US lawmakers celebrate Diwali

US lawmakers celebrate Diwali

US lawmakers celebrated, for the first time, Diwali on Capitol Hill after the US Congress passed resolutions honouring the Indian festival of lights and celebrating the strong relationship between US and India.

Tuesday evening's festivities on Capitol Hill, the seat of the US Congress emceed by Joe Crowley, Democratic co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian-Americans, were attended by lawmakers prominent Indian-American leaders, and community members.

Separate bipartisan Diwali resolutions adopted by the two chambers of the Congress honour "an important tradition of Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains in the flourishing Indian-American community in the United States as well as those of our partners in India."

The Senate resolution was introduced by Mark Warner and John Cornyn, Democratic and Republican co-chairs of the Senate India Caucus.

It supports a "strong relationship between the people and governments of the US and India, based on mutual trust and respect to enable them to closely collaborate on a broad range of interests like global peace and prosperity."

The House resolution introduced Crowley and Peter Roskam, co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, expressed deep respect for Indian Americans and the Indian diaspora and appreciated the religious diversity in both India and the US and throughout the world.

Celebrating Diwali "is an essential opportunity to come together not only to celebrate but to help increase understanding and tolerance amongst all Americans," said Crowley. The event will "set a precedent for Congressional Diwali celebrations for decades to come," he added.

"Our historic, first-ever Congressional Diwali reception will serve to increase awareness about Diwali and highlight its positive, peaceful message during these contentious times," said Tulsi Gabbard, the first Hindu ever to be elected to the US Congress.

"This message has great relevance at a time when politics and partisanship seem to overshadow compassion and concern for the greater good," she said.

Although Diwali was celebrated on the Capitol Hill for the first time Tuesday, the festival's importance came to be recognised first in 2003, when the White House held its first celebration of the festival under then President George W. Bush.

Keeping up the tradition, President Barack Obama joined the White House Diwali celebrations in 2009 featuring popular Indian-American a capella group Penn Masala.

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