President Barack Obama lighting the Diwali lamp in the Oval Office. (Facebook)


President Barack Obama celebrated Diwali by lighting a diya in the Oval Office of the White House for the first time and hoped that his successors would continue the tradition, writes Lalit K. Jha. A Diwali diya was lit at the UN headquarters, also for the first time amid a celebration of Indian culture and heritage as the festival continued to light up the world body, writes Yoshita Singh. – @siliconeer #siliconeer @siliconeer #DiwaliatOvalOffice #DiwaliatUnitedNations #DiwaliinAmerica #DiwaliCelebrations @UN #UnitedNations #BarackObama


Obama, who was the first president to celebrate Diwali personally at the White House in 2009, talked about this momentous occasion in a Facebook post soon after he kindled the diya in his Oval Office with some Indian Americans working in his administration.

“I was proud to be the first President to host a Diwali celebration at the White House in 2009, and Michelle and I will never forget how the people of India welcomed us with open arms and hearts and danced with us in Mumbai on Diwali,” President Obama said.

Peter Thomson, President of the 71st UN General Assembly, lighting the traditional lamp to inaugurate 1st ever celebration of Diwali Festival at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, Nov. 1. (Press Trust of India)

Peter Thomson, President of the 71st UN General Assembly, lighting the traditional lamp to inaugurate 1st ever celebration of Diwali Festival at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, Nov. 1. (Press Trust of India)

“This year, I was honored to kindle the first-ever diya in the Oval Office—a lamp that symbolizes how darkness will always be overcome by light. It is a tradition that I hope future Presidents will continue,” Obama said on the White House Facebook page, which became viral on the social media.

By late night it was liked by more than 1.5 lakh people and shared more than 33,000 times.

“On behalf of the entire Obama family, I wish you and your loved ones peace and happiness on this Diwali,” Obama said.

“To all who are celebrating the festival of lights across America and around the world, happy Diwali. As Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, and Buddhists light the diya, share in prayers, decorate their homes, and open their doors to host and feast with loved ones, we recognize that this holiday rejoices in the triumph of good over evil and knowledge over ignorance,” said the President.

The UN headquarters lit up and greeted the people on the occasion of Diwali for the first time in New York, Oct. 30. (Press Trust of India)

The UN headquarters lit up and greeted the people on the occasion of Diwali for the first time in New York, Oct. 30. (Press Trust of India)

“It also speaks to a broader truth about our shared American experience. It’s a reminder of what’s possible when we see beyond the differences that too often divide us. It’s a reflection of the hopes and dreams that bind us together,” he said.

Obama said that it is a time to renew collective obligation to deepen those bonds, to stand in each other’s shoes and see the world through each other’s eyes, and to embrace each other as brothers and sisters—and as fellow Americans.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who has a large fan following in the Indian American community, greeted Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains across the world on the occasion of Diwali.

“On Sunday, nearly a billion Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, and Buddhists around the world—including more than two million Americans—will celebrate Diwali, the festival of lights.

For members of these faiths, lighting the lamp (the diya) is a reminder that light prevails over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, and good over evil,” Clinton said.

In sharp contrast to the rhetoric about lighting of firecrackers causing air pollution in parts of north India, Indian Americans burning firecrackers during Diwali celebrations in Jersey City, Oct. 31. No prior permission was taken for fireworks but the city police cooperated. (Press Trust of India)

In sharp contrast to the rhetoric about lighting of firecrackers causing air pollution in parts of north India, Indian Americans burning firecrackers during Diwali celebrations in Jersey City, Oct. 31. No prior permission was taken for fireworks but the city police cooperated. (Press Trust of India)

Diwali Celebrations Galore at the UN, Diya lit for 1st Time

UN General Assembly President Peter Thomson lit the traditional lamp at a ceremony, Oct. 31, to celebrate Diwali at the UN Secretariat.

“The #Diwali Diya is lighted @UN for 1st time. Thank you Ambassador Thomson for your open embrace of multiculturalism,” India’s Ambassador to the UN, Syed Akbaruddin tweeted.

The Diwali celebrations at the UN included Indian dance and music performances as traditional Indian fare was served for UN diplomats and officials.

“India Artists performing Fusion Dance on the occasion of Diwali,” India’s mission to the UN tweeted along with a video of the dance performance.

Diwali was commemorated for the first time at the United Nations, as the world body’s imposing headquarters was lit up especially on the occasion of the Indian festival of lights.

The UN’s facade was lit in bright hues and the words “Happy Diwali” along with the image of a traditional diya (lamp) projected onto the building. The image was displayed from October 29-31.

Indian American women burning firecrackers to mark Diwali in New Jersey, Oct. 31. No prior permission was taken for fireworks but the city police cooperated. (Press Trust of India)

Indian American women burning firecrackers to mark Diwali in New Jersey, Oct. 31. No prior permission was taken for fireworks but the city police cooperated. (Press Trust of India)

It is for the first time that the Indian festival of lights has been celebrated at the UN after it was recognized by the world body.

“Happy Diwali! @UN celebrates Diwali for 1st time. Thank you for this initiative,” Akbaruddin had tweeted.

The UN General Assembly had adopted a resolution in December 2014 that acknowledged the “significance of Diwali.”

Noting that the festival is observed in many UN member states, the resolution had called on UN bodies to avoid holding meetings on Diwali, declaring it a no-meeting day.

From 2016 onwards, Diwali was made an optional holiday for the UN, India’s Permanent Mission to the UN said in a special video message.

Peter Thomson, President of the 71st UN General Assembly, after lighting the traditional lamp to inaugurate 1st ever celebration of Diwali Festival at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, Nov. 1. (Press Trust of India)

Peter Thomson, President of the 71st UN General Assembly, after lighting the traditional lamp to inaugurate 1st ever celebration of Diwali Festival at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, Nov. 1. (Press Trust of India)

Thomson had also tweeted a picture of the UN building lit up in bright blue for Diwali and said, “Light over darkness, hope over despair, knowledge over ignorance, good over evil—the UN lights up. Happy Diwali!”

City residents had flocked to the UN headquarters in large numbers to take a photo of the first-ever such projection on the building.

Earlier this year in June, the UN building was lit up on the occasion of the International Yoga Day, with images of Yoga postures projected on the imposing headquarters.