Prepare to have the breath knocked out of you. Twice. A long and steep flight of stairs awaits you at the entrance to the Ananda Buddha Vihara. Once you've scrambled up them, turn around, look at the city laid out in front of you, and gasp.
The Vihara is a pleasure to visit any time of day, especially when you're looking for a little peace and a lot of quiet. The main hall is huge, with a high arched ceiling and plenty of windows flooding it with light. The place simply radiates calm. A tall golden statue of Buddha stands at the end of the hall, which, like the intricately carved doors at the entrance, was donated to the center by a group of Buddhists from Rangoon.
Inaugurated by the Dalai Lama, the Buddhist cultural center is a newer, much more impressive version of the modest center at Tukaram Gate. It is part of a three-acre project that includes a soon-to-be-completed Museum Hall. You can become a member by paying Rs. 365 a year, and will receive details of their programs and have access to their library. But the monks are more than willing to share information with anyone who expresses interest, and will probably give you the books anyway.
The center holds meditation classes at 6 every morning, followed by a discourse on the various aspects of Buddhism. Plans are also on to start yoga classes and monastery education.
Many visitors are economically or socially underprivileged, and other frequent visitors include philanthropists and intellectuals, the head monk Mahathera tells us. There is also a surprising number of children here at any given time, and those who just want some time by the lotus pool on a quiet evening. The waterfall will be turned on, and the city will be lit.