Earlier this afternoon, President Barack Obama lighted the official White House diya (lamp) to mark the celebration of Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights this weekend. A local Hindu priest from Maryland recited the mantra as Obama lighted the lamp.
The president also signed the executive order re-establishing the President's Advisory Commission and White House Initiative on Asian American and Pacific Islanders, a program which he hoped would improve the health, education, and economic status of AAPI communities.
[NOTE: The ceremony marked the first-time that Diwali was observed in The White House itself. The Bush Administration traditionally celebrated Diwali in the Indian Treaty Room in the Old Executive Office Building, next to the main White House. And, yes, that's a different kind of Indian.]
"I think it's fitting that we begin this work in the week leading up to the holiday of Diwali, the festival of lights, when members of some of the world's greatest faiths celebrate the triumph of good over evil," Obama said.
While this is a time of rejoicing, it's also a time for reflection, when we remember those who are less fortunate and renew our commitment to reach out to those in need.
While the significance of the holiday for each faith varies, all of them mark it by gathering with family members to pray and decorate the house and enjoy delicious food and sweet treats. And in that spirit of celebration and contemplation, I am happy to light the White House Diya, and wish you all a Happy Diwali, and a Saal Mubarak.
Photos from the event are below:
Penn Masala, the Hindi a capella group from UPenn, performed the song "Aicha" from their new album.
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