Obama lights Diwali Diya at the White House

US President Barack Obama celebrated Diwali at the White House complex by lighting the traditional diya.

Updated: Oct 29, 2011, 21:00 PM IST

Washington: US President Barack Obama
celebrated Diwali at the White House complex by lighting the
traditional diya and hosting a reception for eminent Indian
Americans and officials in his Administration.

"Diwali is a special holiday for millions across the
country", Obama said in his address to the gathering of Hindu
Americans here last night.

"Michelle and I greatly enjoy the occasion and the
celebration in India last year," Obama said recollecting the
dancing of the First Lady at the Diwali festival in Mumbai
last year, which he too joined.

"Diwali is the time to celebrate victory of light over
darkness, hope over despair. Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and
Buddhists consider the day sacred. The message of this day is
truly universal," Obama said at the event that was closed for
the press.

Among those present on the occasion were the Indian
Ambassador to the US Nirupama Rao; Neera Tandaon, the new
president of the Center for American Progress, eminent Hindu
American Anju Bhargava, USAID Administrator Raj Shah, the US
Ambassador to Belize Vinai Thummalapally, Hindu chaplain
Pratima Dhar and a Sikh delegation from the Golden Temple.

In his remarks, Obama acknowledged the contributions of
the Indian American community in every field of the country
from New York Taxi drivers to the teenager, who won the Google
science fair this year.

Two years ago Obama became the first US President to
celebrated Diwali at the White House.

On that day, he established the President`s Advisory
Committee on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, which is
headed by Kiran Ahuja, who according to the President is doing
an outstanding work.

Asian Americans are doing outstanding work and
strengthening the fabric of our nation in every field.
Speaking on the occasion, Anju Bhargava of Hindu American
Seva Charities emphasised the need to light the lamp of
service.

"Today we can proudly state that Diwali lights Community
Building in our county and beyond," she said.

In just two years Obama and his White House have been
instrumental in helping Hindu Americans energise Dharmic Seva:
Impacting Change in America and Abroad, New Jersey-based
Bhargava said.

"In the first Hindu seva conference held at the White
House this summer, they helped recognize us as
Hindu-Americans, an identity created in the spirit of the
American tradition.

"This historic event highlighted the needs of the
community, and offered the potential for vast service
opportunities for Hindus to engage in all across America.
"It also highlighted the importance of interfaith
cooperation in today`s America," she said.

PTI