Indian Embassy in Washington lights up for annual Diwali celebration

The Indian American community has “contributed hugely” to the celebration of Diwali by American institutions, says Ambassador Navtej Sarna.

Ambassador Navtej Sarna addressing the gathering at the Diwali celebration held at the Indian Chancery in Washington. Photo credit: Embassy of India, Washington.

Washington, DC, November 6, 2017 – The Indian Chancery was aglow Sunday evening for a Diwali celebration which drew an overflowing crowd some three weeks after the festival of lights.

Welcoming the guests, Ambassador Navtej Sarna noted, “Diwali is, of course, the most Indian of Indian festivals and it is now known the world over. Even this year, we have seen celebrations at the White House and the Pentagon. I think the Indian-American community, all of you, have contributed hugely to this realization of Diwali as a very important festival for India and have underlined that celebrating Diwali is something that reaches out to the Indian-American community. That is why we have the American institutions doing so.”

Recalling the release of the Diwali Forever Stamp by the United Postal Service last year, the envoy said, “I know how much hard work has gone into that.”

About the celebration in the Chancery on Sunday, Ambassador Sarna told the gathering, “It’s deliberately kept a little late because we like to extend our Diwali, let you have as many functions as you like before we do this one. Diwali is also a very family function”, he said, noting, “On the day of Diwali, people like to stay at home to light the lamp.”

Looking around the jam-packed venue, he said, “I think we need a bigger hall for our functions.”

Emphasizing the longevity of the “festive season”, the ambassador pointed out that the day before, it was Guru Nanak’s birthday and on Monday, November 6, the Embassy is celebrating the 350th year of the legacy of Guru Gobind Singh with an afternoon seminar, followed by a musical rendition, at the Ronald Reagan building in the heart of DC.

Attache Yogesh Kumar Batra made a very eloquent emcee speaking in a number of languages much to the delight of the audience. He likened Diwali to Guru Nanak Jayanti insofar as both celebrations herald the triumph of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance.

The program featured a musical segment led by supremely gifted Indian classical vocalist Sarbari Gangopadhyay, founder and director of the Aradhana School of Music based in Clarksville, Maryland. “I teach Hindustani classical music and I give voice training lessons to kids and adults for the last seven years,” she informed us.

Renowned Hindustani classical vocalist Sarbari Gangopadhyay (right) led the musical segment at the Indian Embassy’s Diwali celebration. Seated at left is Chitta Naskar on tabla and Hindola Gangopadhyay (center) on violin.
At the embassy event, Gangopadhyay displayed her immense vocal prowess by singing various genres: the ‘khayal’; ‘thumri’ which she learnt from her teacher, the late Girija Devi; ‘kajri’; followed by bhajans. She was accompanied by Chitta Naskar on the tabla, Namita Kundu on the harmonium, and two of her students — Hindola Gangopadhyay on the violin, and Divya Singh.Among the Indian-American community activists who attended the celebration was Shruti Bhatnagar, a candidate in the Montgomery County Council at-large race. If elected, she would be the first Indian-American and Asian-American woman to serve on the County Council. The primary is on June 26, 2018.

There are a total of four countywide seats of which three are open, and the race is already crowded with over 20 candidates pursuing the office. Bhatnagar, a Democrat, believes she has more than a fighting chance of being elected in a county which is heavily Democratic.

Among her priorities is quality education for all students. “I am a mother of two children who attend public schools,” she told us. “I have been very involved with education initiatives for the last 15 years, advocating for the needs of students. Now I want to take that work forward so I can continue to represent the needs of our community as a member of the County Council.”

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