New Delhi: Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Sunday visited the Akshardham temple here with his wife Akshata Murty and said it is not only a place of worship but also a landmark that portrays India’s values.
The couple spent 45 minutes at the temple, offering prayers and learning about its architecture and history, according to the temple management.
They reached the temple dedicated to Swaminarayan, believed to be an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, around 6:45 am and walked barefoot from the reception area to the main temple complex — a distance of about 150 metres.
Sunak, who was dressed in a crisp white shirt and navy blue trousers, and his wife, who paired a beige kurta with a bright pink dupatta and loose pants, were accorded a traditional welcome at the temple.
Walking around the temple, the British prime minister shared his thoughts with his hosts.
“My wife and I were delighted to visit Swaminarayan Akshardham for darshan and puja this morning. We were amazed and awed by the beauty of this temple and its universal message of peace, harmony and becoming a better human being,” the temple authorities quoted Sunak as saying in a statement.
“This is not only a place of worship but a landmark that also portrays India’s values, culture and contributions to the world,” he said.
The UK PM said these values and culture are seen in the “positive contributions the British-Indian community makes to the UK”, he added.
A temple management official said the visit of Sunak and his wife is a matter of “great honour”.
“It rained but Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his wife graciously offered prayers at our temple and it is a matter of great honour for us to have hosted them at this revered temple,” the official told PTI.
“Prime Minister Sunak and his wife Akshata Murty walked barefoot in the temple premises even in rainy weather. From the reception area to the main temple complex, there is a distance of about 150 metres and both of them walked barefoot back and forth,” he said.
They first offered flower petals (pushparpan) to the golden idol of Swaminarayan ji and then offered ‘aarti’, the official said.
They also offered flower petals to idols of Sita-Ram, Radha-Krishna, Laxmi Narayana and Shiva-Parvati in the temple complex. The UK PM enquired about the architecture of the temple and its history,” he said.
Sunak also saw some of the sanctified items that belonged to Swaminarayan ji, such as shoes and a garland, he said.
A senior temple management official told PTI, “Sunak and his wife spent about 45 minutes at the Akshardham temple and offered prayers. They were gifted a marble elephant and a marble peacock besides a special replica of Akshardham.” A trustee of the BAPS Swaminarayan Trust, UK and a volunteer from the Neasden temple in London accompanied Sunak and his wife during their visit, said another temple management official who was part of the reception team.
After the visit, Sunak joined the G20 leaders to pay tributes to Mahatma Gandhi at his memorial Rajghat.
Sunak and other world leaders have gathered in Delhi to attend the two-day G20 Summit that began on Saturday.
In a post on X, British High Commissioner to India Alex Ellis thanked Sunak and Murty for the visit.