Diwali on Capitol Hill 2018

November 14 Senate Dirksen Office Building, G-50

 

Indiaspora co-hosted Diwali on Capitol Hill November 14 with BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, Hindu American Foundation, and several community and faith-based organizations to celebrate our annual Festival of Lights.

More than 25 Members of Congress in the House and Senate marked the occasion by lighting the ceremonial diya on stage, including Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-2), Co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, and all four Indian American Members of Congress.

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-2) and Congressman Ro Khanna (CA-17) light the diya.

Congresswoman Gabbard, who is also the first Hindu Member of Congress, called attention to the religious significance of Diwali when Lord Rama fulfilled his dharma and returned from exile, marking the triumph of light over darkness in the battle of good over evil.

“We draw inspiration from the unshakable courage and selflessness that [Lord Rama] showed throughout that time he left his family to fulfill his duty,” she said.

She also noted it was the sixth time she is now celebrating Diwali on Capitol Hill.

Quickly becoming an annual tradition, Diwali on Capitol Hill provided the momentum for a USPS Diwali postal stamp after Indiaspora spearheaded a Diwali celebration at the Library of Congress in 2015 with more than 1,200 attendees and 50 Congressionals.

“It is great to see this tradition continue to flourish in our nation’s capital,” said Indiaspora Founder MR Rangaswami.
Members of Congress, including Congressman Ami Bera (CA-7), recently elected to be the longest serving Indian American Member of Congress; Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi (IL-8);  Amb. Navtej Sarna, and Indiaspora Founder MR Rangaswami, light the diya.

Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi (IL-8) said it was a point of pride at how many Indian Americans now served in Congress, jokingly referring to his fellow Indian American colleagues in Congress as the “Samosa Caucus.” He made a Diwali wish of expanding our community’s representation in Congress.

Congressman Ro Khanna (CA-17) also pointed to how far the country has come with the incredible diversity that he sees in Congress today. He credited his mother for believing that he could run for elected office when others did not, and stated how proud he was of his heritage.

He also credited Diwali for being a pluralistic holiday, and the U.S. for being a nation that celebrates all faiths.

 

Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (WA-7) lights the diya with Congresswoman Grace Meng (NY-6).

Another Hindu Member of Congress, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (WA-7), remembered fondly how Diwali has always been her favorite time of year, and that the arrival of a new year marks a time to reflect on the path forward for our community.

 

India’s Ambassador to the U.S. Navtej Sarna

Special guest Honorable Navtej Sarna, India’s Ambassador to the U.S, commended the Indian diaspora on the progress they have achieved in the U.S.

“Diwali is many things, but [this Diwali celebration] is a recognition of the position that the Indian American community has in the United States,” he explained, also stating 2018 marked the first year he remembers Diwali being celebrated at the U.S. State Department as well. “Diwali is quintessentially an Indian festival, and I’m so happy it is being celebrated in such a wide way.”

White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah, who attended the White House Diwali celebration the day before with Amb. Navtej Sarna, noted that celebrating Diwali remains a bipartisan occasion.

Congressman Pete Sessions (TX-32), along with Senator Cornyn (TX), helped secure Senate Room G-50, where the celebration was held. Rep. Sessions applauded Indian Americans on their success and sense of purpose.

“They have been educated. They have been enlightened. They have been driven. America is a land not just of opportunity, but a land of people who care deeply about the world we live in. That message you give to your countrymen is the same message that this festival of light is all about,” he said.

A total of ten community and faith-based organizations partnered with Indiaspora for our annual celebration, including host BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha and co-host Hindu American Foundation (HAF); co-sponsors Art of Living Foundation, US-India Friendship Council, Jain Society of Metropolitan Washington, Jain International Trade Organization, and Federation of Jain Associations in North America; and support from the U.S. India Business Council.

We would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to all of the Members of Congress who attended this year’s celebration.

Members of the House of Representatives
French Hill (AR-2)
Peter Roskam (IL-6)
Ami Bera (CA-7)
Danny Davis (IL-7)
Ro Khanna (CA-17)
Raja Krishnamoorthi (IL-8)
Norma Torres (CA-35)
Garret Graves (LA-6)
Mike Coffman (CO-6)
Donald Norcross (NJ-1)
Ted Deutch (FL-22)
Gregory Meeks (NY-5)
Sanford Bishop (GA-2)
Grace Meng (NY-6)
Hank Johnson (GA-4)
Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-8)
Rob Woodall (GA-7)
Keith Rothfus (PA-12)
Tom Graves (GA-14)
Pete Sessions (TX-32)
Tulsi Gabbard (HI-2)
Pramila Jayapal (WA-7)

Members of the Senate
Bill Cassidy (LA)
John Boozman (AR)
Cindy Hyde-Smith (MS)
Thom Tillis (NC)

 

Photos of Diwali on Capitol Hill 2018

To see more photos and videos, please visit here.

The Week, “US congressmen, Indian-Americans celebrate Diwali at US Capitol.”  Press Trust of India, November 15, 2018.

The American Bazaar, “US lawmakers greeted by overflow crowd of Indian Americans at Diwali celebration on Capitol Hill.” Geeta Goindi, November 17, 2018.