6 Top Vipassana Meditation Centers in India

Where to Study Vipassana Meditation in India

Prayer beads, a man meditating, Varanasi, India
••• David Clapp / Getty Images

Vipassana meditation isn't only popular with Indians. Many travelers like to take time out to study Vipassana in India. This style of meditation is derived from Theravada Buddhism, although the course is free of religious teachings.  The introductory Vipassana meditation course is a 10 day silent residential program that focuses on observing the breath and bodily sensations. Days begin at 4.30 a.m., so it's not for the faint of heart. However, the course, food and accommodation are all free of charge.

These are the top centers for Vipassana meditation in India, as taught by S.N.Goenka.

  • 01 of 06

    The world's largest Vipassana meditation center, known as Dhamma Giri, is located at the Vipassana Research Institute at Igatpuri in Maharastra. It's around three hours from Mumbai. The center offered its first course to the public in 1976 and now tens of thousands study there every year. Over 400 "cells" are provided for individual meditation, which is appealing for those who want to undertake intensive practice in solitude away from other people. The 10 days courses are in high demand and are held twice a month, all year round.

  • 02 of 06

    The Dhamma Pattana Vipassana meditation center is located on a hill overlooking the beach town of Gorai, in the outer norther suburbs of Mumbai. One of India's newest Vipassana centers, it's part of the renowned Global Pagoda complex that opened in 2009. The building is modern, and all residential rooms are equipped with western facilities and air conditioning. The distinctive feature about the Vipassana taught here is that it's geared towards business executives and professionals. The technique is the same but the course contains additional talks specifically related to using Vipassana principles for dealing with stresses of the business world. The courses fill up very fast and must be booked well in advance.

  • 03 of 06

    If you fancy meditating at the place where Lord Buddha became enlightened, head to the Dhamma Bodhi Vipassana meditation center in Bodh Gaya, Bihar. The recently renovated and expanded compound is located around four kilometers west of town, on 18 acres of grounds near Magadha University. 10 day courses generally start on the first and 16th of every month. November to February are the busiest months. There's space for around 80 students at a time. The beneficial thing about studying Vipassana meditation in Bodh Gaya is that courses in Buddhist philosophy are also available from other local organizations. This is convenient for those with an interest in Buddhism.

  • 04 of 06

    Meditating in the mountains, surrounded by fresh air and towering pine trees, makes for a particularly memorable experience. If the thought of this appeals to you, the Sikhara Dhamma Vipassana meditation center in Dharamasala is the place to go. Nestled into three acres of forested land, it's one of the most picturesque centers in India. 10 day courses are offered fortnightly from April to November.

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  • 05 of 06

    Situated amid paddy fields and open farmland on the outskirts of Chennai in south India, Dhamma Setu Vipassana meditation center is a peaceful, tropically landscaped paradise. It's another relatively new center that opened in 2005. The center's impressive golden pagoda has almost 300 individual meditation "cells" for students. Additional meditation halls also accommodate over 100 students. The popular 10 day course is held twice a month. Children's courses are also offered.

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    Meaning "Cheerfulness of Truth", the newly reconstructed Dhamma Paphulla is situated on 10 acres of land in Alur village, on the northwestern outskirts of Bangalore. The main mediation hall can accommodate about 100 students, plus there are two smaller halls that can seat 30 students each. Residential 10 day courses are held once or twice a month all year round. Comfortable accommodations are provided in twin-bedded rooms with attached bathrooms and hot water.