By Chidanand Rajghatta, Times of India
In an expansive gesture to Indians worldwide as much as to showcase his – and America’s — multi-cultural affections, US President Barack Obama on Wednesday lit a ceremonial Diwali lamp at the White House to ”symbolize victory of light over darkness.”
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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.
”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 symbolize the victory of light over darkness, and knowledge over ignorance,” Obama said on the occasion, adding, ”And while this is a time of rejoicing, it’s also a time for reflection, when we remember those who are less fortunate and renew our commitment to reach out to those in need.”