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Rishi Sunak an able world leader, says Brahmavihari Swami who welcomed UK PM at Akshardham Temple

The senior priest said the British premier and his wife Akshata Murty were very happy to visit the temple and have darshan of the lord.

Brahmavihari Swami (second from left) and other priests at Akshardham Temple in New Delhi, India, greet British prime minister Rishi Sunak on Sunday, September 10, 2023. (PTI Photo)

By: Shubham Ghosh

BRITISH prime minister Rishi Sunak and his wife Akshata Murty visited Akshardham Temple in New Delhi on Sunday (10) during their trip to India for the recently held G20 summit. The high-profile visit came days after Sunak, the UK’s first premier of Indian origin, called himself a “proud Hindu” during a media interaction in New Delhi and expressed will to attend the temple during his stay in the Indian capital.

The power couple reached Akshardham Temple on a rain-soaked Sunday morning and walked barefoot inside the temple, following Hindu rituals. They offered prayers and flowers to the idols, performed aarti and met priests at the temple. They also took a tour of the temple and its authorities offered them a model of the temple.

Brahmavihari Swami, who serves as the leader of international relations for BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha and a senior priest affiliated to the Akshardham Temple, took charge of the diplomatic aspects of the visit by the British prime minister and his wife and extended them a warm welcome.

Speaking about the visit by Sunak and Murty, he told India Today TV, “It was a visit full of faith and full of love. There was a heavy downpour the whole night but yet the prime minister’s faith continued. He said he wanted to pay respect to the temple, to the murtis (idols). They came around 6.15 in the morning. He and his wife walked right up to the mandir and the murti barefoot in the drizzle.

“The sadhus performed a special welcoming ceremony with a garland and applied the tilak on his forehead. He was extremely happy. He always wanted to do the darshan (viewing the deity) on Janmasthami (birthday of Lord Krishna). I expressed that when Lord Krishna was born, it was raining. And it just happened that he went with full faith to the murti amidst rain. He did aarti and then personally prayed with his wife. Then he placed flowers before Lord Sri Krishna and Radha, Lord Ram and Sita and Lord Mahadev and Parvati.”

“He met all the children and everybody. What a way it was to begin a day with full faith and love. He is a very humble man and an able world leader.”

Sharing the prime minister’s words, Brahmavihari Swami said the former was deeply touched by the environment — the temple and the spirit of volunteerism.

“He (Sunak) believes that he is a Hindu who really wants to have the nation that he represents. He said special prayers that were very private. He was very happy and felt very honoured and passed on his prayers to other leaders and all the sadhus. He was extremely happy to have the darshan of the lord.”

When the journalist asked whether the visit to the Akshardham made up for the prime minister’s inability to celebrate Janmasthami due to his busy schedule, the senior priest said they performed panchang pranam and did aarti before Lord Swaminarayan and other gods.

“As our prime minister Narendra Modi has always said culture and spirituality form a part of very holistic growth and mentioned that this is an era to make up for the trust deficit. In that, I think this faith in god, people and tradition play a very important role,” Brahmavihari Swami told the Indian outlet.

When asked that Sunak and Murty often say that they visit temple to pray not for themselves and families only but for the world and their Akshardham temple visit came at a time when top leaders of the world gathered in New Delhi for the G20 summit, the swami agreed that the duo indeed prayed for world peace.

“I believe this is at the core of every great leader. As former Indian president APJ Abdul Kalam said, five elements are really important for the growth of the nation. He mentioned that health and education, critical technology, infrastructure, communication and information technology are important. His Holiness Pramukh Swami asked him to add a sixth: faith in god, faith in people and faith in the nation,” he said, adding that the visit by Sunak was very important, just at Brahma Muhurta (the creator’s time).

Sunal met Modi on the sidelines of the G20 Summit on Saturday (9), the opening day of the summit, and discussed ways to deepen trade linkages between the two nations and boost investment.

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