Diwali Celebrations held at governor’s mansion and Duke in North Carolina

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From Left to Right: Governor Roy Cooper, North Carolina State Senator Jay Chaudhuri, First Lady Kristin Cooper and Sejal Mehta Chaudhuri

As many around the country and the world celebrated Diwali last week, North Carolina had its own celebrations; one at the governor’s mansion and another at Duke University.

The governor’s mansion was decorated with rangoli at the entrance and guests were greeted by Governor Roy Cooper, the First Lady Kristin Cooper, North Carolina State Senator Jay Chaudhuri and Sejal Mehta Chaudhuri, on Thursday, Oct. 19.

This was the first ever Diwali celebration at the Executive Mansion which was hosted by Hindi Vikas Mandal a non-profit, volunteering organization that is situated in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina that encourages the study and the appreciation of Hindi and promotes cultural activities.

“It was a joy and an honor to host the Indian American community at the mansion and to recognize the contributions they have made to the state,” said Kristin Cooper.

The Chief of Staff for Kristin Cooper, Ilina Ewen, who is from Kolkata, was the Master of Ceremony for the event and it was a proud moment for the Indian Americans of North Carolina to see an Indian American holding such a high position in the Cooper Administration.

Mrs. Rama Garimella holds the Proclamation as Governor Cooper and Mrs. Cooper look on.

The night started out with a warm welcome by Sushma Maheshwari, the Treasurer for the Hindi Vikas Mandal followed by Senator Chaudhuri and Governor Cooper who emphasized the rich contributions to the culture of North Carolina that were made by Indian Americans, recognized several Indian Americans appointed to state positions in his administration and then invited. Ganga Dhar Sharma, a senior religious leader in the State to offer prayers after which many religious leaders were invited to light ceremonial Diyas, ending the night with the SV Temple priest, Chakrapani Kumara offering prayers.

“As someone who has been passionate about the Indian culture and has celebrated the festivals for years, meeting Governor Roy Cooper and the First Lady Kristin Cooper on such a special day was a memorable event,” said Richa Kapoor, a Board Member of Hindi Vikas Mandal

Governor Cooper and Kristin Cooper also visited the Sri Venkateswara Temple of North Carolina in Cary, North Carolina, the day before, where they signed a Diwali proclamation for the first time in the history of the State of North Carolina.

Dean Ravi Bellamkonda lighting the ceremonial Diya as Madhu Sharma looks on.

Diwali was also celebrated at the Duke Chapel at Duke University on Saturday, Oct. 21, for the first time ever and was well-attended by students, parents and community members.

The Duke Hindu Chaplain Madhu Sharma was the Master of Ceremony for the event, which was started by a performance by Duke Sangeet, a student organization.

“It was a spiritual and a devotional experience to conduct the Diwali service at the magnificent Duke Chapel,” said Sharma.

The Associate Dean of Religious Life at Duke University, Christy Lohr Sapp welcomed the group, emphasizing how Duke values religious flourishing amongst academic studies and Ganga Dhar Sharma conducted a short prayer service.

Professor Ravi Bellamkonda, the Vinik Dean of Pratt School of Engineering reflected on his meaning of Diwali, the night ended with contemporary devotional Hindu music played by Cosmic Horizons, a local band.

Duke Sangeet performing devotional Diwali music
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