Leading figures armed forces came together at various places in Britain to celebrate Raksha Bandhan on Saturday, remembering the ideas of courage, valour and commitment behind the ancient practice in Hinduism.
The events were held in Bolton, Birmingham, Cardiff and London, the defence ministry said in a release. There are currently 2,500 armed forces personnel belonging to the Hindu faith.
Earl Howe, minister of state for defence, said at an event at the Shree Swaminarayan Mandir in London: “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.”
General Gordon Messenger, the vice-chief of defence staff, said: “Values such as courage, commitment, discipline, respect, integrity and loyalty, 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.”
The ministry said: “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”.
Speaking at the Shree Geeta Bhawan Temple in Birmingham, Surgeon Vice Admiral Alasdair Walker 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.”
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.”