The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) co-hosted the Congressional Diwali celebration in the nation’s capital last week alongside Indiaspora, BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, and Coalition of Hindu Temples in North America. Other organizations including Art of Living (AOL), Hindu Mandirs Executives’ Conference, Sikh Council on Religion and Education, and Jain Society of Metropolitan Washington (JSMW) also participated in supporting the event.
Over twelve hundred guests packed the Library of Congress last Wednesday at the invitation of participating national Indian American groups who planned the mammoth event with the support of Congressman Ami Bera, co-chair of the House India Caucus.
“Community organizations from across America were key to ensuring Diwali came onto prominent stages in our nation’s capital,” said Suhag Shukla, Esq., HAF Executive Director and Legal Counsel. “Dozens of Congressional officials greeted hundreds of Indian Americans thanks to the teamwork and efforts of dedicated volunteers.”
Hindu priests, from the DC-area based Sri Siva Vishnu Temple chanted Hindu hymns as 30 Congressional leaders, including Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), ascended to the podium.
“I would like to wish all of you the very best and a Happy Diwali! Diwali represents the victory of light over darkness, truth over untruth, righteousness over wrong,” said Congresswoman Gabbard. “[A]s we light our lamps for Diwali, let us light the lamps of love for God within our hearts. Let us share the light of His unconditional love for us and do what we can to bring about positive change in the world.”
Ambassador Arun Singh from the Embassy of India also delivered greetings from the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi.
Thursday’s events began with a morning meditation for staffers on Capitol Hill, guided by representatives from Art of Living, and attended by Congressman Tim Ryan (D-OH). Shortly after, HAF, in conjunction with Indiaspora and dozens of community members, organized an advocacy effort to support House Resolution 32 and Senate Resolution 113, urging the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee to issue a postage stamp in honor of Diwali. Community members knocked on the doors of a hundred Congressional offices requesting their co-sponsorship.
“Diwali is a festival that transcends linguistic, cultural and national barriers, and very much reflects the essence of America’s pluralistic core,” said Jay Kansara, HAF Director of Government Relations. “The endorsement of dozens of Congressional leaders towards the Diwali stamp initiative displays the growing influence of Hindu Americans. HAF is proud to be part of that effort as we continue to advocate for various issues including civil liberties and human rights of Hindus and others in the United States as well as globally.”
In addition, HAF, AOL, and the JSMW assisted the Office of Mayor Muriel Bowser of Washington, D.C. in hosting the city’s first ever Diwali observance in the Old City Council’s Chamber on Thursday, honoring the achievements of the Indian American community in the District. During the Mayor’s evening reception, Congressman Bera, Ambassador Taranjit Singh Sandhu of the Indian Embassy, and Aditi Hardikar from the White House Office of Public Engagement were joined by community leaders in the ceremonial lighting of the diya.
In her keynote address at the event, Shukla described Diwali as a sacred occasion for thousands of Hindu, Jain, and Sikh Americans living in Washington D.C. She noted, “Tonight’s celebration is as much a celebration of what the District has done for the South Asian and Hindu, Jain, and Sikh communities, as it is a celebration of the contributions of these communities to the District.”
The Hindu American Foundation is a non-profit 501(c)(3), non-partisan organization, promoting the Hindu and American ideals of dignity, mutual respect, and pluralism. HAF does not endorse nor oppose any candidate for public office or political party.