On November 16, 2022, BAPS Public Affairs and several partner organizations gathered at the United States Capitol to celebrate Diwali. Over 200 members of the Indian American community from all over the United States were in attendance at the Hart Senate Office Building to celebrate alongside members of Congress.
Senators and U.S. Representatives present at the celebration included Sen. Rick Scott (Florida), Sen. Chris Van Hollen (Maryland), Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (Mississippi), Rep. Young Kim (CA-39), Rep. Buddy Carter (GA-1), Rep. Hank Johnson (GA-4), Rep. Sean Casten (IL-6), Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (IL-8), Rep. Andy Kim (NJ-3), Rep. Grace Meng (NY-6), Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-1), Rep. Bobby Scott (VA-3), Rep. Jennifer Wexton (VA-10), Congressman-elect Jared Moskowitz (FL-23), Congressman-elect Rick McCormick (GA-6), and Congressman-elect Mike Collins (GA-10). Also in attendance were the Indian Ambassador to the United States, Taranjit Singh Sandhu, and Ohio State Senator Niraj Antani.
Diwali is also known as the Festival of Lights and is India's most widely celebrated festival. It signifies the triumph of good over evil, which Hindu, Jain, and Sikh communities celebrate by lighting diyas, or traditional lamps, preparing food dishes, and praying for wisdom and prosperity.
Several elected officials in attendance expressed the importance of diversity in their communities and the benefit of sharing such cultural traditions and celebrations in building understanding, strength, and trust within communities.
Sen. Van Hollen stated, "As Mahatma Gandhi once said, and I quote, 'our ability to reach unity and diversity will be the beauty and test of our civilization.' I believe that we can meet that test by working together. Here in the United States, we try to make sure that we bridge all cultures, religions, races, and ethnicities, and India and the United States are two countries of great diversity.
Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi remarked on the unity Diwali creates: "There's nothing like Diwali to bring us all together to celebrate our common heritage, our common values, our common culture. I'm proud to have introduced the resolution in Congress to make Diwali a national holiday. Someday, I predict that will be the case, and until then, we will always make Diwali a shared holiday, one that we all participate in and we invite our friends, family and our communities to participate in it as well."
Commenting on the importance of representation of the Indian American community, State Sen. Antani remarked, "Educating our federal lawmakers on Diwali and the message of Diwali is incredibly important. Our community is often unseen and unheard, and this event and the work that BAPS is doing is incredibly important in changing that."
Ambassador Sandhu observed that the relationship between India and the United States has solid roots and such festivities give us strength and also give strength to both our countries."
Joined by four partner organizations – the Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA), the Hindu American Foundation (HAF), the Federation of Jain Associations in North America (JAINA), and The Art of Living Foundation – this wonderful event was an incredible opportunity for all to celebrate Diwali in the nation's capital, reflect on its timeless and universal message, raise awareness of and for the Indian-American community, and interact with a wide range of representatives on Capitol Hill.