ITALY, September 18, 2012 (ilsecoloxix.it, translated loosely from the Italian): The road to the Gitananda ashram temple in the wooded hills above Altare was lined with parked cars and buses for miles. More than 1,500 Hindus from all across Italy came to celebrate the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi this year. Italians who have embraced Hinduism were among the crowd, but most were of South Asian descent. Many came to pray for an improvement in the dismal economic situation in Italy. Jograj, 29, recently laid off from the farm where he milked cows, came to pray for "finding a job, so I can continue to support my wife, Kunjal, and my two children who were born in Italy, speak Italian and want to stay here." Hundreds of people also participated in the special Yagna fire ceremony and inter-religious gathering held on the beautiful ashram grounds. Ten religious leaders from India and Sri Lanka and the local parish priest, Paolo Cirio, attended as well as the youthful mayor of Altare, Davide Berruti, and the commander of the local police force. The recently completed meditation bell, largest in Italy, was also inaugurated at the event. An ancient Hindu prayer that gives strength to the spirit is engraved on the bell. "That (strength) is what we should try to nurture these days, to have confidence in the future, knowing that God Ganesh is the remover of obstacles, like those of material and spiritual uncertainty" said the monks during the ceremony.
[See slide show at "source" above]