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White House hosts Diwali celebrations for Indian-Americans

Washington: US Vice President Joe Biden joined a select group of Indian-American officials, community members and diplomats at this year's Diwali celebrations at the White House.

During the White House celebration of festival of lights, Biden spoke of the universal resonance of Diwali and asked guests to commit themselves to providing for those less fortunate.

US President Barack Obama lights a lamp on the occasion of Diwali at the White House.

"In closing, the Vice President expressed his wishes for a peaceful and prosperous Diwali and that the lights guide the guests safely home," wrote Danielle Borrin, Director of Intergovernmental Affairs and Deputy Director of Office of Public Engagement in the Office of the Vice President, on the White House blog.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, which was closed for the press, a priest from a local Hindu temple draped a blue shawl around Biden's shoulders as he lit the 'diya'.

Diwali celebrations in the White House were started by George W Bush, but he never personally participated in the celebrations, leaving his top administration officials to grace the occasion.

In 2009, Barack Obama was the first US President, to have lit the traditional lamp in the East Room of the White House. In 2010, Obama celebrated Diwali in Mumbai.

Last year, Obama attended the Diwali celebrations and reception at the Eisenhower Executive building, of the White House.

Sending Diwali greetings to people, Obama noted that the festival symbolises the triumph of light over darkness and knowledge over ignorance.

In his message, Obama also praised the resilience of Sikhs in the aftermath of the tragedy at a Wisconsin Gurdwara this year in which six members of the community were gunned down.

"In the wake of that horrible tragedy, we saw the resilience of a community that drew strength from their faith and a sense of solidarity with their neighbors, Sikh and non-Sikh alike," he said.

This year was a special Diwali for Hindu Americans as Tulsi Gabbard from Hawaii became the first Hindu to be elected to the US Congress.

"As you know, Diwali is not just a fun holiday; but it also represents the victory of truth over untruth, of righteousness over wrong.

"While this is the time of celebration, this deeper meaning of Diwali could not come at a more appropriate time," she said in her video message for the festival.

According to those who attended the White House Diwali celebrations, the guests in attendance included Indian Ambassador to US, Nirupama Rao; Congresswoman elect Gabbard, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah; US Congressional hopeful Ami Bera, former White House Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra among others.

PTI