State Department Celebrates Diwali as Global Affair with Ambassadors and Community Leaders

Washington, D.C. (October 24, 2014) -- Indian tapestries, silver lamps, and traditional delicacies adorned the Benjamin Franklin State Dining Room as Secretary John Kerry inaugurated the U.S. Department of State's annual Diwali celebration. Secretary Kerry lit a diya (ceremonial lamp) while a Hindu priest from the Sri Shiva Vishnu Temple (SSVT) of Maryland sang Vedic hymns amidst hundreds of well-wishers, including senior administration officials, Ambassadors, and community leaders. The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) was noted as a community partner for the event during opening remarks made by Nisha Biswal Desai, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia.
"[A]s we celebrate Diwali this evening, we also hail the accomplishments of the many hundreds of thousands of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, and Jain Americans who live now all across our country in every community," said Secretary Kerry. "And we honor their faith and their traditions, and the indispensable contributions that they make every single day to our prosperity, to our freedom, and to our culture - to this new chapter of American history that they are helping to write."
Secretary Kerry was joined on stage by Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, Ambassador of India, who highlighted the joyous festivities taking place around the world.
"It was a privilege to work with the State Department alongside the Sri Shiva Vishnu Temple and Hindu American Seva Communities to make their first Diwali celebration such a success," said Jay Kansara, HAF's Associate Director of Government Relations. "We thank the State Department for making this an international affair by inviting the Ambassadors of all nations who observe Diwali as a public holiday. As the first of many Diwali celebrations, we look forward to watching this grow to further highlight the Dharmic diaspora and their collective contributions."
Diwali is observed as a public holiday in India as well as Fiji, Guyana, Malaysia, Mauritius, Myanmar, Nepal, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.