Italy's largest gurdwara has opened in the northeastern city of Castel Gomberto in Vicenza province, a sign of the growing Sikh community in the country and their economic well-being.
The new building of Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara was purchased by the community in the countryside, where many of the community members live. There are some 3,000 Sikhs in Vicenza and their number is growing.
The gurdwara was inaugurated on November 9. Nearly 3,000 people took part in the inaugural ceremony, which was addressed by Giani Puran Singh.
The gurdwara has large premises and has a modern kitchen and langar hall. The prayer hall on the first floor, where the Guru Granth Sahib is kept, can accommodate 1,000 people.
There are some 60,000-70,000 Sikhs in Italy and their number is growing. There are about 15 gurdwaras across the country - the oldest one being in Reggio Emilia in central Italy where many members of the community are engaged in agriculture.
However, as the community members become more accustomed to the Italian way of life, they are moving into industrial clusters in the northeast, particularly Vicenza province.
Harbant Singh, president of the Sri Guru Singh Sabha in Vicenza, is widely credited as being the brainchild behind setting up the new gurdwara.
He thanked the community for its support and dedication in establishing an important religious institution. He also thanked the Indian embassy in Rome and the Indian government for supporting the immigrants in their settlement in Italy.
He said that the introduction of Alitalia flights from Milan to New Delhi, in addition to the Milan-Mumbai flights, had greatly helped the community in reaching their hometowns more easily and directly from northern Italy and acknowledged the positive role the embassy had played in this regard.
The gurdwara committee members also thanked the embassy for taking up with the Italian government the problems faced by visa seekers from the community.
Meanwhile, several members of the community expressed their happiness at the "positive image" enjoyed by them in Italy as hard-working and honest people.