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Two bills marking Diwali a state holiday passed in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is home to nearly 200,000 South Asian residents, many of whom celebrate Diwali with family and friends

Photo by Suchandra Roy Chowdhury / Unsplash

In a win for the Indian American community in the US State of Pennsylvania, the state House and Senate on April 26, 2023, passed  legislations that seek to make the Hindu festival of lights, Diwali, an official holiday in the state.

Senate Bill 402 sponsored by Senator Greg Rothman (R-34) and Indian American Senator Nikil Saval (D-1) was passed unamoiusly in the Senate while House Bill 436 sponsored by state Rep. Arvind Venkat (D-Allegheny) was passed 200-1 by the House.

Both legislations intend to bring official recognition to the festival by designating the 15th day of the Hindu lunisolar month of Kartik as a state holiday. They do not require school or government closings. The Senate bill has been passed to the House and vice versa for consideration.

“Recognizing Diwali as an official state holiday upholds and celebrates our Commonwealth’s rich cultural diversity,” Rothman said emphasizing that thousands of Pennsylvanians celebrate Diwali each year, including many residents of the 34th Senatorial District.

“Our Commonwealth’s official recognition of Diwali sends a clear message of inclusion to the thousands of Pennsylvanians who celebrate this festival of light and connection each year: you are seen, you are welcome, you matter,” Saval said.

Venkat, the first Pennsylvania state representative of Indian American background lauded the House for passing his legislation and urged the senate to do the same. "This legislation is important in that it reflects the increased diversity of Pennsylvania. Our state holidays should reflect the vibrancy of the many cultures that call this state home, and this bill is getting us closer to that goal,” he added.