Kerry marks Hindu festival of lights at State Department

The festival of lights, as it is commonly known, is celebrated across India

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Secretary of State John Kerry marked the first ever celebration of the Hindu festival of Diwali at the State Department Thursday, urging all to embrace its spirit of optimism and hope.

The festival of lights, as it is commonly known, is celebrated across India, usually accompanied by lots of firecrackers.

"As the days grow shorter, the Diwali reminds us that spring always returns - that knowledge triumphs over ignorance, hope outlasts despair, and light replaces darkness," Kerry told his guests in the magnificent Benjamin Franklin room, lit with scores of tiny lamps and candles.

"Diwali is a time for the revitalization of mind and spirit. And just as critically, it affords a chance to reflect on how we can bring light to others."

Quoting civil rights icon Martin Luther King, Kerry echoed what the slain leader had said.

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."

In a nod to the conflicts around the world, Kerry said that "as we come together in the spirit of the Diwali festival, we need to, all of us, think about how to reaffirm our shared commitment to the light.

"And this is particularly a moment as we look at the events around the world where that commitment could serve all humankind."

President Barack Obama also sent his greetings via a video message saying that "lighting the light at Diwali is a chance to remember even in the midst of darkness that light will ultimately prevail."

Ties between India and the United States hit a rocky patch late last year, when an Indian diplomat was arrested in New York and then expelled from the U.S. over allegations of mistreating her maid.

But India's ambassador to the U.S. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said this year's visit to the U.S. of new Prime Minister Narendra Modi had marked "a new beginning" in ties.

"It will not only mean greater prosperity for both nations, but the advancement of common good," he said.

Kerry's hosting of the Diwali celebration at the State Department "had raised the bar of the relationship even higher," he added.

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