November 2, 2013
Ashwin Krushna Chaturdashi/Amavasya, Kaliyug Varsha 5115
In 2009, Barack Obama became the first US president to personally host a Diwali ceremony at the White House, bowing before a Hindu priest and lighting a diya. In the following years, too, the custom of celebrating the Hindu festival of lights has been followed at the White House by Obama. “Festival of Lights reaffirms the things in life that matter most. Dancing, celebration and good food remind us that life’s greatest joys are the simple pleasures that come from spending time with people we love,” he said in his Diwali message this year. Earlier this week on Tuesday, US lawmakers celebrated Diwali, for the first time, on Capitol Hill after the US Congress passed resolutions honouring the Indian festival of lights.
Celebrating Diwali “is an essential opportunity to come together not only to celebrate but to help increase understanding and tolerance amongst all Americans,” said Joe Crowley, Democratic co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian-Americans.
For Sanjay Puri, chairman of the Washington DC-based bipartisan US India Political Action Committee, Diwali celebrations at the White House and other US state houses speak about an increased awareness of, and recognition for, the Indian American community as an important part of the fabric of the US. “Many Indian Americans also take the day off from work on Diwali, an important Hindu and Jain festival,” adds Puri.
The reason for doing that, according to Puri, is because it is important for them not to run away from what they are; and to find broad acceptance for Hinduism and what it stands for in a country that accepts people from different faiths.
Earlier this year, the California state senate unanimously passed a resolution declaring October 2013 as the month of Hindu American awareness and appreciation. California senate majority leader Ellen Corbett said: “The senate recognize[s] and acknowledge[s] the significant contributions made by Californians of Hindu heritage to the state,” while introducing the resolution. “Hinduism is a beautiful, spiritual, educational and important way of life for many people throughout the world. I proudly applaud the Hindu American community for their efforts in creating more awareness about the Hindu community,” Corbett told ET Magazine.
Several events were held across California to commemorate Hindu awareness and appreciation throughout October. Significantly, the state is home to a thriving community of over 370,000 Hindu Americans who are perceived to have enriched the state’s diversity and professional assets in fields as diverse as academia, science, technology, business, arts and literature.