Military personnel celebrate Hindu festival of Raksha

August 10, 2016
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Armed Forces personnel were presented with “mutual protection” bracelets during a special event marking the Hindu festival of Raksha Bandhan.
 
Members of the British Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force were presented with string bracelets, known as Rakhi, by the Hindu community in Bolton.
 
The tradition of presenting the Armed Forces with these bracelets – which symbolise bonds of mutual protection – heralds back to ancient times.
 
The Raksha Bandhan festival at the Shree Krishna Temple was one of a series of events around the country organised by the Armed Forces Hindu Network. These events remember the long, proud tradition of Hindus in UK defence as well as the shared values which the religion has in common with the Armed Forces.
 
Surgeon Lieutenant Commander Manish Tayal, chair of the Armed Forces Hindu Network, said: “Today is about celebrating common values and a shared heritage. We are bringing together the Hindu community and the Armed Forces in a bond of friendship, brotherhood, mutual support and protection.”
 
There are around 950 Regular and 120 Reservist Hindus serving in the Armed Forces.


 
A number of service personnel were at the event including Private Rinku Saini, 25, from Pilani in Rajasthan, India. Rinku is a chef with 7 Regiment RLC and says his fellow soldiers love the traditional curries and breads which he cooks while on exercise: “The Army isn’t just about fighting for the country, we also get involved in the community.”
 
Also in attendance was Air Trooper Vivek Sangani from Leicester who joined the Army because of the opportunities to travel and play sports. His father had been worried whether his Hindu faith would be compatible with a life in the Armed Forces, but the Army allowed him to wear his religious thread and provide him with vegetarian rations while on exercise. Vivek, 23, of 4 Regiment Army Air Corps, added: “The Army takes pride in every single soldier and their background.”
 
Guests were welcomed to the temple by Armed Forces Hindu Chaplain Krishan Kant Attri MBE. Commodore Gary Doyle, Naval Regional Commander for Northern England, then gave a talk recognising the contribution of Hindus in the military.
 
During the First World War, some 750,000 Hindus deployed in the British Indian Army, earning eight Victoria Crosses. More than 1.25 million Hindus served in the Second World War earning 18 Victoria Crosses.

Cdre Doyle, the senior defence representative at the event, said: “The Hindu contribution to the UK Armed Forces has been significant and we need to remember it. The connection between the Armed Forces and the Hindu religion is no surprise because values of both are perfectly aligned.”
 
The values of the Armed Forces, such as courage, commitment, discipline, respect, integrity and loyalty, are illustrated in many Hindu epics and scriptures including Raksha Bandhan itself.
 
The focus of the festival was the tying of Rakhi by young Hindus on the wrists of representatives of the Armed Forces.
 
The tradition of presenting the Armed Forces with bracelets for Raksha Bandhan heralds back to 6th century BCE, stemming from the legend of Lord Indra whose wife tied a sacred protective amulet to his wrist before he went into battle.
 
Manu Mistry, chair of Bolton Hindu Forum, said: “This has been a unique and prestigious event celebrating the relationship between the Armed Forces and the local community.”