Obama celebrates Diwali

WASHINGTON: Barack Obama celebrated Diwali by lighting the ceremonial lamp at the White House amidst chanting of Vedic mantras seeking

world peace, becoming the first US President to personally grace the occasion. “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 in his remarks on the occasion at a White House function held at its historic East Room yesterday.

This is the first time that a US President attended and celebrated Diwali at the White House, giving official recognition to the festival of lights celebrated across the world by millions of Hindus, Sikhs and Jains. “This coming Saturday, Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and some Buddhists, here in America and around the world, will celebrate this holiday by lighting diyas, or lamps, which symbolise the victory of light over darkness, and knowledge over ignorance,” Obama said.

Among those present at the occasion were several eminent members of the Indiancommunity, nearly half a dozen members of Obama’s Cabinet and several Indian American members of his administration. The visiting Union Minister of Commerce, Anand Sharma, and Indian Ambassador to the US, Meera Shankar also graced the occasion.

“While this is a time of rejoicing, it’s also a time for

reflection, when we remember those who are less fortunate,” Obama said.