August 11, 2000--Thousands of Hindus from all over Britain are expected to converge on the Millennium Dome at Greenwich on August 15--the day India gained its independence in 1947--to celebrate the festival of Raksha Bandhan, the tying of the sacred thread symbolizing friendship or the bond between brother and sister.

The 48 Hindu organizations involved in planning the event will have 25,000 sacred threads ready for visitors to the Dome, which has a maximum capacity of some 35,000 visitors a day. There will be a two-hour program of worship, music, drama, and dance repeated throughout the day. Tickets to the Dome are available at half price--10 pounds ($16) per adult as opposed to the usual 20 pounds ($32).

According to an brochure to be handed out to visitors to the Dome, the festival of Raksha Bandhan dates back to Vedic times.

"Raakhi, a coloured decorative thread, is tied by one to the wrist of the other--sister to brother, priest to his congregational members, well-wishers to each other--symbolizing blessings of protection (Raksha), good wishes and love," says the leaflet.

It describes the festival as "a most auspicious occasion to recharge ourselves with the true spirit of service and sacrifice for the welfare of society, and find therein the highest spiritual fulfillment of human life."

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