Association of Indians in America’s Momentous Diwali Celebration at the Minnesota State Capital

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz and Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan lighting a lamp at the Diwali function in St. Paul October 18, 2023. Photo : Courtesy AIA Minnesota

In a historic move, Association of Indians in America (AIA), Minnesota, celebrated the first ever Diwali at Minnesota State Capital at the  City of St. Paul Wednesday, October 18, 2023. This was the first time that Diwali was celebrated officially at the State Capital in Minnesota.

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz and Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan joined AIA office bearers and members along with other community leaders in the special multi-cultural Diwali celebration. Representatives from Minnesota ’s Community Relations and Public Engagement also attended the function.

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz shows off a Ganesh Image on the special Diwali celebrations at Minnesota Capital St. Paul October 18, 2023 as AIA members look on. Photo : Courtesy AIA Minnesota

In a bid to make the evening’s celebration a truly inclusive event representing different Indian faiths, AIA was joined by leaders of the Hindu Society of Minnesota, Sri Venkateswara Center of Edina, the Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) of Brooklyn Center, India Association of Minnesota, Sikh leaders representing close to 2,000 Sikhs in the Minnesota area and Jain leaders representing the more-than-100 family-strong Jain Community in Minnesota.

Other guests included leading individuals from the fields of business, arts and music. The event was attended by people of all ages, including seniors, young adults and children.

The evening’s celebration opened with chanting of the Vedic ‘Shanti Mantra’ by Vishal Agarwal which was translated into English by Sarang Tantry, a Wayzata High School senior.

A ceremonial lighting of the lamp was performed by Walz and Flanagan, along with AIA Minnesota Diwali Event Chair Vallabha Tantry and AIA National Policy and Outreach Chair Gopal Khanna, both of whom had worked hard to bring about the celebration.

Members from the Minnesota Gurudwara, BAPS temple and Hindu Temple with Governor Tim Walz and Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan at the Diwali celebration at St. Paul, Minnesota, October 18, 2023. Photo : Courtesy AIA Minnesota

On the occasion, a special Ganesh image was presented to governor Walz. Accepting it, he said the image would have a permanent place at the governor’s mansion to remind him of the first Diwali celebration. Lt. Governor Flanagan was presented with a copy of The Bhagwat Gita written by Shri Chinmayanand.

Speaking on the occasion, Governor Tim Walz said, “This first ever Diwali celebration is a testament to the rich cultural heritage and contributions of the community to the state of Minnesota in all walks of life.”

Commending the Indian American community’s contributions further, Walz spoke about diversity, religious freedom, and inclusion.

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz and participants at the AIA organized Diwali celebration October 18, 2023 at Minnesota State Capital in St. Paul, Minnesota. Photo : Courtesy AIA Minnesota

On this historic occasion, Walz also issued a special Proclamation declaring October as The Hindu Heritage Month in Minnesota. Acknowledging the role of the Indian community in Minnesota’s life, the proclamation appreciated the contributions of Indians in science, education, medicine, law, politics, business, technology, culture, and sports. The cultural richness and diversity that Indian American community brings to Minnesota was also signified in the proclamation.

In her speech Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan stressed the importance of celebrating various cultural traditions and diversity.

Khanna, who is now the AIA National Policy and Outreach Chair, reminded the gathering in his speech about AIA’s pioneering role in starting Diwali celebration at New York City’s South Street Seaport in 1987, according to an online report by the South Asian Times (SAT). Khanna also referred to AIA’s involvement in establishing Diwali celebration at the White House under the then President George Bush in 2003, a tradition which he said had continued with later Presidents, SAT wrote. Khanna also encouraged the gathering to register and vote and volunteer. The report said Khanna spoke about AIA’s adherence to its motto of ‘Indian Heritage and American Commitment.’

Vallabha Tantry, the Minnesota Diwali Event Chair who was coordinating the whole event was quoted by SAT to have said AIA’s experience of establishing Diwali celebration at New York and at the White House had become useful in their efforts to begin Diwali celebration in Minnesota at the State level. In her speech, Tantry said the establishment of Diwali celebration at the Minnesota State Capitol signified the values of unity, cultural appreciation and religious freedom of Minnesota, according to SAT.

AIA’s national President Govind Munjal also spoke at the event which was co-hosted by the Council of Asian Pacific Minnesotans (CAPM), according to SAT.

House of one of the great lakes, Lake Superior, the Midwestern state of Minnesota shares its border with Canada. It can easily be called the state of lakes as it contains 10,000 other lakes. According to 2020 census, more than 52,000 Indians reside in the twin cities of the state capital St. Paul and Minneapolis. Minnesota is well-known for its diverse culture groups.



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