On Tuesday, October 29, 2019, Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis, Assemblymember Ash Kalra, Consul (Community Affairs, Information & Culture) Ms. Sumati Rao representing the Consul General of India (San Francisco), members of the California Legislature and prominent Indian-Americans gathered to celebrate the Hindu festival of Diwali at the California State Capitol in Sacramento. Built-in 1874, the California Capitol is one of the oldest statehouses in the country, and this was the first time in its history that a Diwali celebration was hosted there.
BAPS organized the historic day in conjunction with Assemblymembers Ash Kalra and Kansen Chu. The festival was celebrated with an Annakut, an offering of traditional, vegetarian dishes to the sacred images of God. Before the event, BAPS members visited the offices of State Senators and Assemblymembers to wish them a Happy Diwali and provide traditional Indian sweets to celebrate the Hindu New Year. During the celebration, State leaders highlighted the diversity of California, and the increasing role Indian-Americans play in the state.
Members of the Legislature who attended and spoke at the event include Assemblymember Ash Kalra, Assemblymember Kansen Chu, Senator Ling Ling Chang, Minority leader of the California State Senate Shannon Grove, Senator Dr. Richard Pan, and Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan. Assemblymember Ash Kalra, who is the first Indian American elected to the State Legislature, narrated the historic significance of Diwali in his welcome address and recalled the experience of visiting Swaminarayan Akshardham, New Delhi while leading a delegation of six legislators of California to India. In her keynote address, Lieutenant Governor Kounalakis commended BAPS and Assemblymember Kalra for organizing the first-ever Diwali celebration at the State Capitol Building and promoting cultural diversity. Senator Ling Ling Chang hoped that the Diwali's message of light over darkness, which is a unifying belief across all faiths, also inspire policymakers to strive for transparency by shining light on government activities. Rebecca Bauer-Kahan expressed her wishes that this would be the first of many Diwali celebrations at the State Capitol.