In Bolton, Birmingham, Cardiff and London, members of Hindu communities celebrated Raksha Bandhan. The festival symbolised bonds of mutual support and protection within families and society, by tying decorative string bracelet Rakhi around the wrists of armed forces personnel. Attending the event at the Shree Swaminarayan Mandir in London, Earl Howe, MOD Minister of State in the House of Lords, said:
The tying of Rakhi to symbolize 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.
The tying of Rakhi by civilians onto service personnel harks back to ancient tradition from at least 6th Century BCE 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. General Gordon Messenger, the Vice Chief of Defence Staff, said:
Values such as 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.
For Hindus serving in the Armed Forces, Raksha Bandhan holds particular significance as it celebrates and emphasises the duty of the Armed Forces in protecting their society. Speaking from the Shree Geeta Bhawan Temple in Birmingham, Surgeon Vice Admiral Alasdair Walker, the Surgeon General, said:
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.
Hindus have long made a significant contribution to the defence of the UK. During World War 1, 750,000 Hindus deployed overseas in the British Indian Army, earning 8 Victoria Crosses (VCs) and during World War 2 over 1.25 million Hindus fought in the British Indian Army, including in Europe, Africa and Asia, earning 18 VCs. Rear Admiral Graeme Mackay, the Armed Forces Hindu Network Champion, 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. They are as much part of the future of the armed forces, if not more so, as they are of our past.