Suites readied for Emperor Akihito, Empress Michiko

The VIP suites in the guest wing of Rashtrapati Bhavan are awaiting their first royal visitors. The refurbished and decorated Nalanda and Dwarka suites, literally fit for royalty, have been readied for Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko who arrive at Rashtrapati Bhavan on Monday. Though the royal couple is not staying at the President's House this time, it has not stopped the President's office from pulling out all the stops to make the visit memorable.

As a young Prince and Princess, shortly after their wedding, the couple was hosted by the then President Rajendra Prasad in the guest wing of Rashtrapati Bhavan on their maiden visit to India in November 1960. They were driven up the Raisina Hill in convertibles, accompanied by Dr. Prasad and the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Half a century later, the convertibles will be replaced by bullet-proof, heavily secured vehicles. For Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko their second time in Rashtrapati Bhavan will be a trip down memory lane.

Officials in the President's Secretariat said the suites have been readied for the Japanese Royalty to take a moment between their ceremonial reception and meetings. The Emperor and the Empress, who are on a five-day visit to India, will be accorded a guard of honour at Rashtrapati Bhavan on Monday, followed by a banquet in their honour later in the evening.

A short film on their previous visit is expected to be presented to the royal couple. In 1960, on their maiden visit to India, the royal couple was received at the airport by Dr. Prasad, Vice-President S. Radhakrishnan and Mr. Nehru. In the film, Empress Michiko dressed in a traditional Japanese kimono is seen accompanied by Mr. Nehru as they drove past the commercial hub Connaught Place to reach the President's House where a special cultural programme, a meeting with dignitaries and a banquet were part of the royal welcome.

The Japanese Royalty will be the first royals Rashtrapati Bhavan will host after Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana came to India in 1992 on their last tour together. Another royal couple, the King and Queen of Bhutan, who are expected to arrive in New Delhi in January, will be hosted in the guest wing in Rashtrapati Bhavan; they will be the first visitors to stay in the VIP suites after nearly two decades. The guest wing with 14 suites is being restored as part of the ongoing restoration in Rashtrapati Bhavan precincts.

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