Diwali Dinner with Elected Officials and Hindu Leaders of Houston

Houston: Pragati USA and Ashirwad A Blessing Temple (Ashirwad) collaborated to host Diwali Dinner at India House Houston on October 29th, 2021. The goal of the event was to bring together major Hindu organizations in the Greater Houston area, and both Democratic and Republican elected officials of Harris and Fort Bend counties to celebrate Diwali, the Festival of Lights.

The event received an overwhelming response from the community, with all available sponsorships sold days before the event.

Over 275 attendees were present, with representatives from leading Hindu Organizations like the Ekal Vidyalaya, Gayatri Consciousness Center, Hindu Mahasabha, Hindus of Greater Houston (HGH), Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh USA (HSS), SEWA International, Indian History Awareness & Research (IHAR), ISKCON Houston, Jain Community, Shri Sita Ram Foundation USA, Texas Hindu Campsite, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Vadtal Dham Shree Swaminarayan Hindu Temple, Datta Yoga Center (DYC), Sri Ashtalakshmi Temple, Sri Meenakshi Temple Society, Sri Rama Jaya Niketan Temple.

Leading elected officials and their representatives, from both parties, who attended the event are Honorable Judge Christian Becerra, 434th District Court of Fort Bend County, Mr. Ken DeMerchant – Commissioner Precinct 4, Mr. Robin Elackatt – Mayor of Missouri City, Mr. Eric Fagan – Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Delegate: Major Rudy Castaneda, Mr. KP George Fort Bend County Judge, Ms. Cynthia M. Ginyard – Fort Bend County Democratic Party Chair, Honorable Juli Mathew – Judge Fort Bend County Court at Law No. 3, Mr. Ken Mathew – Mayor Pro Tem Stafford City (Council Member – Position #6), Mr. Brian M. Middleton – Fort Bend County District Attorney, Mr. Troy E. Nehls US Congressman’s Delegate: Mr. Thomas Goodfellow, Ms. Kim K Ogg – Harris County District Attorney’s Delegate: Mr. Ruben Perez, Mrs. Anna Carpenter, Mr. Ron Reynolds Texas State Representative, House District 27, Ms. Bridgette Smith-Lawson Fort Bend County Attorney, Honorable Teana Watson Judge Fort Bend County Court at Law No. 5, Mr. Cecil Willis – Stafford City Mayor

The event began with light appetizers while networking between organization members and elected officials for the first hour. The program started with welcome remarks from Chetan Dave (Pragati USA) followed by Lakshmi Pooja from a Hindu priest Acharya Hanuma of Sri Rama Jayaniketan Temple.

The event also featured national anthems of the United States, sung by Sanjay Sivakumar, and India, sung by Priyanshi Parekh. Priyanshi also led the Pledge of Allegiance to the United States and Texas. Ashish Agarwal introduced the elected officials who participated in lighting traditional diyas to the Hindu deities.

Ms.Geetha Ravula (Ashirwad) spoke about Ashirwad’s mission is to promote oneness of GOD and serve the underprivileged. She emphasized the significance and deeper meaning of Diwali. Mr. Sanjay Patel, an author of 11 books and a former monk offered a brief explanation of Sanatana Dharma and Hinduism, uniting the religious and cultural aspects that the evening was meant to highlight to our elected officials. Vikas Singh of IHAR spoke on Hinduism’s contribution over the years which transported the audience back to India’s ancient glory.

Chetan Davé gave an introduction of Pragati USA and its mission to all attendees and outlined its vision of bringing together all the Houston Hindu Organizations. Pragati seeks to raise the awareness and participation of Houston’s Hindu community in civic and political spheres and. prepare the next generation of young Hindu leaders to run in local elections. The speech was well received by the audience and all Hindu organization leaders and attendees were in agreement that the collaborative efforts of Pragati USA and Ashirwad is uniting the Hindu community to increase its representation in mainstream civic life and local government.

Esha Salian and Geetha Ravula, who did the honors of emceeing the event, recognized the Hindu organizations and sponsors attending the event.