A different Mumbai Sky
(Admittedly the webpage looks much better than the real thing though!)
Mumbai is one of those places that has everything to see and nothing to see. This is largely because it is a city that has to be experienced and lived in rather than “seen”. So after one makes a tour of the Relics of the Raj, the Zoo with no animals , the Aquarium with Fish of Doubtful origin, the Museums that can be done in an hour and the hundreds of Malls that have sprung up with almost the same merchandise, the “iconic” restaurants that have to be visited, there is pretty much nothing else left to do especially since Elephant Island across the bay is inaccessible in the monsoons.So I thought I’d venture north into the suburbs and visit the erstwhile Borivali National Park re-christened as the Sanjay Gandhi National Park somewhere in the late 20th century.
The drive to the park was pleasant enough considering the distance ( a fair bit) and the traffic ( normal) and by 10.15 we were at the gates to the park. After paying an entrance of just around Rs.220, we drove up to Kanheri caves, the old Buddhist caves which were the only other tourist attraction in the park worth seeing. Driving up a narrow leafy road we came across several youngsters walking around the park, frolicking in the eddies that suddenly came to life after the heavy morning showers and of course some vicious looking monkeys that abound in the area. There was a light drizzle as we climbed up the steps to the caves ( admission Rs. 5 per person) and I was amazed that I’d never ever come here before!
|Monkey in the park|
Though the park was clean and green, the bus that we were supposed to use for the Lion & Tiger safari didn’t look that inviting. Besides with the rain, we wondered which animals would be about, so after a quick picnic in the car, we decided to call it a day. But when we got out on the main road, we realised that it was just a little after 12 so I thought I’d make a trek to the Golden Pagoda which I’d seen from the sky above while returning home from a Kochi flight. The trouble was that I had no idea where it was or how to get there. We asked the helpful traffic police who had no idea of such a place and were wondering whether we should abandon plan when I thought of JUST DIAL. This turned out to be an inspired move and we got the contact details of the Vipassana Meditation Centre. A call to the centre gave us directions on how to get there.
|Are we in Burma?|
Once again it was a long drive through a Mumbai completely unknown to me. At parts it was modern, the urbanisation petering out to salt pans and villages as we neared the Pagoda. It was beautiful driving through this “rough” country which pretty much was what Bombay was all about fifty years ago. East Indian cottages with roadside crosses reminded my sister-in-law of her childhood visits to her ancestral home in Goa.
The Pagoda itself is visible for quite a distance and looks enchantingly like Burma or Thailand from afar. The complex is still unfinished though the central Pagoda is complete and operational. There was a stillness and a peaceful calm which according to the guide emanated from the relics of the Buddha consecrated in an urn atop the steeple. Whatever it was, this place had a unworldly charm about it and was definitely worth the long ride from town.
|The Central Dome|
The central dome the guide explained was the largest unsupported ( with no pillars or columns) stone dome made with interlocking stones. There were floor ducts which filled the space with cool air and vents on top with exhaust fans to remove the hot air thus ensuring a comfortable area for 3000 people to meditate in. There were free one hour ana pana sessions in the morning and evening at the Central dome for anyone to participate in but if you want to attend a regular 10 day course, you will have to make a prior reservation.
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