Parramatta (Sydney): On the second day of this three-day visit to Australia, President Ramnath Kovind unveiled a statue of Mahatma Gandhi at the Jubilee Park in the town of Parramatta, which is a bustling suburb of Sydney.
The bronze statue designed by Indian sculptors Ram and Anil Sutar was presented to the Indian President by Andrew Wilson, the Mayor of Parramatta. Also present at the event was Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
The unveiling of the statue is part of the celebrations of the 150th anniversary of the Father of the Nation, which is being observed in different parts of the world. The life-size statue, which is a gift from the Indian government, is identical to the one presented to the city of Brisbane in Australia in 2014.
Moments after ribbon-cutting to unveil the statue, President Kovind presented a book titled 'Hind Swaraj' to Australian Prime Minister Morrison and Parramatta's Mayor Wilson. The book was penned by Gandhiji in 1909. In this opus, Gandhiji inscribed his nationalistic views on independence, modern civilisation and mechanisation, among other topics.
The talented artists from Australia also revealed vivid colours of their culture and art by their mesmerising dance performance, which left the dignitaries and other guests in awe. They showcased a traditional dance performance, adjacent to the site of the inauguration stage as a part of the statue-unveiling ceremony.
Speaking to media prior to the arrival of the Indian President, Mayor Wilson said "As home to the largest population of people of Indian descent in Australia, the City of Parramatta is overjoyed to be marking this momentous anniversary with our wonderful community. We give our sincere thanks to President Kovind and the people of India for this precious gift, which will stand proudly in our city from this day forward."
President Kovind was accompanied by his wife Savita Kovind, daughter Swati, Minister of State Anant Kumar Hegde, Members of Parliament Kamakhya Prasad Tasa and Dr Heena Gavit. High Commissioner of India to Australia Dr A M Gondane and other officials of the Ministry of External Affairs were also present on the occasion.
Several members of the Indian community also participated, even though the ceremony was in the middle of a working day.
As per current estimates, Indians top even the Chinese as the largest number of immigrants to Australia. Parramatta, where the Gandhi statue was unveiled on Thursday, is among the more popular suburbs where Indians choose to live in Sydney, the other being Harris Park, which is often described as Little India.