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Updated: October 15, 2009 14:42 IST

Obama celebrates Deepavali at White House

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President Barack Obama in the East Room of the White House in Washington on Wednesday. Photo: AP
President Barack Obama in the East Room of the White House in Washington on Wednesday. Photo: AP

U.S. President Barack Obama celebrated Deepavali by lighting the ceremonial lamp at the White House amidst chanting of Vedic mantras seeking world peace, becoming the first U.S. President to personally grace the occasion.

“I think it’s fitting that we begin this work in the week leading up to the holiday of Diwali -- the festival of lights -- when members of some of the world’s greatest faiths celebrate the triumph of good over evil,” Mr. Obama said in his remarks on the occasion at a White House function held at its historic East Room on Wednesday.

This is for the first time that a U.S. President attended and celebrated Deepavali at the White House -- thus giving an official recognition to the festival of lights celebrated across the world by millions of Hindus, Sikhs and Jains.

“This coming Saturday, Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and some Buddhists, here in America and around the world, will celebrate this holiday by lighting ‘Diyas’, or lamps, which symbolise the victory of light over darkness, and knowledge over ignorance,” Mr. Obama said.

Among those present at the occasion were several eminent members of the Indian community, nearly half a dozen members of his Cabinet and several Indian American members of his administration. The visiting Union Minister of Commerce, Anand Sharma, and Indian Ambassador to the U.S., Meera Shankar, graced the occasion.

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