Friday, April 18, 2008



Mahatma Gandhi, the apostle of non-violence, has become an icon in Italy and found a prized place next to epic poet Virgil, overlooking the picturesque Bay of Naples.

A majestic bronze bust of Gandhi, the creation of Indian sculptor Gautam Pal, was unveiled by India's ambassador to Italy Rajiv Dogra and Mayor of Naples Rosa Iervolino Russo.

The bust was installed in Parco Virgiliano, named after Virgil, the poet who sang "of armies and of men" in his epic Aenid, which is located in the heart of Naples.

The installation of Gandhi's statue on the top of Posillipo hill consecrated to national icon Virgil underlines the popularity of Gandhi and his enduring message of non-violence and passive resistance in Italy that has seen a flowering of educational institutions named after him.

"Gandhiji's ideas and message are universal. Mahatma's actions and his teachings are an antidote to the brutality of violence. It's heartening to see that the life of Mahatma Gandhi is followed with admiration in Italy," said Dogra, who also penned a novel "Almost an Ambassador", which is based on his long innings as an Indian diplomat in different parts of the world.

"It is symbolic of close relations between two ancient civilizations like Italy and India that two of the greatest figures of history - Virgil and Mahatma Gandhi - should come to be associated together in this manner in a glorious site overlooking the bay of Naples," he said.

Russo, the first woman mayor of Naples, was jubilant to see Gandhi's statue in Parco Virgiliano, a favourite with young Italians and tourists.

"Mahatma Gandhi's message remains relevant universally today. The words and actions of Gandhi continue to provide inspiration and comfort to all people," she said in front of an eclectic audience that included parliamentarians, business magnates, scholars, journalists and influential figures of the art world.

Gandhi has become a cult of sorts in Italy with more and more Italians discovering new truth in his writings. A slew of poetry competitions, functions and discussions have been held over the last two years, said an official of the Indian embassy in Rome.

The bust of Gandhi was commissioned and gifted by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR).

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