Source: India West
The USPS announced Aug. 23 the official release of a postage stamp commemorating the Hindu festival of Diwali — also known as the Festival of Lights.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., a leader in the cause to issue the stamp, held a celebratory event crediting the Indiaspora organization for having fructified the Indian American community’s vision of having a Diwali stamp in America, Indiaspora said in a statement.
Indiaspora’s community engagement resulted in over 10,000 letters and postcards being mailed to the USPS urging them to create and release a Diwali Stamp. The organization also launched an online campaign encouraging Indian Americans to call and write their elected officials on this subject. Indiaspora’s blog, social media and newsletters kept up the drumbeat, it said.
“This is the successful culmination of a long-sought goal of the Indian American community, behind which Indiaspora and many other people and organizations put in unyielding and resolute effort,” Indiaspora said, adding its thanks to the volunteer group who helped make the stamp creation possible.
The stamp design is a photograph featuring a traditional Diya oil lamp lit, sitting on a sparkling gold background. Diya lamps are usually made from clay with cotton wicks dipped in a clarified butter known as “ghee” or in vegetable oils, the USPS said in a statement.
Sally Andersen-Bruce of New Milford, Conn., photographed the Diya. Greg Breeding of Charlottesville, Va., designed the stamp and William J. Gicker of Washington, D.C., served as the project’s art director.
The Diwali stamp is being issued as a Forever stamp. This Forever stamp will also be equal in value to the current First Class Mail 1-ounce price.
“Indiaspora lauds Rep. Maloney for introducing House Resolutions in Congresses to urge USPS to release the Diwali Stamp. Her efforts played an important role in the eventual achievement of this cherished objective of the Indian American community,” Indiaspora founder M.R. Rangaswami said in a statement.
Rangaswami went on to say that the culmination of their efforts showed a maturation of the Indian American community.
“We have come of age and are getting more engaged in community issues and also becoming more politically active,” the founder said.
Rep. Ami Bera, D-Calif., was ecstatic with the issuance of the stamp in advance of the festival.
“I am thrilled that the United States Postal Service has issued a stamp to celebrate Diwali,” Bera, a co-chair of the India Caucus in the House of Representatives and the only Indian American currently serving in Congress, said in a statement. “Nearly a billion people around the world celebrate this Festival of Lights, including 2 million right here in the U.S., and this stamp represents the hard work and achievements of all Indian Americans.”
Indiaspora added thanks to Maryland-based physician Dr. Shailendra Kumar for initiating the cause in 2001. Congress in 2007 recognized the significance of Diwali with President Barack Obama lighting a diya in 2009 at the White House.
Ravi and Ranju Batra in 2013 helped compile more than 400,000 online signatures calling for the stamp. And Indiaspora, when approached by community leaders in 2014, committed to making the stamp a reality, the organization said.
In 2015, Senate India Caucus co-chairs Sens. Mark Warner, D-Va., and John Cornyn, R-Texas, introduced Senate Resolution 113, calling for a Diwali Stamp in the U.S.
Also in 2015, in conjunction with the Hindu American Foundation, Indiaspora volunteers walked the halls of Congress, meeting with elected officials and staff members at several hundred congressional offices, and convinced dozens of them to sign on to the congressional resolutions supporting the Diwali Stamp.
By the end of 2015, Indiaspora and HAF sent a community letter signed by more than 100 organizations to the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee urging them to approve a Diwali Stamp.
The efforts were finally met when the USPS agreed to the stamp creation. Rangaswami was thrilled.
“This year, Diwali came early,” Rangaswami summed up.
The Wednesday, Oct 5, first-day-of-issue dedication ceremony will take place at the Indian Consulate in New York City
On the Hindu calendar, Diwali falls on the eve of, or on, the new moon that occurs between mid-October and mid-November. This year, the main day of the festival will be celebrated Oct. 29 for South Indians and Oct. 30 for North Indians.