Hindu Americans Laud Senate for Unanimously Passing Diwali Resolution
Washington, D.C. (October 25, 2011) - The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) commended the United States Senate for passing S. Res. 291, which recognizes the historical and spiritual significance of Diwali. The resolution, introduced by U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), was cosponsored by Senate India Caucus co-chairs John Cornyn (R-TX) and Mark Warner (D-VA). Additional cosponsors included Senators Scott Brown (R-MA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Robert Casey, Jr. (D-PA), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR). With bipartisan support, it passed the Senate by unanimous consent on October 21, 2011. HAF assisted Senator Menendez’s office to draft the language of the resolution.
"Once again, I am glad to join millions in the Garden State and around the world in celebrating Diwali, the Festival of Lights,” said Senator Menendez. “This holiday inspires us to recognize our common humanity and reach for values that transcend borders, nationalities, and cultures – the victory of good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, and light over darkness. It is also an opportunity to celebrate India’s great history, culture, and people and the enduring bonds and shared democratic values that have allowed the US and India to work together to reach common goals. My best wishes on this day to those who observe this important holiday in India and throughout the world as they join together to pray and celebrate.”
The text of the resolution in part states that, “Diwali is a festival of lights, during which celebrants light small oil lamps, place the lamps around the home, and pray for health, knowledge, peace, wealth, and prosperity in the new year,” and “the lights symbolize the light of knowledge within the individual that overwhelms the darkness of ignorance, empowering each celebrant to do good deeds and show compassion to others.”
"The message of tolerance, compassion, and victory of goodness over evil taught by Diwali presents reason for us all to celebrate, regardless of our religious or ethnic background,” said Senator Cornyn. “As Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, and others come together to celebrate the festival of lights, we are reminded that as Americans, we cherish our right to freedom of religion.”
According to the Hindu lunar calendar, Diwali will be celebrated this year on Wednesday, October 26 by Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists worldwide.
"As co-chair of the Senate India Caucus, I am pleased to cosponsor a resolution celebrating this important day for the Indian people and Indian Americans,” said Senator Warner. “India is the world’s largest democracy, which makes our countries and our people natural partners. It’s a relationship based on shared values, and it’s one I’d like to continue to grow.”
Many Hindus recognize Diwali as a day celebrating the return of Lord Rama (the incarnation of Lord Vishnu), his wife Sita, and brother Lakshmana to their capital, Ayodhya, after 14 years of exile. The residents of Ayodhya, overjoyed at the return of their beloved king, lit lamps in his honor. Others commemorate Diwali as the day Lord Krishna defeated the demon Narakasura. For many, Diwali also marks the start of the New Year with prayers being offered to the Goddess Lakshmi, the deity symbolizing prosperity.
"We're pleased to see that Diwali, the Festival of Lights, has been recognized by the U.S. Senate,” said Jay Kansara, HAF Associate Director. “Within this challenging political climate, it is gratifying to see our lawmakers coming together to demonstrate their commitment and appreciation for religious diversity.”
In addition to the spiritual significance the day holds for Hindus, Sikhs celebrate Diwali as the day their sixth Guru, Hargobind, returned to the city of Amritsar, after being released from captivity in a Mughal prison. Guru Hargobind is also remembered for his courage and selflessness in refusing to leave prison without 52 Indian kings, who were also falsely imprisoned by the Mughal Emperor, Jehangir. Jains commemorate Diwali as the day Lord Mahavira, the last of the Tirthankaras, attained Nirvana, or liberation, after his death in 527 B.C.E.
Click here to read the text of the resolution.