Channeling a spirit of appreciation, members of the area’s Hindu community shared a blessing of safety and protection for Wilton’s first-responder community on Saturday afternoon, Sept. 9.
Members of Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh USA, a cultural nonprofit based in Fairfield County, with many Wilton members, held an annual ceremony of Raksha Bandhan at the firehouse recognizing Wilton’s CERT, EMS, fire and police personnel and the work they do.
“Traditionally, on this day, a sister ties a colorful thread called ‘rakhi’ on her brother’s wrist and reminds him of his duty to protect her from any evil forces,” explained Pallavi Jain, describing the history to the dozens of first responders that took part.
Grouping everyone in a wide semi-circle, members of the group then tied red decorative bracelet strings onto the wrists of responders. The celebrants gave prayers and, for the responders open to the custom, also decorated their mind’s eye, or “third eye,” at the center of their forehead with a “tilak” — a spot of red powder made from tumeric and lime known as “kumkuma,” mixed with grains of rice.
Sweet cakes were also given out.
Jain said that since its inception in 1989, the HSS has tried to celebrate this tradition, which is part of a festival by the same name, through these ceremonies in Wilton and other municipalities throughout the area.
“According to HSS philosophy, Raksha Bandhan reminds each individual that (they are) responsible for protecting society and the world,” she said. “HSS volunteers promise to help the community by reaching out to the local first responders, elected officials, and community leaders, to tie rakhis and share sweets with them. We pray for their safety and promise to help them in their time of need.”
Wilton Volunteer Ambulance Corps President John Miscioscia, who took part in the ceremony, recalled one example of how Wilton’s Hindu community had stepped up during the pandemic and helped fund extra safety equipment used by EMS personnel.
“It really means a lot to me and all our employees,” he said of their support.
Fire Chief James Blanchfield also expressed appreciation on behalf of his team.
“It’s nice when we get together for something like this,” he said, acknowledging the value of experiencing a different cultural practice. “On behalf of all the emergency services here today, we thank you guys for coming out here and spending the day with us.”
Lalit Chauhan of Stamford, a member of HSS, said that the words “Raksha Bandhan” roughly translate to “protection connection.”
“We get to express our gratitude,” he said, and first responders are inspired to remember their unique roles as protectors of the people.