New Delhi, Nov 8 (PTI) To the strains of Bollywood hit number 'Ye Dosti Hum Nahi Todenge'(we will not break the friendship), US President Barack Obama tonight attended a glittering banquet held in his honour by President Pratibha Patil at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
Obama, whose maiden visit to India was described as a "historic milestone" by Patil in her banquet speech, and his entourage were treated to a cultural extravaganza at the sprawling lawns of Mughal Gardens before the state dinner at the same venue.
49-year-old Obama, who was flanked by Patil and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the tastefully decorated table, clinked his glass and raised a toast with the two Indian leaders after the address by the Presidents.
The President thanked the Indian leadership for their "extraordinary expression of friendship" between India and the US.
"I propose a toast knowing that our ties subsist because they are not of iron or steel or even of gold but of silken chords of human spirit," observed Obama, as he said "cheers" looking to Patil and Singh.
Looking to Patil, the President injected some humour. "One thing I observed during my visit was that India was doing so well because it has so many strong woman leaders."
At another point, he said no matter how hard he tries he cannot match his wife Michelle in dancing as she will "always be a better dancer." Michelle, wearing a green dress, was seated next to Patil. Her impromptu dances during her India visit have won her wide applause.
Besides Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Industrialists Mukesh Ambani, Ratan Tata, Kumaramangalam Birla, former President A P J Abdul Kalam, the three Services chiefs, ICICI CMD and CEO Chanda Kochhar and SBI Chairman O P Bhatt were among some 172 high-profile Indian and American guests representing diverse fields.
Obama, who is the sixth President to visit India, and Michelle got a feel of the rich diverse Indian culture from the moment they were greeted with traditional bugle and a medley of percussion from across the country at the portico of the sprawling 80-year-old edifice atop Raisina Hill.
Rajasthani Manganiyar singers from Alwar and Barmer sang the traditional welcome song "aavo ni padharo mhare des" (welcome to our country) showcasing the rich folk culture of India. A 'rangoli' decoration in a floral pattern came in for appreciation by the Obamas.
The folk musicians from Rajasthan also teamed up with Indian classical artistes on the sitar, violin, flute and tabla to enthrall the VVIP guests.
As they settled down in the well lit lawns, an opera piece in Khasi--presented by a North-East group Shillong Chamber Choir--kickstarted the entertainment evening.
The 16-member team, led by pianist Neil Nongkynrih, enthralled Obama with English, Hindi and even Khasi numbers.
Deep River'--an Afro-American hymn-- and 'To God be the Glory'--a popular 19th-century hymn composed by William Howard Doane and penned by American lyricist Fanny Crossby --featured from amongst the English numbers. The two songs were apparently chosen as it was felt the Obamas could identify with these hymns personally.
A Khasi Operatic composition was also rendered to give a north-east flavour to the occasion.
The Shillong Chamber choir, which came to the limelight after winning Color's realty show India's Got Talent-Khoj 2, had also grabbed the gold at the World Choir Olympics.
"Yeh dosti hum nahin todenge… symbolises friendship and our purpose is to exemplify the friendly ties between India and America," Choir member Damon Lyndem said.
Patil and Obama had a one-to-one meeting before the state dinner. Before the parleys, the US's first couple were served samosas which they ate out of their hands.
The Dinner at the expansive Mughal Gardens is a departure from the normal practice as the Head of the State normally hosts dinner at the dinner hall, also called the Banquet Hall. The previous occasion the state banquet was held outside in the lawns was when Obama's predecessor George W Bush came in 2006 during Kalam's presidency.
A set of 6 dancers performed three different forms of classical dance-- Kathak, Bharatnatyam and Odissi--to give the American leadership a taste of Indian dance in its purest form.
The 10-minute classical dance performance was based on mantras from the Vedas. The mantras selected were based on vishwamaitri(world friendship) and
vishwashanti(world peace) which, the producers of the show, believed are the main objectives of Obama's trip to India.
Apart from this, the naval band played melodious tunes of both the countries. "Jai Ho", the Oscar winning music maestro A R Rahman's number, "Awaara Hoon", a melodius song of yesteryears featuring Raj Kapoor and " Chhoti se Aasha" a popular song from "Roja" were among the Hindi numbers.
Three popular hits of Stevie Wonder--"I just called...", "Part-time lover..." and "Wonderful tonight..."were also played by the Naval bands. "Seven Seas of Rhye, a song by English rock group Queen, was another number played.
As the US first couple's visit to India came just days after Diwali, there was also a special display of pyrotechnics and fireworks. The Rashtrapati Bhavan was also illuminated to give a feeling of festival of lights. The steps to the forecourt were lit by colourdul diyas.