The Armed Forces and Hindu communities in the West Midlands forged ever closer links at a special Raksha Bandhan celebration in Birmingham.
The event, hosted by the Armed Forces Hindu Network at the Shree Geeta Bhawan Temple, Heathfield Road, saw women from the Hindu community tie Rakhi (yellow and red cotton threads) around the wrists of Armed Forces personnel from across the region, symbolising bonds of mutual protection, friendship and brotherhood.
Senior officers from the Navy, Army, and Royal Air Force were amongst those who were presented with the bracelets.
Air Trooper Vivek Sangani, 23, of 664 Squadron, 4 Regiment Army Air Corps, from Leicester, joined around 30 members of the Armed Forces who also took part in the celebration. An Indian born Hindu, who joined the Army straight from Leicester College two years ago, he said: “I think today is a really good day for the community and for the Armed Forces.
“It shows support from both sides – and it’s great to celebrate together in a spirit of common values, shared heritage and mutual support and protection.”
Major Raza Jaffery, 37, a Shiite Muslim and Birmingham dentist from Hall Green, who is also an Army Reservist and Officer Commanding B Detachment of the city’s 202 Field Hospital, said it was the first time he had ever been inside a Hindu temple.
“This is actually the first time that I’ve been inside a Hindu temple and it’s been a good opportunity to meet people from the community and take part in the celebration.
“I have been in the Army Reserves for 16 years after joining the University Officer Training Corps at Dundee University – I joined for the challenge and this kind of event shows how the Armed Forces is sending a very clear signal that it wants to be inclusive.
“Although we are all ethnic minorities here, we are all still different and today’s Armed Forces Raksha Bandhan celebration is a really strong sign that the Armed Forces is reaching out.”
Colonel Richard Maybery added: “I am delighted that the Army in the West Midlands is able to support Raksha Bandhan which is a very important festival for Hindus in the Armed Forces.
“The festival and the presence of our friends from the Hindu community in the West Midlands reinforces the bonds of friendship that we enjoy with them here.”
The event was accompanied by classical music and dance.