Joe Biden, Kamala Harris greet people on Diwali: What does 'Sal Mubarak' mean?

US President-elect Joe Biden and VP-elect Kamala Harris on Saturday took to Twitter greeting people on the occasion of Diwali, alongside dozens of elected representatives. Many also joined their constituents in celebrating the festival of lights.

"To the millions of Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, and Buddhists celebrating the Festival of Lights, @DrBiden and I send our best wishes for a #HappyDiwali. May your new year be filled with hope, happiness, and prosperity. Sal Mubarak," tweeted Biden.

Harris echoed a similar sentiment, wishing people a happy Diwali and saal mubarak. "Douglas Emhoff and I wish everyone celebrating around the world a safe, healthy, and joyous new year," she added.

But even as many across the world appreciated the US leaders for their greetings, Twitter trolls were quick to pounce on the posts, questioning the use of the words 'sal mubarak' and making many an unsubstantiated claim. "Sal Mubarak used for Eid," claimed one Twitter user. "Shubh Nav Varsh that's what is called @JoeBiden @HillaryClinton not Sal Mubarak," critiqued another.

The internet can often leave us scratching our heads in bewilderment with the rather unique viewpoints it offers up. In this case, as a few Twitter users tried to point out, 'sal mubarak' is a greeting used to wish people during the new year, and is often used by people from the Parsi and Gujarati community. The word 'saal' has an Indo-Persian origin and means 'year'. Mubarak is an Arabic-origin term that means 'blessings' or 'good wishes'. Alongside the Gujarati New Year, the phrase is also used by the Parsi community during Nauroz.

While many have been schooling Biden and Harris on Indian culture, it must be noted that both individuals had extended greetings for the 'new year' in their posts. They are also not the first people to have wished people using the phrase 'sal mubarak'. Many Indian leaders in the recent past, including Prime Minister Modi and President Kovind have also used the phrase.

And while variations do exist, we assume that someone who had been the Chief Minister of Gujarat for over a decade would be well versed in the greetings used in the state. As such, it would seem that 'sal mubarak' is not an incorrect or uncommonly used term.

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Free Press Journal