Rishi Sunak and wife Akshata Murty offer prayers in Hindu temple during G20 visit to India

The British Prime Minister spent about an hour at the temple in Delhi on the final day of the summit

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British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his wife Akshata Murty prayed at a Hindu temple in New Delhi on Sunday morning during his visit to India for the G20 summit.

The first British Prime Minister of Indian descent and his wife performed an aarti (prayer service) at the Akshardham temple at 6.45am on Sunday before it opened to the public.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak visits Hindu temple in New Delhi

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak visits Hindu temple in New Delhi

Temple trustees said Mr Sunak and his wife, the daughter of NR Narayana Murty, daughter of NR Narayana Murty, founder of Indian IT company Infosys and one of India's richest tech billionaires, walked barefoot in the rain through the complex.

They lit candles in prayer and spoke to young Indian children, aged between nine to 12 years, who recited Sanskrit verses.

“The Prime Minister asked the children about the meaning of the shlokas (Sanskrit verses) they had recited, which was their most favourite verse and why,” Sanjay Kara, a trustee for BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha UK told The National.

The Baps Swaminarayan Sanstha organisation is building a Hindu temple in Abu Dhabi that will be opened during February next year and has built 1,200 temples across the world including in the UK, South Africa, US and Australia.

Mr Kara was among volunteers from the UK and India who accompanied Mr Sunak during the temple visit.

“He spoke to the children in English and his wife talked to them in Hindi. They spent some time talking to the children and asking them about the meaning of the prayers," he said.

Early temple visit

Mr Kara said the Prime Minister had requested a private visit to a temple during his visit.

“It was raining all through their visit and they walked barefoot in the rain throughout the campus for 50 minutes,” Mr Kara said.

Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak with his wife Akshata Murty offering prayers during their visit to the Akshardham temple on the sidelines of the G20 summit in New Delhi. AFP

“The PM had requested a visit to a mandir (temple) for darshan and prayers. He is a practising Hindu and goes to a temple whenever he can.

“As there are many G20 meetings, he came to the temple very early before it opened up for the public.”

Mr Sunak and his wife offered flowers, bowed in prayer and raised lit candles to the deities as the children recited hymns.

“They spent time looking at the temple architecture, the carvings and volunteers presented them with mementoes and gifts,” Mr Kara said.

Mr Sunak told reporters on the flight from London to New Delhi that he was excited to be in India, a country he visited often before he became chancellor of the exchequer in 2020.

The MP from Richmond, Yorkshire, was born to immigrant parents and has often spoken about his Hindu faith, Indian origins and love for cricket.

“I’m a proud Hindu that’s how I was raised,” he told Indian media in Delhi before the temple visit.

“It is something that is important to me. I think faith is something that helps everybody … particularly when you have stressful jobs like I do - having faith to give you resilience, to give you strength is important."

He will visit cultural sites during his stay in India.

There are hopes for a renewed trade pact with the UK and India in discussions over a free trade deal.

Trade between the two nations is worth £36 billion ($44.9 billion) and in 2022 India was the UK’s sixth largest import market for services.

Mr Sunak’s trip to his ancestral homeland has been described as a historic moment.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has referred to Mr Sunak as the “living bridge of UK Indians” and expressed hope that they could transform historic ties into a modern partnership.

Updated: September 10, 2023, 11:18 AM