Barack Obama, who became the first US President to celebrate Diwali in the White House, has won praise from the Indian-American community which said that his gesture demonstrated his commitment towards diversity and inclusiveness.

"It is indeed a historic occasion. All the credit should be given to Obama for officially bringing Diwali to the White House," said Shambhu Banik, an eminent Indian-American leader based in Bethesda, Maryland.

Though it was the Bush Administration which started the practice of celebrating Diwali, the event always took place in the Indian Treaty Room in a building annexed to the White House.

Mr Bush himself never attended the Diwali function, which was always graced by a senior member of the administration and Indian-American community members were invited to the occasion.

On Wednesday, Mr Obama gave a global dimension to Diwali by inviting people from across various faiths and Asian

countries. At least half a dozen members of his Cabinet along with almost all the Indian-Americans in his administration attended the Diwali function held in the historic East Room of the White House.

Mr Obama himself lit the traditional 'diya' amidst chanting of Vedic mantras.

"President Obama continually demonstrates his commitment towards diversity and inclusiveness. It was an honour for the Indian-American community to be hosted in the East Room of the White House to mark the occasion of Diwali," said David Faria, another community leader who also heads USAsian, an advocacy group based in Washington.

Diwali is celebrated by the Indian diaspora worldwide and its recognition by the US President takes into account the festival's "global appeal," he said.

In a statement, the Hindu American Foundation said that "never before had a sitting US President personally celebrated the Diwali holiday, and with that one gesture, two million Hindu-Americans felt a bit more like they belonged -- one more reason to feel at home."

"May be that cliche that all of our diversity adds unique patches to the American quilt is not as tired as we thought," it said.

It also noted that Preeta Bansal to Neal Katyal and Kal Penn to Vivek Kundra and Rajiv Shah, high-profile Hindu-Americans, have reached the highest echelons within the Obama Administration.

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