The United States Postal Service has stamps commemorating Christmas, Hanukkah, and Eid. But, Christians, Jews, and Muslims aren't the only American religious communities. Now, for the first time in U.S. history, the Post Office plans to honor members of the Hindu faith with a soon-to-be released stamp marking the festival of Diwali—an autumnal festival lasting five days which celebrates the victory of good over evil.
The stamp features a photograph of a diya oil lamp, which is traditionally lit in the homes of families observing the holiday. According to a release by the USPS, the photograph was taken by Sally Andersen-Bruce of New Milford, CT, and designed by Greg Breeding of Charlottesville, VA.
"The issuance of the Diwali stamp symbolizes several important things," explained Suhag A. Shukla, executive director of the Hindu American Foundation:
It displays the strength of the Hindu American community when we unite behind a cause; it celebrates the contributions of our community to America; and most importantly, it acknowledges the strength our country draws from its diversity. This year and for many more, diyas and spirits will shine brighter, as will greetings cards and gift packages sent donning the Diwali stamp.
Speaking with the Washington Post, USPS official Mark Saunders said the first push for a Diwali stamp came in 2004, with grassroots support growing stronger in the years since then.
"From our standpoint," stamp development director William Gicker explained to the paper, "We are producing stamps for people to use for holidays … Looking at the numbers, we saw that Diwali is a holiday that people send cards and correspondence. So we were happy to support that"
In addition to petitions calling for the release of a Diwali stamp, the effort was aided by a number of high profile advocates, including Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) who in 2015 introduced a Congressional resolution urging its creation.
"Despite the significance of this holiday to many Americans, the United States Postal Service has not yet recognized Diwali with a commemorative stamp, as it has with other major religious and cultural holidays such as Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, and Eid,” Maloney said in a release announcing her resolution at the time. “Our resolution would express the sense of the House that the Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee should issue a stamp honoring Diwali, an important spiritual and cultural festival for many Americans."
That same release also noted that with 3 million Hindus living in the United States, and one billion living in India, a Diwali stamp also represented a potential "much-needed revenue surge" for the post office.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), the Hindu member of Congress, also rallied petition signatures to push the eventual creation of the Diwali stamp, ReligionNews.com reported.
On October 5, several weeks before Diwali's October 29/30 start this year, the post office will hold a special "first-day-of-issue dedication ceremony" at the Indian consulate in New York City. According to the USPS, the stamp will be part of its "Forever" line, and will be of equivalent value to the current first class, one ounce price.