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UK PM celebrates Diwali at 10 Downing Street

Last updated on: October 16, 2009 23:05 IST

For the first time, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Friday celebrated Diwali at 10 Downing Street, as the Labour leader and his wife lit a lamp placed amid idols of Lord Rama, Krishna from the Swaminarayan Mandir.

"This is a great day for Downing Street, a great day for us and a great day for Britain to welcome you to celebrate Diwali for the first time in Downing Street," Brown said while welcoming top non-resident Indians, including the Indian High Commissioner to the UK Nalin Surie and leading India-born industrialist Lord Swraj Paul.

"This is a historic event and all of you deserve our congratulations for your contribution to Britain," he said, as the celebration was held at the office-cum-residence of the British premier in an impressive manner for the first time in its history.

Brown said it was also an occasion to celebrate the strengthening of the relations between Britain and India.

He noted that Indians in the UK have contributed a great deal for the success of Britain, be it in the field of business, art, culture, education and various other diverse fields.

Referring to the presence of a large number of youth, he described the youth as the "future of the country" and said "let us all work together to deal with poverty and injustice any where in the world."

The prime minister and his wife, Sarah Brown lit the Diwali lamp. Idols of Lord Rama, Krishna from the Swaminarayan Mandir were kept there. Also on display were a variety of sweets and different kinds of lights.

Keith Vaz, the ethnic Indian origin Labour Member of Parliament, said India's well-known artist M F Hussain, who was also present on the occasion, would donate one of his arts works to 10 Downing Street.

Hussain said he would donate one of the existing pieces of artwork to the prime minister. He said he planned to return to India and that the Government of India had indicated to him that he should come back to India.

"The government is working out a plan and I plan to go back at the earliest," he said.

Among other dignitiaries present on the occasion included leading entrepreneur Sir Gulam Noon and top hotelier Joginder Sangar.

In the US, the festival of lights got an official recognition as American President Barack Obama celebrated Diwali by lighting a lamp at the White House amidst chanting of Vedic mantras.

Obama become the first US President to personally grace the function held at historic East Room in the White House yesterday, as several eminent members of the Indian community, nearly half a dozen members of his Cabinet and several Indian American members of his administration were present on the historic occasion.

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