By Surekha Vijh
The US Postal Service unveiled a Forever stamp to mark the joyous Hindu festival of Diwali on October 5, capping seven-year-long efforts by Indian Americans and American lawmakers to get a stamp to honor the festival of lights.
The stamp was unveiled at the Indian Consulate New York at an elaborate “first-day-of-issue” dedication ceremony on Wednesday.
The stamp design is a photograph featuring a traditional diya, or an earthen oil lamp beautifully lit, sitting on a sparkling gold background. Diya lamps are usually made from clay with cotton wicks dipped in a clarified butter known as “ghee,” or in vegetable oils.
The ceremony was attended by Consul General Ambassador Riva Ganguly Das, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, Diwali Stamp Project Chair Ranju Batra, USPS Vice President for Mail Entry and Payment Technology Pritha Mehra, India’s former Permanent Representative to the United Nations Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri, Indian American community leader Ranju Batra, and eminent Indian American attorney Ravi Batra.
“Today, Diwali has received its long awaited commemorative stamp and rightfully joins the ranks of other major religious and cultural holidays such as Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah and Eid,” Maloney said.
“It has taken many years of hard work and advocacy, including thousands of petition signatures, multiple meetings with Prime Minister Modi, personal appeals to President Barack Obama, and multiple Congressional Resolutions but light has finally triumphed,” she said
“The Diwali stamp would not have become a reality without the ‘tireless efforts’ of thousands of grassroots supporters across the country who wrote letters and signed petitions,” Maloney added. “This stamp represents the triumph of knowledge over ignorance, lightness over dark and good over evil. These values, these virtues, are more important and relevant than ever before and I am thrilled that after many years of fighting for this stamp it has finally become a reality.”
Mehra said the postal service was “honored” to issue the Forever stamp to commemorate Diwali. “We hope these stamps will light up millions of cards and letters as they make their journey through the mailstream,” she said.
Consul General Das said she was “honored” to be part of history as the USPS releases the Diwali Forever stamp. “Now for the first time there is a stamp that celebrates Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists as Americans forever,” she said.
Batra said since the start of the American Revolution “destiny has beckoned the US and India to be the closest allies” and the Diwali stamp “represents nothing short of respectful inclusive indivisibility within America and between two [sovereign nations].”
“The Diwali stamp will be a matter of pride for generations to come,” Ranju Batra said.
Sally Andersen-Bruce of Connecticut photographed the diya and Virginian Greg Breeding designed the stamp. Washingtonian William Gicker served as the project’s art director.