Obama Celebrates Diwali

The president's observance of the pan-Indian festival of lights gets big play in the Indian press.

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By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country

The U.S. press mostly ignored it, but the Indian news media are all over yesterday's White House celebration of Diwali, which the Oxford Dictionary of Hinduism describes as "a major pan-Indian festival celebrated around the day of the new moon in October-November."

Worth noting that the Diwali celebration, like so many aspects of Obama's interfaith outreach—including last month's Ramadan dinner or the White House faith-based office—began in George W. Bush's administration.

Here is a feel for how this is playing on the subcontinent from today's Times of India:

In an expansive gesture to Indians worldwide as much as to showcase his-and America's—multi-cultural affections, U.S. president Barack Obama on Wednesday lit a ceremonial Diwali lamp at the White House to symbolize victory of light over darkness.

Although it was the Bush White House that began celebrating Diwali, the Indian festival of lights, in 2003, Obama became the first President to personally grace the ceremony—a brief affair that began with a rather incongruous performance by the well-regarded Hindi a-capella group Penn Masala, and ended with a Sanskrit invocation by a priest from the local Siva-Vishnu temple....

The Diwali ceremony shared the platform with another event where Obama signed an executive order re-establishing the President's advisory committee and White House initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. By hosting both events together, the U.S President, who is clearly comfortable being a composite of American, Asia-Pacific, and African cultures, brought together an unusual coalition in the White House East Room of Asian-Americans, Indian-Americans, and Pacific Islanders.

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