Rishi Sunak joins Diwali celebrations in Southampton

Rishi Sunak at a Diwali gathering
Rishi Sunak joined a Diwali gathering in Southampton

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has joined Diwali celebrations in his home city of Southampton.

He visited the Vedic Society Hindu Temple on Radcliffe Road in the city on Sunday evening for the ceremony of Aarti, joined by his family.

The prime minister was born and grew up in Southampton, where his father was a GP and his mother ran her own pharmacy.

Mr Sunak - the first British-Indian to become prime minister - attended the same Hindu temple as a youngster.

Diwali celebrations in Southampton
Hundreds of people attended the gathering in Southampton

The prime minister, his wife Akshata Murty, their two daughters and his parents joined worshippers during the ceremony of Aarti, lighting candles and offering prayers.

Addressing the crowd, Mr Sunak said it was "wonderful to be back home in Southampton".

"I have so many happy memories of my time here as a kid," he said. "This was the place 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."

With few temples in the south of England, the event in Southampton attracted Hindus from other areas including Dorset and the Isle of Wight.

Sarika Chandarana, one of those who attended the celebrations, said: "He was part of our Sunday classes of children coming up learning about Hindu culture and all the different gods and prayers.

"For us, he's like our family and we're really excited to see him today."

Rishi Sunak at Diwali celebrations in Southampton
Mr Sunak and his family joined in the ceremony at Southampton's Hindu temple

Earlier, the Sunaks had marked Diwali by lighting diya candles on the doorstep of Downing Street.

The five days of Diwali are known as the festival of lights, celebrating the triumph of light over darkness and the start of new beginnings for millions of people of the Hindu, Sikh and Jain faiths.

Candlelight from Diyas illuminates homes, while fireworks are let off to deter evil spirits.

Diwali is also celebrated by making creative displays known as rangoli, using petals and sand.

Mr Sunak was born in Southampton in 1980 to Indian parents who had emigrated from East Africa.

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