meals which constituted of a different menu every single day.

Lunch consisted of 2 / 3 sabjis (different every day), dal or kadhi, plain rice, pulao / jeera rice, atleast two different types of rotis like phulkas and paratha, boiled veggie salad, raw veggie salad, curd … phew! – it was a royal thali befitting the sophisticated palate of a king!

There were even noodles and pasta on some days.

All the sabjis came in non chilly versions as well taking care of the elderly and people on medication and such needs.

Morning breakfast was another lavish affair coming only second to the lunch – Khakhras (Jeera and Methi), bread, glucose biscuit, and two fruits were the constants in the menu every day. Besides the constants, there was a hot dish like idli, chilla, dhokla, poha and so on, on different days. We even had Mumbai’s quintessential batata vada on the last day!

All in all, the facilities provided at the Vipassana Pagoda Gorai in Mumbai exceeded my wildest imagination and left me all set looking forward to what was in store during the rest of the day.

Timetable for Vipassana Meditation Course:

Keep following the wheel of Dhamma!

This is the timetable we followed during all the ten days of the course. The timetable of the Vipassana meditation course is so designed so as to facilitate best results from the 10 days and is the same followed by everyone, worldwide.

4:00 am Morning wake-up bell
4:30-6:30 am Meditate in the hall or in your room
6:30-8:00 am Breakfast break
8:00-9:00 am Group meditation in the hall
9:00-11:00 am Meditate in the hall or in your room according to the teacher's instructions
11:00-12:00 noon Lunch break
12 noon-1:00 pm Rest and interviews with the teacher
1:00-2:30 pm Meditate in the hall or in your room
2:30-3:30 pm Group meditation in the hall
3:30-5:00 pm Meditate in the hall or in your own room according to the teacher's instructions
5:00-6:00 pm Tea break
6:00-7:00 pm Group meditation in the hall
7:00-8:15 pm Discourse in the hall
8:15-9:00 pm Group meditation in the hall
9:00-9:30 pm Question time in the hall
9:30 pm Retire to your own room -- Lights out!

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Accomodation and Food Facilities at Vipassana Gorai Meditation Center, Mumbai.

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I attended the Vipassana meditation course from 6th March to 16th March 2019 in Mumbai. Since I hadn't taken my phone or camera along during the course, all the pictures that you see in this series are from my subsequent visits to the center. You can read the complete Pagoda Vipassana Meditation blogpost series by clicking on the following links:

Stepping Into Vipassana: The Admission Process (An Introduction)
10 things You Must Pack For Vipassana Meditation: A Checklist!

How to Reach the Global Vipassana Pagoda From Gorai Khadi in Borivli, Mumbai.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

How to Reach the Global Vipassana Pagoda From Gorai Khadi in Borivli, Mumbai.

As already mentioned previously, I had attended the 10 day Vipassana course at Gorai Pagoda in Mumbai.

On the D-day, 6th March 2019, leaving my phone and camera behind, I bid my half-excited, half-anticipatory goodbye to friends and family... for the next 10 days we weren't going to have any communication, in any form whatsoever. I had never been disconnected in such a jarring way from any sense of my home for such a continuous length of time and yet, an action that once terrified me today made my heart bloom in anticipation of what lay ahead of me.

When I finally left the house, it was with a feeling that this was the beginning of a new yatra.

With a spring in my step and the strange little tickle of excitement running down my spine, I reached Gorai Khadi or Gorai Jetty, the ferry point in Borivli West in Mumbai from where the journey to Global Vipassana Pagoda was to begin!

Global Vipassana Pagoda as seen from the Gorai Creek in Mumbai
Come along with me ... to one of Maharashtra's - and the world's - best known symbols of peace and harmony!

*All the pictures you'll see in this series of blogposts on Vipassana are from my subsequent visits to the Pagoda and not from the time when I actually attended the course.

How to reach Gorai Pagoda from Borivli, Mumbai:

To reach the Dhamma Pattana Center situated inside the Global Vipassana complex – the nearest railway station is Borivli. Get down from the western exit and take a BEST bus (Nos. 294 and 247) or a rickshaw towards the Gorai Khadi. The rickshaw will take around 20-25 minutes (3.8 km) and drop you off at the Gorai Creek which is also the ferry point.

Mangroves at the Gorai Creek, Borivli
A thick groove of Mangroves at Gorai Khadi in Borivli west.

NOTE: You need not buy the ferry ticket for Pagoda at this point. Ferry tickets have to be brought once you cross over to the other side (Esselworld jetty) after reaching the destination.

You just need to inform the ferry operators roaming at the spot that you’re going for Vipassana course and take the “Esselworld” boat.

It takes around 25 minutes to reach the other end of the Gorai creek – The Esselworld Jetty.

Armed with my bag of things I had packed for Vipassana, I took a seat in the Esselworld ferry, and soon enough a woman, another Vipassana student took a seat beside me. I barely spoke. Perhaps, a part of me was still coming to terms to what I had finally got myself into… and here she was, this lady, already chatting her heart away!

She was attending the course for the second time, having attended her first only 3 months earlier at Belur. And boy! If she wasn’t upbeat about it!

Esselworld Boat from the Gorai Khadi in Borivli, Mumbai
From the boat ride... Esselworld Ferry towards the Global Vipassana Pagoda.

Has Vipassana helped you in the past 3 months? I asked.

Her eyes, vivid with passion, emulated the gleaming sun and her smile was accompanied by an expression that showed more like ecstacy than any other emotion… It’s magic my dear, it’s changed my life and it will change yours too. Just do it, sincerely.

I couldn’t understand what magic she was talking about and what kind of changes.

And yet, her words were music to my ears! I loved talking to her – her conviction reaffirming my faith of taking the leap, bringing a quiet assurance to my heart, restless with a curious mix of anticipation and elation.

The waters beneath, ruffled as our boat made its way towards the Pagoda, refracting the passing moments in the glimmer of the scalding sun.

View of the Pagoda from Gorai Khadi ferry in Borivli, Mumbai

Far away in the distance, unaware and oblivious to all such mortal distractions, glittered the gilded structure of the Global Vipassana Pagoda - a golden beacon of silence and peace, with its central finger like conical structure, containing the relics of the Buddha, tapering upwards 99 m (the height of a 30 storey building) towards the ever expanding sky making it the largest free standing dome in the world.

Mumbai, my home, suddenly seemed a million miles away.

Disembarking at the Esselworld Jetty and Getting to the Pagoda:

Gates of the Global Vipassana Pagoda, Gorai Mumbai
A few steps after disembarking at the Esselworld Jetty, comes the first gate of the Pagoda.

We disembarked at the Esselworld Jetty, the other end of the Gorai Khadi and made our way towards the Pagoda. There were 2 more students in the boat besides me and the lady I had just met, taking the total count to 4. As soon as we entered the gate of the Pagoda, two men representing the Pagoda welcomed all of us warmly.

Way to the Dhamma Pattana Vipassana Center Global Pagoda, Mumbai
The road to the Pagoda goes through a very peaceful hike of about 2 kms.

Here, we were guided to purchase the tickets for the ferry which cost us Rs. 25 each. Free car service was provided which took us to the Dhamma Pattana Vipassana center, this was to be our residence for the next 10 days.

Dhamma Pattana Vipassana Center Global Pagoda, Mumbai
Welcome to the Dhamma Pattana Vipassana Center - my home for the next 10 days!

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Tips and other helpful information:

The frequency of the Esselworld ferries (which also goes to the Global Vipassana Pagoda) is about 30 minutes and the last ferry leaves from the Gorai Khadi at Borivli towards the Global Vipassana Pagoda at 5.25 pm.

How to reach Global Vipassana Pagoda from Thane and other areas?

The Global Vipassana Pagoda in Gorai is well connected by State Transport Buses from Thane, Navi Mumbai & Mumbai cities.

From Bhayender Station (W) MBMT (Mira Bhayandar Municipal Transport ) Bus No. 4 is available for Global Vipassana Pagoda. Timings are 6.30 am to 6 .45 pm. Fare from Bhayandar Stn to Global Pagoda is Rs. 13.

How to reach Global Vipassana Pagoda from other Malad?

From Malad Station West, take BEST Bus No. 272 to Malad Marve, from Malad Marve, take the Esselworld Ferry service. Fare is Rs. 25 one way.

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How to reach Global Vipassana Pagoda, Gorai Mumbai

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I attended the Vipassana meditation course from 6th March to 16th March 2019 in Mumbai. You can read the complete Pagoda Vipassana Meditation blogpost series by clicking on the following links:

Stepping Into Vipassana: The Admission Process (An Introduction)
10 things You Must Pack For Vipassana Meditation: A Checklist!