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Monday, November 11, 2013

Deepavali ~ the festival of lights at USA - Michelle Obama joins celebrations

2nd Nov 2013 was a great day as millions gleefully celebrated Deepavali with gaiety.  The festival of lights is celebrated all over the Country though the legend behind the origin slightly differs ….. we celebrated it – getting up early in the morning – having oil bath in warm water [Ganga snanam], bursting crackers, eating sweets, visiting relatives, elders – seeking their blessings and sharing our joy with friends and relatives.  At Thiruvallikkeni, it coincided with the Uthsavam of Swami Manavala Mamunigal too.  The whole Nation celebrated it joyfully.

Understand that Diwali is celebrated in a grand manner in parts of London too… Fireworks and lamps are used to create a riot of colour to celebrate the victory of good over evil. The temples over there especially those of Lakshmi Narayan sect, ISCKON and the like attract thousands of people including many distinguished people of that country. Had posted about Neasden temple which opened in 1995 and is the largest of its kind outside of India. Made of almost 2,820 tons of Bulgarian limestone and 2,000 tons of Italian carrara marble the temple was carved in India and then shipped to London for building. Since opening the temple has attracted almost three million visitors.  This Diwali Samantha Cameron alongwith her husband British PM David Cameron visited this temple on Diwali day ~ and she was clad in a beautiful russet-coloured sari edged in gold worn in a traditional way.

Miles away in USA,  President Barack Obama greeted Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists across the globe on the occasion of Diwali, saying the flame of the diya reminds that light will ultimately triumph over darkness. “Here in the US, Diwali also reminds us that our nation is home to many faiths and traditions, and that our diversity makes us stronger, which I why I’m proud that this year Democrats and Republicans in Congress joined together for the first-ever celebration of Diwali on Capitol Hill,” he said.  He continued stating “Over the last five years, Michelle and I have been honoured to have the chance to observe this ancient holiday, both at the White House and in India, and we wish all those celebrating this weekend a Happy Diwali and Saal Mubarak.”  “Dancing, celebration, and good food remind us that life’s greatest joys are the simple pleasures that come from spending time with people we love. Contemplation and prayer remind us that that people of all faiths have an obligation to perform seva, or service to others,” Obama said.

This year, it was US First lady  Michelle who led  Diwali celebrations at the White House,  attended by lawmakers, senior administration officials and eminent Indian Americans.   US Senators John Cornyn and Mark R Warner, co-chairs of Senate’s bipartisan India Caucus, announced that they would introduce a bipartisan resolution in the Congress to recognise the religious and historical significance of Diwali.  Michelle Obama led the Diwali celebrations with the Bollywood music at the State room of the building along with Indian American children and a popular Indian American band.   “We had a wonderful time, …it was the first time that we did Bollywood in the State Room here at the White House,” she said amidst applause from the audience.  , Wearing a glamorous skirt especially made for the occasion by India-born eminent designer, she said ‘you know, I can dance’  apparent reference to her dance in Mumbai three years ago when she observed Diwali.

The White House celebrated Diwali by lighting the White House diya, as Michelle Obama addressed the gathering in the Blue Room. This marks the fifth time that the Obamas have celebrated Diwali, also known as the Festival of Lights. The First Lady chatted conversationally then took a more solemn tone adding  - Diwali is a time for celebration. As Barack and I learned during our visit to India, it’s a time to come together with friends and family, often with dancing and good food,” she said. “But Diwali is also a time for contemplation and reflection. It’s a time for us to think about our obligations to our fellow human beings, particularly those who are less fortunate than we are. This is for the first time that the First Lady led the Diwali celebrations at the White House. In 2009, the US President, Barack Obama, attended the Diwali celebrations for the first time.

She concluded stating ‘I am so proud and so honored to be celebrating this beautiful holiday at the White House with all of you. I want to thank you for everything that you do for our communities and for this country. And I wish you all and all your loved ones a Happy Diwali and Saal Mubarak’.

Back home, a group is still unable to align with Hindu festivals ~ they try to commercially exploit all Hindu festivals – but would shy away from wishing people and on their TVs would say ‘holiday special’ and more…… those who are able to chant Om Namo Narayanaya – get eternal bliss – we feel pity for those who could not do so publicly.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.


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