PRIME MINISTER Rishi Sunak visited the Vedic Society Hindu Temple in his home city of Southampton on Sunday (12) to celebrate Diwali, the festival of lights.
He was accompanied by his wife Akshata Murty, their two daughters and his parents as he participated in the ceremony of Aarti, lighting candles and offering prayers at the Hindu temple which he attended from his childhood.
He told the crowd at the event that it was “wonderful to be back home in Southampton”.
“I have so many happy memories of my time here as a kid,” the UK’s first Hindu prime minister said.
“This was the place where the values my parents raised me with were reinforced – the importance of family, faith and service, education and hard work. Looking around, I’m inspired there is a whole new generation raised with those same values.”
The temple’s website says Sunak, who became prime minister during Diwali last year “has a very close relationship” with the place of worship.
“He attended Balvikas classes (weekend classes for children) as a child and continues to attend the temple. His grandfather was one of the founding members of Vedic Society Hindu Temple. His parents and family have been actively involved with the Temple for many years.”
Earlier on Sunday, Sunak and his family lit diya candles on the doorstep of Downing Street to mark the festival.
The 43-year-old leader referenced his Indian heritage in his Diwali message on Saturday (11).
“With the lighting of the diyas, let this be a moment we can look to the future with hope. My guiding light as Prime Minister is the determination to change things for the better, and as a symbol of the triumph of light over darkness, I believe Diwali is a poignant representation of the endeavour for a brighter tomorrow,” he said.
“As your first British Asian Prime Minister, and a devout Hindu, I also hope this can be a celebration of the fantastic ethnic and cultural diversity which makes the UK the place it is today”.
Sunak and Murty also hosted India’s external affairs minister S Jaishankar and his wife Kyoko for Diwali tea on Sunday.