UK armed forces celebrate Raksha Bandhan

LONDON (TIP): Armed Forces personnel from across the United Kingdom have celebrated the Indian festival of Raksha Bandhan. The event was held at the Shree Swaminarayan Mandir in London on August 18.

Speaking at the event, Minister of state in Ministry of Defence (MoD) in the House of Lords, Earl Howe said the festival’s “potent symbol” resonated to all servicemen of all kinds of faith. “The tying of Rakhi to symbolise bonds of mutual protection is a potent symbol for all here today and one that resonates beyond the Hindu religion to all servicemen and women, whatever their beliefs,” he said.

The tying of Rakhi, which falls on August 18 this year, harks back to ancient tradition from at least 6th Century BC 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, whom he ultimately defeated. “The festival holds particular significance for the armed forces as it celebrates and emphasises their duty in protecting their society,” a press release by the UK MoD said.

General Gordon Messenger, the UK’s Vice Chief of Defence Staff, said many values like courage, commitment, discipline, respect, integrity and loyal “as illustrated in many Hindu epics and scriptures, perfectly reflect the values of the armed forces”. “The resonance between the Hindu community and service personnel over the messages championed by the Raksha Bandhan festival is very clear,” said Messenger.

The event was also “to celebrate the contribution of Hindus to the defence of the UK”, the press release further said. “There are currently around 2,500 Hindus serving in the armed forces and they continue the proud tradition of their predecessors in serving their country, upholding the values that we all hold dear,” said Armed Forces Hindu Network Champion, Rear Admiral Graeme Mackay.

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“They are as much part of the future of the armed forces, if not more so, as they are of our past,” he added. During World War I, 750,000 Hindus were deployed overseas in the British Indian Army, earning eight Victoria Crosses (VCs) and during World War II over 1.25 million Hindus fought in the British Indian Army, including in Europe, Africa and Asia, earning 18 VCs. (PTI)

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