The BAPS Hindu Mandir in Abu Dhabi celebrated Raksha Bandhan at the site of the upcoming temple with more than 2,000 people in attendance. The festival was historic as it was the first official gathering of the BAPS Hindu Mandir in Abu Dhabi.
Raksha Bandhan marks one of the most important days for friends and families to come together within the Hindu Calendar and formally celebrates the unity and bond between brothers and sisters. On this auspicious day, sisters tie a sacred cotton thread, or Rakhi, on the right-hand wrist of their brothers while praying for their well-being and prosperity. In return, brothers will give their sisters a gift as a promise of protection and love. The literal translation of Raksha Bandhan being a “bond of protection”.
“Being conscious of the fact that so many of the expat labourers here in the UAE are away from their families on such a special occasion, we thought a great way to celebrate this festival of love would be to share it with them,” explained Mrs. Mitali Thakkar, a volunteer with BAPS. “As such we have invited more than 1200 of our brothers from different labour camps across the country to join us for this festival.”
As a sign of respect for their hard work, children greeted the men on their arrival as the chief guests on this festive day and welcomed them in traditional Indian fashion. Sadhus of the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha were present for the auspicious occasion and blessed the assembly with inspiring words of harmony and fraternity – underlining that God is forever in our protection and has given us the wisdom to help each other in the spirit of universal fraternity. At the end, the audience enjoyed a medley of festival hymns sung by the sadhus and youth volunteers of BAPS Hindu Mandir as each member of the assembly came forward to be tied with a ‘rakhi’ and a prayer for their protection and happiness.
Amrika Gupta, a laborer who attended the event shared a sentiment echoed by many of the attendees, “I have not been able to celebrate this festival for so many years as my sister lives in India and I am here. However, being here today has made me feel closer to home and my family.”
With the permission of the Department of Community Development, an immense tent has been erected on the site of the upcoming BAPS Hindu Mandir in Abu Dhabi to facilitate the celebrations of Raksha Bandhan and future Hindu events, including weekly assemblies, until the temple is completed.
Abhilash Pillai of the Indian People’s Forum, who visited the temple site for the first time shared “The arrangements in the tent were wonderful and the event was very well organized. Sadhus blessed all the visitors and prayed for our protection and well-being. My whole family enjoyed the festivities.”
The CEO of Al Ahmadiah Contracting, Mr. Shravan Kumar Joshi was moved by the expressions he saw on his staff. “A small group of laborers from our company were also there. I met some of them after the program. Each of them really felt so proud and blessed that he got a Rakhi tied on his wrist by none other than one of the Sadhus who graced the occasion. One of them told me with wet eyes that so many miles away from their home with a rakhi on his wrist, he felt as if he was back in his village near Bhuj in Kutch, Gujarat with his sister around! They all felt so happy and blessed and I had pleasure to share their happiness!”