Diwali Celebration at the Indian Embassy Residence – Adding a Sparkle to the City!

0
382

November 23, 2012

By Geeta Goindi

WASHINGTON – Diwali celebrations held on November 17, 2012 at the Indian Embassy Residence in Washington DC emitted the look and feel of India with a deity of Lord Ganesh and ‘rangoli’ at the entrance, a Hindu priest chanting a mantra for peace and prosperity, supremely gifted artistes of the area regaling a select audience with our rich Indian culture, a lavish vegetarian feast capped by fireworks!

November 23, 2012

By Geeta Goindi

WASHINGTON – Diwali celebrations held on November 17, 2012 at the Indian Embassy Residence in Washington DC emitted the look and feel of India with a deity of Lord Ganesh and ‘rangoli’ at the entrance, a Hindu priest chanting a mantra for peace and prosperity, supremely gifted artistes of the area regaling a select audience with our rich Indian culture, a lavish vegetarian feast capped by fireworks!

At the Diwali celebration in the Indian Embassy Residence are seen from left to right: Ambassador of Guyana Bayney Karran; Donna Karran; and Indian Ambassador Mrs. Nirupama Rao

Indian Ambassador Mrs. Nirupama Rao noted that, at Diwali, “from darkness, we are led into light.  It is a time when we recite, not only in our hearts, but also through our fellow human beings, the message of peace.  That is what we say when we recite, ‘Om Shanti Shanti Shanti’”, she said.

In her characteristic warm and welcoming style, Ambassador Rao told the gathering: “All of you are such dear friends of ours.  Thank you for coming to our house today.  God bless you. Happy Diwali”!

At the Diwali celebration, Saturday, at the Indian Embassy Residence in Washington, Ambassador Mrs. Nirupama Rao (second from left) is seen with members of the armed forces. At left is Mythili Bachu, President of the United Hindu and Jain Temples

The eclectic crowd comprised: diplomats; elected officials; prized members of the armed forces; a sizeable number of young, brilliant professionals; talented artistes; and Indian-American community stalwarts.  On hand, were: Ambassador of Guyana Bayney Karran; Majority Leader Kumar Barve (Democrat), Maryland House of Delegates; Delegate Sam Arora (Democrat), Montgomery County District 19; Mark Brunner, senior aide to Senator Mark Warner (Democrat-Virginia); Dr. K. Sadananda, a retired scientist by profession at the US Naval Research Lab, and founding member of the Chinmaya Mission – Washington Regional Center, who spoke about the significance of Diwali; and Mythili Bachu, President of the United Hindu and Jain Temples, who delivered the vote of thanks.  Rithwik Rudra, Counselor at the Indian Embassy, moderated the function.

At the Diwali celebration, Saturday, at the Indian Embassy Residence in Washington are seen from left to right: Majority Leader Kumar Barve (Democrat), Maryland House of Delegates; Sirisha Golla; Indian Ambassador Mrs. Nirupama Rao; and Ramesh Golla

The celebration began on an auspicious note with an invocation prayer by Shri Venkatacharyulu Kumanduri, a priest at the Sri Siva Vishnu Temple, in Lanham, Maryland.

Maryland House Majority Leader Barve touched a chord with the audience when he noted, “We have members of the Maryland House of Delegates and other state legislatures.  We will now, for the first time, have a Hindu as a member of the US Congress”.  Democrat Tulsi Gabbard has been elected to Congress from Hawaii, a news sounding even more sweet coming as it did a week before Diwali.

Barve enjoys the longest tenure in a state legislature than any other Indian-American elected official and has served as Majority Leader since 2003.  At the Embassy Residence, he extolled India for being a leader and pioneer in religious freedom and tolerance.  “As much as we have advanced and as much as Americans have advanced with respect to recognizing Hindus and other minority religions whether it is Islam, Sikhism, Jainism, Buddhism, the fact of the matter is that America, as a society, is only now catching up to where India has always been from the beginning of its inception”, he said.  “India has a genius for religion and a genius for civilization and society.  America may have been the first when it comes to constitutional democracy and constitutional guarantee of the freedom of religion, but the fact is that even now, Americans are learning from the Republic of India”.

Barve recalled celebrating Diwali for the first time when he was 5 years old, in 1963, “in the living room of a friend of the family who was not Indian-American.  There were not enough Indian-Americans in Silver Spring in 1963 to have that many people in one place”, he told the audience.  “Since then, Indian-Americans in general, and Hindus especially so, have grown in prominence, have grown in size and have been recognized by many people in the United States”.

Barve hoped “on this Diwali that we, the US and India, continue on our path of strengthening our friendship, not just diplomatically, but culturally as well so that it will no longer be an unusual thing for a person to celebrate Diwali in the US.  I see that day as being very close at hand”, he said.

Barve commended Ambassador Rao for the wonderful work she has done on behalf of the Indian government and the Indian people to represent a billion-plus people in the US and also, by extension, some 3 million Indian-Americans.

Delegate Arora underscored, “We are very lucky to have an ambassador of India who, I believe, is cultivating what President Obama called the defining relationship of the 21st century beyond merely a strategic partnership into an enduring friendship”.  He marveled at the experience of being at the Embassy residence where he was greeted for Diwali by Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Christians and Jews.  “Diwali means so much to so many”, he said.  “Diwali is the triumph of good over evil, light over darkness.  Jewish and Christian faiths also speak a lot about light and darkness”.

There was much applause when Brunner pointed out that Senators Warner and John Cornyn (Republican-Texas), co-chairs of the US Senate’s bipartisan India Caucus, introduced a Resolution, earlier this week, to honor and celebrate the festival of Diwali.  In a press release, Senator Warner stated: “I am pleased to sponsor a resolution celebrating this important holiday for the Indian people and Indian-Americans here at home.  India is the world’s largest democracy which makes our countries and our people natural partners.  It’s a relationship based on shared values and it’s one I’d like to continue to grow”.

Brunner told the gathering at the Embassy Residence, “We look forward to another year of growth of the Senate India Caucus as we transform the US-India relationship from friendship to a true partnership”.

Talented artistes performed a Carnatic music recital at the Diwali celebration in the Indian Embassy Residence.  From left to right are: Shankar Tucker; Vidya Iyer; and Vandana Iyer

The cultural performances were top-notch at the Diwali celebration featuring the finest artistes of the Washington area.  Ambassador Rao told the audience, “We have a blend of ghazals, a beautiful violin performance by Nistha Raj and a Carnatic music recital by a very interesting group of young people, the two sisters, Vidya and Vandana Iyer, accompanied by Shankar Tucker who I believe is a celebrity.  I can understand that when I heard him perform at the White House at the Diwali celebration”, she said.

Krushanu Majmundar paid a rich tribute to ghazal maestro Jagjit Singh at the Diwali celebration in the Indian Embassy Residence.  At right is Divya Burton, Senior Consultant, Grids Consulting

The cultural segment began with a rich tribute to Jagjit Singh by Krushanu Majmundar, accompanied on the tabla by Ganesh Jagtap.  Majmundar, based in Columbia, was a finalist on Zee TV’s show, ‘Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge USA 2008', and he touched many hearts to the core that evening when he rendered Jagjit Singh’s timeless ghazal, ‘Hum toh hai Pardes mein, Des mein nikla hoga Chand’.  This was followed by ‘Sarakti jaye hai rukh se naqab ahista ahista’ and ‘Hothon se choo lo tum mera geet amar kar do’, perennially popular ghazals which set the high standard for the evening.

Nistha Raj (right) enthralled the audience at the Indian Embassy Residence with her violin recital.  She is seen here with Ananda Devi Dasi, President of the Hare Krishna Temple, in Potomac

Nistha Raj on the violin, accompanied by Krishna Ramdas on tabla, was extraordinary in a Hindustani classical music recital.  The concluding pieces were Carnatic classical songs – an invocation to Lord Ganesha and Ashai Mugam dedicated to Lord Krishna – both mellifluously rendered by the Iyer siblings with deft accompaniment by Shankar Tucker on the clarinet and Krishna Ramdas on tabla.  Reportedly, Ashai Mugam is one of Ambassador Rao’s favorite compositions – a beautiful piece!


Diwali Special by MYDOSTI.COM

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here