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Biden leads largest-ever Diwali celebrations in White House

About 200 Indian Americans attended the reception. "This is the first Diwali reception of this scale in the White House ever to be held,” Biden said.

WASHINGTON, D.C, Oct 24: The Indian festival of Diwali was celebrated at the White House on Monday. President Joe Biden, First Lady Jill Biden, Vice- President Kamala Harris and several of the Indian-American staff in the administration attended the celebration. The reception began just after 5 pm local time (2:30 am IST).

Addressing a reception to celebrate Diwali at the White House, Biden said, “We are honoured to host you. This is the first Diwali reception of this scale in the White House ever to be held.”

The President lit a lamp (diya) to mark the occasion of the festival of lights and said, “By marking the victory of light over darkness, Diwali is a reminder that each of us has the power to dispel darkness and bring light to the world, whether here in America or around the world.

"It is a choice. We make that choice every day. It's true in our lives and in the life of this nation...It was my pleasure to celebrate this joyous occasion at the White House today.

"Our history has been a constant struggle between the American ideal that we are all created equal and the harsh reality that racism and fear have long torn us apart."

Kamala Harris, whose mother was an Indian, said, "I have personally such fond memories of celebrating Diwali as a child."

"Tonight, we join with more than 1 billion people around the world ... to celebrate the fight of good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, and light over darkness," she said.

Jill Biden told the guests at the reception that "this community helps light our way forward with courage and kindness, with persistence and faith, with love."

The event was held in the East Room of the White House. A cultural performance of dance was also held. About 200 Indian Americans attended the reception.

Diwali was celebrated during President George W Bush's time in office too. Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump also had held Diwali celebrations.

Diwali is celebrated by the Hindus, Jains and the Sikhs around the world, especially in India.

Diwali, a festival of lights to commemorate Lord Ram's return

Originally conceived as a national festival, during Diwali people traditionally light earthen lamps (diyas) around their houses to commemorate the mythological return of Lord Ram to the kingdom of Ayodhya after killing the demon Ravan in Lanka and also completing his 14-year exile. He is believed to have arrived on the 20th day after killing the demon, which is celebrated as Dussehra, victory of good over evil. This year Dussehra was celebrated on October 5 and therefore Diwali comes on October 24. The astronomical calculations of the Hindu almanac in fixing the festivals shows consistency from the days of antiquity. It falls in October or November as per the international Gregorian calendar.

The mythological stories, however, differ from region to region. Over time, Diwali, also called Deepavali or Divali, has come to symbolise victory of good over evil, knowledge over ignorance and light over darkness. It is also celebrated as a Hindu religious festival associated with Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity. Lakshmi pujas are performed.

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