The Story Behind Rishi Sunak’s Red Bracelet

The Prime Minister was spotted wearing his red bracelet on the first day of his election campaign trail

Rishi Sunak

by Alice Hall |
Updated on

From grey jogging bottoms to luxe jumpers and Adidas sambas, Rishi Sunak’s fashion sense has caused a stir ever since he was made Chancellor in 2020. These days, we’re accustomed to seeing the prime minister don his trademark suit and blue tie combo. But the eagle-eyed have spotted that Sunak is often pictured wearing a red bracelet around his wrist.

Even on the first official day of his election campaign trail, he was seen wearing his red bracelet, with many wanting to know his reasons for wearing it. ‘Rishi Sunak bracelet’ is a breakout search term under his name on Google.

People first started to notice Sunak's bracelet in 2022, after he was pictured wearing it during a meeting with King Charles III, as well as at his first Cabinet meeting. While he hasn’t given any comment on the bracelet himself, it is believed to be a traditional Hindu bracelet that can be worn all year round. It holds special importance during Diwali, which this year is celebrated on 1 November 2024.

Britain's Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader Rishi Sunak (L) and the owner of Vale of Glamorgan Brewery Craig Edmunds (R) smile during a tour of the bottling machine during a visit to the Vale of Glamorgan Brewery in Barry, south Wales on May 23, 2024 as part of a campaign event ahead of a general election on July 4. (Photo by HENRY NICHOLLS / POOL / AFP) (Photo by HENRY NICHOLLS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

So what does the bracelet mean? In March 2022, Dr Edward Anderson, assistant professor in history at Northumbria University who specialises in history and politics of India and Britain, identified the bracelet as a kautuka in a tweet. ‘The red 'bracelet' is probably a kautuka, which is a part of Hindu culture,’ he wrote.

Journalist Aina Khan also speculated about the meaning of Sunak’s bracelet in a Twitter post, writing: ‘When I spoke with @SayeedaWarsi yesterday, she said unlike other British Indian politicians, Sunak was proud of his heritage & faith. Did anyone spot the string bracelet on @RishiSunak''s arm as he waved outside No. 10? It is a bracelet traditionally worn by Hindus for protection.'

A kautuka is typically compromised of woven thread, cord or ribbon and, as Khan points out, is traditionally believed to have protective properties for the wearer. Usually, it is tied on by a priest or oldest family member as part of a Hindu rite-of-passage or yajna ritual. It is worn on the right wrist for men and the left wrist for women. The bracelets are typically red, which can indicate both sensuality and purity in the Hindu faith.

Sunak has previously spoken about his Indian heritage, saying he is ‘proud of his faith’ as a Hindu. ‘It is something that is important to me. I think faith is something that helps everybody who has faith in their lives, particularly when you have these stressful jobs like I do. Having faith gives you resilience, gives you strength that is important and it provides an outlook on life which I find particularly valuable,’ he told Asian News International at the recent G20 Summit in Delhi, India.

Sunak also wears other bracelets, notably a Love DADA charm which people first spotted in 2021 when he was Chancellor. According to reports, the bracelet was made for him by his daughters, Krishna and Anoushka.

In fact, Sunak isn't the first Prime Minister to wear a sacred Hindu thread. Tony Blair was pictured wearing the nada-chhadi during debates in the House of Commons in 2006. A spokeswoman for the government at the time confirmed the wristband was a gift presented to Blair when he visited a Hindu temple in Neasden, north London.

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