A celebration of Diwali, the festival of lights, provided the ideal opportunity to launch the Armed Forces Hindu Network. The festival is the highlight of the Hindu religious calendar, and marks the New Year. Serving personnel, Lord Astor and other invited guests gathered in MOD’s Whitehall headquarters for the Armed Forces Diwali Celebration on Wednesday.
According to Hindu tradition, Lord Rama, the rightful heir to the throne of Ayodhya, returned from his 14-year exile on a moonless night. To welcome him back, the people lit rows of candles and set off fireworks in celebration and to light his way, lending the festival its name.
The story of Lord Rama’s triumph emphasises the messages of courage, commitment, discipline, respect, integrity and loyalty – themes reflected by UK Armed Forces core values.
This made Diwali an especially appropriate time to launch the Hindu network, established to represent and support the entire Armed Forces Hindu community, including 900 regular Service personnel, reservists, veterans and families, and some 4,000 Gurkhas.
Lord Astor said: "Diwali carries core messages that resonate closely with today’s Armed Forces. I am certain that with these values as a starting point, the Armed Forces Hindu Network, launched at this event, will grow to further strengthen the natural bonds between the Armed Forces and British Hindu community.
"The launch of the network is especially poignant in 2014, as we mark the centenary of the First World War, in which 800,000 Hindus fought for Britain. This year also marks the 70th anniversary of key battles of the Second World War, in which Hindus again fought by Britain’s side.
The network will inform members of developments in the wider Armed Forces and provide an inclusive platform for discussions for serving Hindus."
Surgeon Lieutenant Commander Manish Tayal, Chairman of the network, said: “Diwali, the key festival of the Hindu religious calendar, carries core messages that resonate with today’s Armed Forces. The Armed Forces Hindu Network, launched at this event, will strengthen natural bonds between Armed Forces and British Hindu community.”