The Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, accompanied by his wife Akshata Murty, visited BAPS Swaminarayan Akshardham in New Delhi, India, on Sunday 10 September 2023 during his official trip to the city for the G20 summit.
They were warmly welcomed in a traditional Hindu manner symbolising goodwill and friendship. Mr Sunak was then greeted by swamis, as well as senior leaders from BAPS, including Riteshbhai Gadhia, Joint General Secretary of BAPS, and Sanjaybhai Kara, a trustee for BAPS in the UK.
Upon arrival, both Riteshbhai and Sanjaybhai relayed a special message on behalf of His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj, who had extended his personal wishes and prayers for the Prime Minister and the other delegates. He wrote, “In the spirit of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, we pray for you and all the attendees: May the summit be a resounding success in collectively helping the whole world towards peace, righteous prosperity, and global harmony.”
Despite the inclement weather and busy schedule of the summit, both the Prime Minister and his wife took time to have darshan, engage in puja, and offer personal prayers at Swaminarayan Akshardham. Their decision to tread the 150-metre walkway leading to the mandir steps barefoot was a heartwarming reflection of their deep-seated Hindu faith.
During their visit, the Prime Minister and Mrs Murty were given an overview of Swaminarayan Akshardham – a 100-acre spiritual and cultural complex opened in 2005 by His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj that portrays the traditions and ancient architecture of India and promotes the timeless Hindu wisdom of faith, devotion and harmony.
Inside the main mandir, along with admiring the art and architecture, both Mr Sunak and his wife paid their respects to the murtis (sacred images) at the various shrines – of Bhagwan Swaminarayan and the gurus, Shri Krishna Bhagwan and Radhikaji, Shri Ramachandra Bhagwan and Sitaji, Shri Vishnu Bhagwan and Lakshmiji, and Shri Shankar Bhagwan and Parvatiji.
The Prime Minister and Mrs Murty also participated in the Pushpanjali ceremony (offering of flowers) as children chanted scriptural verses in Sanskrit. After performing the arti together, both spent some time in silent prayer, before bowing before the deities with a panchang pranam, a traditional Hindu gesture of reverence, devotion and humility.
Sharing his impressions of his visit, the Prime Minister said: “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. This is not only a place of worship, but a landmark that also portrays India’s values, culture and contributions to the world.
“I was honoured to have received the blessings of His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj conveyed to me this morning, and I understand that His Holiness is inaugurating another beautiful Swaminarayan Akshardham temple in Robbinsville, USA very soon.
“I would like to send my very best wishes to His Holiness and all the devotees of BAPS ahead of the opening.”
Before departing, the Prime Minister and his wife were presented with mementoes and met a few of the 700 volunteers from across India who serve at Swaminarayan Akshardham.
Sanjaybhai Kara added: “It was an honour to welcome the Prime Minister to Swaminarayan Akshardham and share His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj’s message of peace, unity and public service. The UK’s relationship with India is built on a bond of friendship and fostered by cultural exchanges as well as a vibrant Indian diaspora in the UK. We were delighted to strengthen this relationship through this visit.”