CHENNAI, India (Reuters) – Indians burst firecrackers on Sunday and offered prayers of gratitude over the election of Kamala Harris as the next U.S. vice president, declaring it a proud moment for Indian-Americans.
Harris, born to an Indian mother and a Jamaican father, both of whom immigrated to the United States to study, made history by becoming the first woman to win election to the post.
At her ancestral village in southern India, about 14,000 km (8,700 miles) from Washington D.C., children clutched posters of Harris as people gathered at a Hindu temple to thank the gods for the victory that she and President-elect Joe Biden won.
Priests at the temple in Thulasendrapuram village bathed the local deity in milk and prayed. Women drew murals in the courtyard and musicians played traditional music.
“A woman hailing from this small village now holds one of highest positions in U.S. It’s a proud moment,” said R Kamaraj, a government minister in the southern state of Tamil Nadu who joined the celebrations.
Harris identifies herself as a Black American but she has also spoken about her Indian heritage during the campaign. In her victory speech on Saturday night, Harris said her late mother Shyamala Gopalan was the “woman most responsible for my presence here.”
Sonia Gandhi, the Italian-born head of the main opposition Congress party described Harris as a daughter of India in a letter to the vice-president elect, inviting her to visit.
“We hope we will have the opportunity soon to welcome you to India, where you will be warmly hailed not just as a much admired leader of a great democracy, but also as a beloved daughter.”
Harris, who visited her village when she was 5, has often recalled walks with her maternal grandfather on the beaches of the southern city of Chennai during annual trips from the U.S.
Those conversations with her grandfather, who was among millions of people who joined India’s independence movement, left a profound impact, Harris said in a 2018 speech.
She has been in close touch with her family in India and her uncle said he planned to attend the inauguration in January.
“It’s great (the victory). It was needed and it was good. And the next four years will be good,” G. Balachandran, a leading defence scholar, told Reuters partner ANI at his home in New Delhi, where like millions of people worldwide, he watched every turn and twist of the election.
“I knew she was going to win. So, I was not tense, except I wanted the final results to come in so that I could go and sleep,” he said.
In Mumbai, people shot off fireworks and a group of artists painted a portrait of Biden and Harris.
Dozens of prominent Indians and Americans of Indian origin took to social media to congratulate Harris, including actors Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Mindy Kaling.
Kaling tweeted images of Harris and wrote “Crying and holding my daughter, ‘look baby, she looks like us’.”
(Additional reporting by Shilpa Jamkhandikar in Mumbai, Sunny Kataria in New Delhi; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani, Gerry Doyle and Frances Kerry)