Surprisingly, many chairs went empty."
New Delhi, July 25 - The high marbled dome of the Darbar Hall of Rashtrapati Bhavan reverberated with music and some scintillating Kathak dance - watched by President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other invited guests at a special book release event.
First copies of the books Thoughts and Reflections - a compilation of quotes of the president; Winged Wonders of Rashtrapati Bhavan on the birds of the President's Estate and Indradhanush on the cultural events organized in Rashtrapati Bhavan were presented to President Mukherjee at the event.
Among the guests was former prime minister Manmohan Singh who got a warm welcome from several of the gathering, which included politicians and civil servants. The people stood up as Manmohan Singh arrived and was given a seat in the front row.
Bharatiya Janata Party veteran L.K. Advani arrived with daughter Pratibha and received a warm welcome from the guess.
Among politicians present were Congress leaders Mallikarjun Kharge and Naveen Jindal, Communist Party of India leader D.Raja, while there were some ministers of the Narendra Modi government too, including Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju, Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, and Small Industries Minister Kalraj Mishra.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar entered from the side wings quietly when around three quarters of the evening function was over.
The function, held as part of events to mark the completion of two years in office of President Mukherjee, began with a bhajan - an invocation to Lord Ganesha. One of the singers blew a conch shell as he began singing. The group also sang a Ramdhun.
Prime Minister Modi, who was seated on the stage alongside the president and Vice President Hamid Ansari, was seen tapping at times in pace with the music. The singers' voices and the musical accompaniments bounced off the rounded walls of the dome, muffling the notes somewhat.
The book release function followed, accompanied by speeches by Ansari, Modi and the president's secretary Omita Paul, who gave a brief overview of how Rashtrapati Bhavan has opened up to the public in the two years since President Mukerjee took over and also the conservation efforts.
Modi, speaking in Hindi, congratulated the president upon his completing two years in office and said under Mukherjee's margdarshan (guidance), the country has got a new direction.
A lively Kathak recital captured the enthusiasm of those gathered in the Darbar Hall, which is usually the venue for state functions like the defence investiture ceremony and the conferring of the Padma awards.
Surprisingly, many chairs went empty.
The cultural events were organized by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations.