Queens Congress members introduce legislation to make Diwali a national holiday

QNS file photo by Christina Santucci

Queens Congress members have introduced legislation to make Diwali a nationally recognized federal holiday.

The Deepavali Day Act was announced by Congress members Carolyn B. Maloney, Gregory Meeks and Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) on Nov. 3, and is backed by multiple New York and national advocates. 

Maloney previously led an effort to have a Diwali Commemorative Stamp, which resulted in the stamp being issued in 2016.

“This beautiful festival celebrates lightness over dark, goodness over evil, and knowledge over ignorance,” Maloney said during a recent press conference. “My bill today recognizes the importance of this beautiful holiday and gives it the respect and acknowledgement it deserves.”

Diwali is one of the most popular holidays in India. It is a five-day festival of lights running from Nov. 1 until Nov. 5, with Thursday, Nov. 4, as the main day of celebration. The holiday is celebrated in a range of ways, including lighting earthen oil lamps to signify the inner light that protects from spiritual darkness.

“I’m proud to join Chairwoman Maloney and our colleagues in introducing this legislation to establish Diwali as a federal holiday in recognition of its importance to our nation’s more than 3 million Americans of Indian descent, including Hindus, Sikhs and Jains,” Krishnamoorthi said. “The meaning of this legislation extends beyond honoring the significance of Diwali to the Indian-American community to acknowledging the contributions of Indian-Americans to our nation.”

Indian immigrants are the second-largest immigrant group in the United States, according to The Online Journal of the Migration Policy Institute. The United States holds the largest population of Diwali observers outside of Asia, as the festival has spread beyond Hindu communities, to Jainism, Sikhism and Buddhism.

“For more than 7 million Americans across faiths, cultures and social backgrounds, enacting Deepãvali (or Diwali) as a national holiday commemorates America’s long-standing commitment to being a country that celebrates liberty, light, religious freedom and cultural diversity for all people,” said Dr. Sumita SenGupta, an author, educator and community leader in New York. 

SenGupta is advocating for this legislation so future generations and all Americans will be able to observe this holiday, which “signifies the democratic values of light and truth triumphing over darkness and untruth.”

Meeks said he’s proud to support the legislation, as the U.S. is “about celebrating the different cultures that make us one.”

“I understand the importance of the festival of lights and hope we can soon make this a reality for members of the Indian diaspora in my district and Indian Americans all over the country,” Meeks said.

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