With pomp and circumstance -– and a toast to the United States' partnership with India -- President Obama and Michelle Obama welcomed India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as the honored guest at the administration's first state dinner Tuesday night.
Three-hundred-thirty-five guests -- from political powerhouses like Nancy Pelosi and Colin Powell to Hollywood directors Steven Spielberg and M. Night Shamalayan -- attended the party on the south lawn of the White House, where a tent with a glass ceiling and eight chandeliers was erected for the festivities.
The sea of guests featured a mix of traditional "black tie" dress and vibrantly colored saris and turbans. The first lady donned a strapless champagne-colored gown made by Indian-born designer Naeem Khan and accented with traditional bangles.
After the guests were seated for dinner, the president offered a toast to the guest of honor, Prime Minister Singh.
"In India some of life's most precious moments are often celebrated under the cover of a beautiful tent. It's a little like tonight. We have incredible food, the music, and are surrounded by great friends. It's been said that the most beautiful thing in the universe are the starry heavens above us and the feeling of duty within us. Mr. Prime Minister today we worked to fulfill our duty to bring our countries closer together than ever before."
Standing in a full black tie tux next to the PM, Obama said he and his counterpart have a common bond -- having risen to leadership after historic movements for civil rights.
"It's the bond of friendship between a president and a prime minister who are bound by the same unshakeable spirit of possibility and brotherhood that transformed both our nations, the spirit that gave rise to movements led by Gandhi and King and which are the reason that both of us can stand here tonight," Obama said.
The president then raised a glass -- of what looked like water in a wine glass -- to toast. Dr. Singh toasted with what appeared to be white wine.
"To the future that beckons all of us, let us answer its call and let our two great nations realize all the triumphs and achievements that await us. Cheers," Obama said toasting.
Singh then raised his glass, saying that the engagement between the U.S. and India is "highly important" for the world as a whole at a time when "profound changes are taking place in the world" prompting new needs for international cooperation.
The PM said the two leaders are embarking now on a new phase of their partnership.
"Your journey to the White House has captured the imagination of millions and millions of people in India," Singh said toasting Obama. "You are an inspiration to all those who cherish the values of democracy, diversity and equal opportunity."
Inside the pavilion-like tent, guests were seated in groups of 10 at round tables draped with apple-green linens. In honor of the state bird of India -- the Indian peacock -- deep purple flower arrangements sat in the middle of each table. The centerpieces, put together by new White House florist Laura Dowling and her team, were meant to evoke "the classic American garden," the first lady's office said. They were made of purple, plum and fuchsia hydrangea, garden roses, and sweet peas.