indica News Bureau
Indian festivals lit up the US on Wednesday with top US lawmakers and leading Indian-Americans celebrating Diwali at the US Capitol and a hundred others – mainly those tracing roots from Bihar, Jharkhand and eastern Uttar Pradesh – observing Chhath Puja.
A day after US President Donald Trump commemorated Diwali, a number of top American senators and congressmen celebrated the festival of lights, and highlighted the contributions of Indian-Americans in the socio-economic development of the country and the rich cultural diversity brought by them to their adopted land.
While top American Senators and Congressmen pledged to further strengthen the India-US relationship, Indian Ambassador to the US Navtej Singh Sarna thanked them for a warm welcome and great support.
“We are privileged to have your support. The Indian Embassy really feels very much comfortable on the Hill. “We find so much support, no matter which corridor we walked through, which door we knock on, we always get a warm welcome and great support,” Sarna said, addressing the Diwali celebrations.
Prominent among those attended the US Congress Diwali celebrations were Senators Tom Tillis, Bill Cassidy, Congresswomen Tulsi Gabbard, Pramila Jayapal, Grace Meng, and Norma Torres, and Congressmen Raja Krishnamoorthi, Ami Bera, Ro Khanna, Pete Sessions and Keith Rothfus.
“Happy Diwali! The Hindu Festival of Lights is a time to celebrate the light in our lives, rather than darkness. Let’s carry tonight’s joyous celebration within ourselves and share that light with others,” Torres said in a tweet.
Lauding the Indian Americans, Sarna said that the Diwali celebration “is a recognition” of the position that the community has in the US.
“Frankly, we are the beneficiaries of all the hard work of the community that you see here. The Indian-American community has been working its way steadily and hard and diligently into the right places in the society, the polity of the United States,” Sarna, who had shared the podium with Trump at the White House Diwali celebrations, added.
He was also the chief guest at the State Department Diwali celebrations last week.
Celebration of Diwali at the US Capitol, now an annual event, was co-hosted by several Indian-American organizations including Indiaspora, Hindu American Foundation, BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha , Art of Living Foundation, Federation of Jain Association in North America, Jain Society of Metropolitan Washington, and US-Friendship Council with support from US India Business Council.
Meanwhile, amid all the Diwali fanfare, hundreds of Indian Americans braved sub-zero temperature to mark Chhath, which entails worship of the Sun God.
The banks of historic Potomac River in the Maryland suburb of Washington DC presented a picturesque view with nearly 400 people paying their obeisance to the rising sun.
“This year it was the largest ever gathering for Chhath Puja,” said Kripa Singh from Virginia, a prominent Indian-American who along with his wife Anita, started celebrating Chhath Puja in traditional way about a decade ago on the banks of the Potomac river.
A large number of Indian Americans also gathered on a lakeside at Monroe Township’s Thompson Park in New Jersey, thus rekindling memories of Chhath Puja back home in India.
“It reminds me of attending Chhath in Patna (Bihar),” said Deputy Consul General New York, Shatrughan Sinha.
India’s Deputy Ambassador to the US Santosh Jha, who hails from Bihar, also attended the festival.
Over the years, Chhath has evolved as a community event. People from as far as Vancouver and Michigan attended the festival in New Jersey, according to a press release issued by the Bihar and Jharkhand Association of North America.
Meanwhile in California hundreds assembled at the Quarry lake, Fremont to observe the festival.
“After living for 10 years in Bay area, we finally found a great community celebrating our auspicious Chhath puja, said Sushmita Prasad, a Bihar native. “We always strived to celebrate Chhath but due to kids’ school we couldn’t go to India.”
Prasad was amazed to see the celebration, and people standing for hours in the cold water but feels she is lucky said, “We are lucky to have participated in all the rituals, Kharna, offering Arghya to the setting and rising Sun, and a lot of thekua (a Bihari delicacy) for Prasad. We also got a chance to meet and interact with a lot of Biharis. We are going back every year.”