By Ninder Kaur
Hindus and non-Hindus from the Armed Forces got together with local communities across the UK this week to celebrate Raksha Bandhan; a major Hindu festival that celebrates the bonds of protection that exist within society.
The festival was held at the Ministry of Defence Main Building in London on 27th August 2015. There were musical and dancing performances by local Hindu artists and talks by Lieutenant General Gregory, Chief of Defence Personnel and the Chairman of the Armed Forces Hindu Network, Lieutenant Commander Manish Tayal and also by the National Hindu Studenst Forum and the City Hindus Network.
For UK Armed Forces Hindus, Raksha Bandhan holds a particular significance as it provides an opportunity to celebrate and emphasise their role and duty to protect all civilians. Local community leaders and youth networks came together to tie Rakhis (thread bands) on the wrists of Armed Forces personnel to represent and reinforce bonds of friendship, mutual protection and support.
Speaking from Balaji Temple in Birmingam, Dr Rao, the Temple Chaiman, said:
“It was pleasure and honour for Balaji Temple to host Raksha Bandhan alongside the Armed Forces. Having serving personnel join in reminds us of the many ways we are protected; by our family, our friends and of course the Armed Forces.”
The bands tied around the wrists of serving personnel also represented a promise for the Hindu community to respect the work they do, and a desire that they keep safe. This symbolism dates back from when Sachi, wife of Lord Indra (King of Heaven), tied a sacred protective amulet to his wrist before he went into battle with evil King Bali, who he defeated.
Hosted by the Armed Forces Hindu Network, these events also offered an opportunity to increase the understanding between the Armed Forces and the Hindu community.
Speaking from the Raksha Bandhan event in Birmingham, Minister for the Armed Forces Penny Mordaunt said:
“Our challenge in the UK Armed Forces is to ensure this solemn vow of Defence and protection extends beyond the family, beyond even the community, to the country itself. This is the exact principal we see today in the Hindu community as we celebrate Raksha Bandhan. Events like today remind us that Defence depends on more than money and muscle. It’s about individual commitment, that willingness to take on responsibility for the wellbeing of others and bringing the nation together.”
Mr Prinal Nathwani, Chair of the City Hindus Network spoke at the event in London, commenting:
“The first exposure that I had to Hindu principles and values were the stories I was told as a kid. There’s a common thread that runs through these stories, which is the triumph of good over evil and the requirement that every one of us ensures that good prevails. The link between that and what the UK Armed Forces do is abundantly clear, and that’s why it’s important we have events like this – to have effective engagement between the Hindu community and the Armed Forces. It’s about recognising the common and shared values.”