Local Hindus marking special celebration of first responders, protectors

Nikhil Ajotikar helped the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh Chapter of Columbus launch a celebration honoring protectors including police, firefighters and first responders.

For people such as Columbus resident Deepti Vijaykumar, an upcoming Hindu celebration is a simple matter of gratitude.

“We have so many celebrations that focus on many relationships: Mothers Day, Fathers Day, and Valentine’s Day, for instance, all are celebrations that reinforce and solidify important relationships,” she said.

“And Raksha Bandhan is also one such festival. … It reminds us to celebrate those who work so hard for our safety and well being.”

So, next weekend, the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh Chapter of Columbus will celebrate the integral role of area first responders — police, fire and other personnel. They already have reached out in gratitude to local police and fire personnel.

This is the modern-day focus of Hindus on Raksha Bandhan, normally highlighted on on Aug. 30, in the United States.

In India, the festival originated centuries ago as a way to highlight a brother and sister’s bond, according to history and local chapter leaders.

On this day, a sister normally has tied a Rakhi (sacred thread or bond of protection) on the wrist of her brother, praying for his well-being and safety. In return, the brother pledges to safeguard his sister from any adversity. It originally has been the festival of remembering, honoring and appreciating the bond between a brother and a sister.

“Obviously, in life today, bonds of protection extend beyond that of a brother and a sister,” Vijaykumar said. “For us who now live here in America, our current-day brothers and protectors are our civic leaders and first responders.

“They clearly do that job for us. So we Hindus superimpose, so to speak, that original relationship onto the American landscape by appreciating our current-day brothers and protectors.”

Hindus then tie a Rakhi around the wrist of such leaders as Columbus Police Chief Michael Richardson and Bartholomew County Sheriff Chris Lane.

In ancient India, an occasion of Raksha Bandhan was considered as a means to establish alliance, friendship between kingdoms, communities and sections of the society. This tradition thus helped to establish harmony, mutual acceptance, and encouraged pluralism within the societies, according to local Hindus.

“An emotion of universal oneness and mutual bonding is the core philosophy underlying this festival,” said Nikhil Ajotikar, who helped the chapter launch the local celebration.

“Many people in Columbus do already know about our Ganesh Festival or Diwali,” he said, but added that Raksha Bandhan is not quite within most people’s knowledge base.

“And I believe we all still need to be learning from each other.”

Plus, as the local Hindu community has grown to an estimated group of more than 2,000 people, so has its outreach to mark Raksha Bandhan in the past few years, according to Ajotikar.

“We are trying to reach out to the broader community as much as possible,” he said.