UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Sunday paid a visit to Delhi’s Akshardham temple amid tight security. Before the start of the second day of the G20 Summit, the Indian-origin British PM, along with his wife Akshata Murthy, offered prayers at the famous Hindu temple in the national capital.
When Sunak and his convoy arrived at 6.45 am in the morning, they were greeted by senior leaders from Akshardham Mandir, who relayed a special message on behalf of Mahant Swami Maharaj, spiritual leader of the temple. During his visit, the British PM was given an overview of Swaminarayan Akshardham – a 100-acre spiritual and cultural complex that portrays the traditions and ancient architecture of India and promotes the timeless Hindu spiritual messages of faith, devotion and harmony.
Inside the main mandir, Sunak and his wife paid their respects to the sacred images and admired the art and architecture. The first couple of UK also performed abhishek (ritual pouring of water) on the murti of Nilkanth Varni Maharaj, and offered prayers for world peace, progress and harmony, according to an official release.
Sharing his impressions of his visit, the UK Prime Minister said: “We were amazed and awed by the beauty of this temple and its universal message of peace, harmony, and becoming a better human being. This is not only a place of worship, but a landmark that also portrays India’s values, culture and contributions to the world." “We see today in Britain these very same values and culture through the positive contributions the British Indian community makes to our country," he added.
A day earlier, the Delhi Police said that elaborate security arrangements had been put in view of Sunak’s visit to the Akshardham. Sunak is in India to attend the two-day G20 Summit. Police officials said security has been tightened in and around the temple. On Saturday, a senior police officer said pickets were placed in the area and checking is being done due to the ongoing G20 Summit. Adequate security personnel will be deployed for the UK prime minister’s visit, he added.
On Saturday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with Sunak on the sidelines of the G20 Summit and discussed ways to deepen trade linkages and boost investment. Earlier on Friday, Sunak expressed his hope that he would find time to visit a temple in India during his stay for the G20 Summit.
“I am a proud Hindu. That’s how I was raised, that’s how I am. Hopefully, I can visit the Mandir while I am here for the next couple of days. We just had Rakshabandhan, so from my sister and my cousin, I have all my Rakhis,” Sunak told news agency ANI.
In the past, high-profile visitors from the United Kingdom including members of the Royal family have visited the famous Hindu temple. In 2013, then Prince Charles, who is now King, visited Akshardham.