USPS Forever stamp honors the Hindu Festival Diwali.

In an act that showcases America's religious harmony and cultural equality, the U.S. Postal Service will be issuing a special “Diwali Forever” stamp to commemorate the Hindu festival of Diwali. America has a sizable number of Hindus, Sikhs and adherents of other Indian religions. Diwali being a festival common to all of them, the Postal Department saw it as apt to issue stamps that would be representative of the nation's participation in the celebrations of the communities.

Diwali, or Deepavali, is originally a Hindu festival which began as a celebration of the victory of Lord Rama, the protagonist of the epic Ramayana, over the demon-king Ravana of Lanka. Gradually, new religions such as Jainism and Sikhism retained this festival due to its positive and prosperous notes. Diwali literally means “Row of Lights.” Homes are lit with rows of earthen oil lamps and lanterns. The Festival of Lights, as it is otherwise known, is a celebration of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance and prosperity over misery. The goddess of material wealth, Lakshmi, one of the three main goddesses of the Hindu pantheon, is propitiated on this today, together with Ganesh, the god of progress, wisdom and prosperity and Kubera, a demi-god who is seen as the one who distributes riches.

The people celebrate this five-day festival by cleaning their homes and furniture. New things like clothes, appliances and even jewelry are bought for this festival. Some even get their houses painted and renovated in preparation for Diwali. This is because Hindus believe that the goddess abhors dirt and mess and loves homes that are clean, neat and disciplined. The porch outside the front door is decorated with created patterns of color known as “rangoli.”

The stamps depict a traditional Indian earthen oil-lamp, called a “diya,” against a golden background. The picture used was taken by photographer Sally Andersen-Bruce and designed by Greg Breeding under the directorship of William J. Gicker.  The stamps will be officially released on the October 5, this year with the first-day-of-issue dedication ceremony that will be held in New York at the Consulate General of India.

In a press release, the American Government has declared that the stamps will be issued as part of the Forever stamp series. As such, the value of each stamp will be the equivalent of the current First Class Mail 1-ounce. The Government of the United States has very beautifully upheld the constitutional directives of interreligious freedom yet again.

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