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Indian Caucus Hopes Diwali Fest Can Heal Capitol Hill

Given everything lawmakers have been through in the past month, perhaps this town could use a good old-fashioned spiritual cleanse. The bipartisan Congressional Caucus on India and Indian-Americans wants to give everyone on the Hill the opportunity to do just that via the first-ever Diwali reception hosted by Congress.

The debut holiday gathering is scheduled to take place 6-8 p.m. on Oct. 29 in the Rayburn foyer. Those interested in attending should RSVP to

“We’re setting a major precedent that will hopefully last for years and decades to come,” caucus Co-Chairman Joseph Crowley, D-N.Y., said of the opportunity to share the mysteries of the “festival of lights” with fellow lawmakers.

Crowley, who told HOH he’s had the privilege of participating in Diwali festivals in the Indo-American enclave of the Jackson Heights section of Queens, praised freshman Reps. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, the first Hindu lawmaker elected to to the House, and Ami Bera, D-Calif., the lone Indian-American politician in Congress, for helping to plan the event and “stirring up interest amongst our members.”

“I think it is a testament to the growth of the Indian-American community,” Crowley said.

Gabbard is fairly certain the timing couldn’t be better for the holiday gathering.

“According to spiritual tradition, Diwali is observed as the victory of light over darkness, truth over untruth and righteousness over wrong, and as a time of spiritual renewal,” she explained to HOH. “This message has great relevance at a time when politics and partisanship seem to overshadow compassion and concern for the greater good.”

Crowley has placed the menu planning in the capable hands of the Sri Siva Vishnu Temple in Lanham, Md., — “So, we know it will be authentic,” he assured HOH — a local house of worship he’s consulted with in the past.

SSVT did not respond to calls or emails regarding the catering plans, but Crowley said to expect vegetarian fare.

Some traditional Diwali eats that come to mind include: vegetable-filled pastries (samosas, pakoras), homemade cheese- (paneer) and/or lentil-laden stews, fragrant curries, nutty accompaniments (pistachios and almonds figure prominently) and exotic sweets (gulab jamun dough balls, ghee-spiked pumpkin halwa).

Here’s hoping members of the Congressional Vegetarian Staff Association manage to RSVP in time. Vishnu knows they could use a decent meal.

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