UK

Armed Forces Celebrate Hindu Festival With Community 

Raksha Bandhan was marked under social distancing measures at Whittington Barracks.

The military has joined members of the Hindu community to mark a major festival on their religious calender.

Raksha Bandhan, which translates closely to 'bond of protection', saw the Armed Forces celebrate alongside members of the public at a socially distanced event at the Defence Medical Service in Whittington Barracks.

Whilst the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact public events across the UK, brothers and sisters of the festival adapted the ceremony to raise awareness of the faiths within the community and the military protecting it.

During the proceedings, red cotton bracelets named 'Rakhis' were placed on a table by females as a symbol of prosperity for festival brothers, who dressed their own wrists.

"In reality it would be close and usually they would hug," explained Warrant Officer Ashok Chauhan, from the Army Civil Engagement Team.

"Usually they bow down to touch feet, and it's a blessing on top of the head to say, 'I'm there for you'."

Rakhi bracelets were prepared on a table for men in attendance, as a coronavirus precaution.

The outbreak of COVID-19 has seen several events cancelled or restricted to low levels of human contact.

Group Captain Mike Foster, Commander Training, Defence Medical Academy, was one of those please to see the military engage with the festival, which carries love, family, fun and remembrance as its core characteristics.

Regardless of one's faith, he said: "We can all come together in this very special service as brothers and sisters, and show our working relationship and friendship and bonds towards each other."

One aim of hosting events from a variety of religions is to raise awareness of beliefs held within the military.

"It's about understanding different cultures that make the Armed Forces a unique organisation," explained Warrant Officer Chauhan.

"When you invite people from different faiths, different backgrounds, they actually understand what these festivals are."

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