NYC Mayor Eric Adams Hosts Diwali At Gracie Mansion & Across New York City Boroughs

New York City Mayor Eric Adams said on Tuesday, October 17th that Diwali is a reminder for all to push away darkness and usher in light. He further urged people to embrace the spirit of Lord Ram, Goddess Sita and Mahatma Gandhi in order to become better humans. Adams emphasized the significance of Diwali as a symbol of dispelling darkness and welcoming light during the annual Diwali celebration held at his New York residence, Gracie Mansion. The celebration was the first of others palnned as part of the inaugural 5 Borough Diwali Tour hosted by Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar and the Mayor in NYC.

In his speech at the annual event, which was attended by many influential members of the Indian-American and South Asian communities, as well as representatives from other diasporas and the government, Adams said that Diwali is about more than just lighting candles or oil lamps; it is about "lighting up our lives."

“There is so much darkness that we are seeing every day. So if we truly believe in the life of Ramayana, if we truly believe in the life of Sita, if we truly believe in the life of Gandhi, then we must continue Gandhi’s steps. We cannot only be worshippers; we must be practitioners,” he said.

He said this while speaking at the annual Diwali celebration hosted at his New York residence, Gracie Mansion. He further requested everyone to support the effort to eradicate the darkness
consuming the world and causing the deaths of innocent people.

“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,” Adams said. This annual celebration was attended by hundreds of prominent members of the Indian- American and South Asian community as well as diaspora from other nationalities and government officials. Adams said Diwali is more than just lighting a candle; it is about “lighting up our lives”.

“There is so much darkness that we are seeing every day. So if we truly believe in the life of Ramayana, if we truly believe in the life of Sita, if we truly believe in the life of Gandhi, then we must continue Gandhi’s steps. We cannot only be worshippers; we must be practitioners,” he said.

Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar, who was instrumental in establishing Diwali as a school holiday in New York City, expressed that the Indian-American community has reached a level of influence and strength like never before. “We are unstoppable, and we have arrived at the table of power in this state,” she said.

She further emphasized that, especially given the turmoil in various parts of the world and the rising intolerance and prejudice against different communities, the Indian-American community has a unique opportunity to lead the way toward peace and harmony.

Mayo Adams 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.”

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

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.”

“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.

The Diwali celebration at Gracie Mansion, launching the colorful event which included a Hindu prayer, lamp lighting 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.

Assemblyman Grace Lee, Councilperson Brewer, a longtime friend, former borough president. Councilman (Shekar) Krishnan, Councilmember Lee, and all of our state and assembly lawmakers who assisted, particularly Assemblyman and Speaker Carl Heastie and Majority Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins for getting this bill through and making this holiday happen,” Mayor Adams added.

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.

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.”

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.”

Pandit Ravi Sivacharya from the Ganesh temple in Flushing, Queens, offered prayers and led the diya lighting ceremony.  Dr. Vasundhara Kalasapudi, Indo-American Arts Council chairman Dr.
Nirmal Mattoo, Dr. Hari Shukla, Musician Ustad Kamal Sabri, and Grammy nominee Chandrika Tandon, were presented citations by the Mayor’s office at the event in recognition of their various achievements and service to the community.

After the Mayor’s reception at Gracie Mansion, the celebrations will continue with events in various locations, including Times Square on October 28, Vishnu Mandir on November 4, ISKCON New York City – Hare Krishna Center on November 12, Staten Island Hindu Temple on the same day, and the final event at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir on November 13.

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