Rakshabandhan for Welsh soldiers
Members of the armed forces and Hindu communities came together to celebrate the Hindu festival of Raksha Bandhan at events in London, Birmingham, Bolton and Cardiff.
Raksha Bandhan, which translates as ‘bond of protection’, is one of the most important in the Hindu calendar. It falls on Thursday (August 18) this year.
In Cardiff, at the Sanatan Dharma Mandal temple, the focus of the festival was the tying of rakhi – a sacred decorative string bracelet – by young Hindus on the wrists of soldiers, sailors and airmen.
Also present was the Lord Mayor of Cardiff, councillor Monica Walsh and other local dignitaries.
Air commodore Adrian Williams spoke about the contribution by Hindus to the British armed forces, saying, ‘During world war one, some 750,000 Hindus [were] deployed overseas in the
British Indian Army, earning eight Victoria Crosses, the most prestigious UK military award. Hindus also served throughout the second world war.. [and] have also seen service in recent conflicts and continue to be a vital part of today’s armed forces.’
Armed forces Hindu chaplain Acharaya Krishan Kant Attri said, ‘This is a great opportunity for the Hindu community to come together to celebrate Raksha Bandhan with our armed forces and show that we share a culture and have a common set of values.’
In Birmingham, Surgeon Vice Admiral Alasdair Walker, the surgeon general, said at the Shree Geeta Bhawan temple, ‘For the armed forces, protection of society is delivered through a wide variety of missions such as peacekeeping and humanitarian aid, as we saw during the ebola crisis, when many service doctors, nurses and other personnel went to the aid of those in desperate need in Africa.’
In London, the Shree Swaminarayan Mandir Kingsbury hosted the armed forces Hindu network for their Raksha Bandhan festival event.
Labour MP for Brent North Barry Gardiner co-hosted the event which was attended by Earl Howe (MOD minister of state in the house of lords) and senior military personnel including General sir Gordon Messenger (vice chief of defence staff).
Around twenty Hindu and non-Hindu and non-Hindu armed forces personnel received rakhis from young boys and girls from the Mandir community. Mandir trustee, Dr Mahesh Varsani said, ‘Our global spiritual leader, Acharya Swamishree Maharaj often visits military instillations in India to remind us of the selfless and valiant job that these courageous servicemen and women do.’
The event also included dance performances by youths from Shree Muktajeevan Swamibapa academy of performing arts and from the temple’s pipe band.