HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania (WHTM) — A bill to recognize the major South Asian holiday known as Diwali as a state holiday in Pennsylvania is expected to reach the governor’s desk later this year, with versions of the bill reaching both the House and Senate. passed.
The Senate bill passed unanimously. In the House, it was over 200-1.
Sponsors said the goal is to recognize and celebrate the growing Indian community in the Commonwealth.
“Seeing the importance of Diwali, not only for the Hindu community, but for the entire South Asian community, it was an opportunity to really bring some representation,” said Arvind Venkat, who sponsored the House version of the bill. lawmaker said. .
For Venkat, Diwali was part of his childhood, but most people didn’t even know the holiday existed.
“I remember going there to celebrate with family and friends,” he said. “When I was a kid, outside of the Indian-American community, it wasn’t something people knew about.”
Venkat said the passing of a bill to mark Diwali as a state holiday was a sign of change.
“My colleagues knew members of the community who celebrated Diwali, so they were very open to this,” he said. “This is part of recognizing how the South Asian community in Pennsylvania has become integrated into the wider organization of the Pennsylvania community.”
Efforts to approve Diwali began in the Senate with Middle State Senator Greg Rothman.
“There’s a very large and vibrant community in my neighborhood of Asian Indians in Cumberland County that I’ve come to know,” says Rothman, adding, “My youngest daughter is Asian Indian. I was delivered by a doctor.My dentist is Asian Indian.American.”
During the campaign, Rothman promised to make this the first bill.
“I hope it sends a message to the Asian community, but Pennsylvania is a welcoming place, we appreciate cultural diversity and thank you for being here.
In Hinduism, Diwali (Festival of Lights) celebrates the victory of good over evil. The story is derived from the ancient Indian epic Ramayana, in which Lord Vishnu, reincarnated as Prince Rama, defeats an evil demon.
“More light than darkness. We need to celebrate that in Pennsylvania,” Rothman said.
In the Ramayana, people light the way with thousands of lamps as Ram returns to his kingdom. That tradition continues today, with people often celebrating Diwali with fireworks and leaving all the lights on.
Not only Hinduism, but many other South Asian religions also celebrate Diwali.
Bills recognizing holidays do not require governments, businesses or schools to close on those days. Sponsors said it was important for everyone to feel welcome in Pennsylvania.
“They are a big part of the organization and I like how they are assimilated, as all other immigrant groups do when they come to the United States, but then they are big on the culture. We’re focused,” Rothman said.
Many Midstate Indians celebrate this recognition.
“The phone never stopped ringing,” said Deep Gupta, founder of Asian Indian Americans of Central Pennsylvania (AIACPA).
For Gupta, a longtime leader of the community, this is a testament to the work South Asians have been doing over the years.
“that is, [the] Indian community,” he said.
Next, the Senate bill must pass the House, or the House bill must pass the Senate before it heads to the Governor’s desk. Since the bill is identical, lawmakers say this should be a fairly straightforward process.
https://www.wkbn.com/news/pennsylvania/bill-on-track-to-make-diwali-a-pennsylvania-state-holiday/ Bill to make Diwali a public holiday in Pennsylvania is on track