“Diwali is more than just a holiday,” NYC Mayor Eric Adams at Gracie Mansion celebration

Mayor Eric Adams speaking to actors dressed as character from Ramayana, at the Diwali celebrations October 17, 2023, in Gracie Mansion. PHOTO: X @NYCMayor

New York City Mayor Eric Adams held a Diwali celebration at Gracie Mansion Oct. 17, 2023, launching the colorful event which included a Hindu prayer, lamplighting and in the presence of an enthusiastic crowd that included one of the main drivers behind making Diwali a public school holiday starting in 2024, NY State Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar.

He announced he will be making several stops in his Diwali ‘tour’ visiting all the five boroughs of New York City. “This holiday was so important to us. I look forward to doing this five‑borough tour to let everyone know that with the tour and celebration we are going to push away the darkness and bring in a new light,” the Mayor declared. Next day, the Mayor tweeted out a message and pictures from the Gracie Mansion event, saying, “I’m so proud to stand with our Hindu community and last night we welcomed them to the People’s House for a special #Diwali celebration.”

In his speech, following a lengthy introduction by Rajkumar and Deputy Commissioner Dilip Chauhan, the Mayor said,  “… Diwali is more than just a holiday. It is a reminder to all of us that we must push away the darkness wherever we see it and bring light. That is what the festival of lights is about. It’s more than lighting the candle, it’s more than lighting oil. It is lighting up our lives. And there is so much darkness that we are seeing every day.”

The Mayor thanked all those involved with the push to make Diwali a public school holiday, starting with Rajkumar.

NY State Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar looks on as Mayor Eric Adams speaks to the crowd at the Diwali reception at Gracie Mansion Oct. 17, 2023. PHOTO: X @NYCMayor

“I want to really thank our Assemblywoman who has been a real partner in moving this important holiday to the forefront. I remember last year hearing so many people who wanted this holiday as we moved around the city. And she took that energy to Albany and ensured that we will live up to the commitment and promise of this important holiday,” the Mayor said. “But I also want to thank my partners who are here in government as well. Assemblymember Grace Lee, Councilperson Brewer, a long‑time friend, former borough president. Councilman (Shekar) Krishnan, Councilmember Lee, and all of our state and assembly lawmakers who assisted, particularly Assemblymember and Speaker Carl Heastie and Majority Leader Andrea Stewart‑Cousins for getting this bill through and making this holiday happen,” Mayor Adams added.

He dwelt on the story of Ramayana, and on his visit to India, and lauded the role also played by Sita.

“So, we often hear about the greatness of Ram and what Ram represented. He was the power and the force against evil, and he pushed to ensure to rid the entire globe of darkness,” he said, adding, “But there was another significant part of the story of Ramayana. It was Sita. Sita was his other half. She was a woman of strength and integrity. She was willing to sacrifice her life to ensure that Ram was able to accomplish the task.”

The Mayor used that analogy to emphasize the need to recognize Sita’s role. “… as we move forward in a particularly male dominated society, let’s not forget, we will never be able to defeat darkness if we do not acknowledge all the Sitas that are in the universe fighting on behalf and side by side with us,” he said.

He recalled his visit many years ago to India where,”I’ll never forget going to the home of Mahatma Gandhi and seeing his last steps. They were permanently in the sidewalk in the pavement. And it’s symbolic that the bullet took his life, but it’s up to us to continue the journey. His physical transformation through that murder should not stop the spiritual journey.”

Following the example of Ram, Sita and Gandhi, the Mayor said, “We cannot only be worshippers, we must be practitioners. And so as we leave today from under this tent of Gracie Mansion, let’s leave with the energy of taking away the darkness that we are seeing all across our globe and the loss of innocent lives. We cannot continue to watch this engulf our future and engulf humanity.”

Some of the guests at Gracie Mansion for Mayor Eric Adams’ Diwali reception October 17, 2023. PHOTO: videograb from X @NYCMayor

“Let’s be better human beings, and let’s live in the spirit of Diwali. Let’s live in the spirit of Gandhi. Let’s live in the spirit of Sita. Let’s live in the spirit of Ram. And then we will live up to the expectations of what this holiday really means,” said the Mayor.

Deputy Commissioner Dilip Chauhan, Trade, Investment and Innovation, Mayor’s Office of International Affairs, praised the role played by Rajkumar, describing her as “a proud Hindu American” and lauding her efforts to bring Diwali mainstream. He also praised the Mayor for fulfilling the promise he made during his election campaign to make Diwali a holiday.

Assemblywoman Rajkumar recalled how her election made history making her the first Indian woman ever elected to a New York State office, and the first Hindu ever elected to a New York State office. She called out to Indian origin attendees at the event including Hindus from the diaspora, like the Caribbean, apart from India.
“Today I am proud to stand before the whole world and say that from now on and forever Diwali will be a school holiday in New York City. And today our government says to over 600,000 Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and Jains, we see you, we recognize you, we hear you — and Diwali is an American holiday,” Rajkumar said. She spoke about how it was the strength of the community which made the Diwali legislation a reality, and the Mayor’s support for the cause.
She described the five-borough tour a historic first, adding, “We’re starting here in Gracie Mansion. We’re going to go to Times Square to celebrate Diwali. And then we’re going to go to every corner of this city and every borough; and together, we will bring light and prosperity to every corner of this city.”

Deputy Commissioner Chauhan said this year’s Gracie Mansion celebration of Diwali included many who had not been there in past years. “More than 80 organizations participate in this Diwali, Mayor,” he said, noting that he followed up on the Mayor’s directive to “create the new list, people who didn’t visit Gracie Mansion City Hall.”

Pandit Ravi Sivacharya from the Ganesh temple in Flushing, Queens, offered prayers and led the diya lighting ceremony.



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