A noticeable departure from the norm witnessed during the “At Home” reception hosted by President Pranab Mukherjee on the occasion of Independence Day at Rashtrapati Bhavan here on Wednesday was the minimal cordoning off of the enclosure where he and his spouse sat, besides Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, his spouse Gursharan Kaur, and UPA II chairperson Sonia Gandhi.

Dignitaries and invitees were hosted at the sprawling Mughal Gardens, where the Navy band played soul stirring tunes. The intermittent rain did little to dampen the spirits.

Mr. Mukherjee dressed in a black sherwani, stepped out and greeted his guests and received wishes outside the security barricade, a move that won him admiration.

The function began with the national anthem, followed by guests queuing up to meet the President. Among those present were Vice-President Hamid Ansari, Speaker Meira Kumar, senior BJP leaders L.K. Advani, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley and Ravi Shankar Prasad, former Union Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, and a host of Ministers and other political leaders.

Also present were decorated officials of the Armed Forces including Marshall of the Indian Air Force Arjan Singh and the three Service Chiefs — General Bikram Singh, Air Chief Marshall N.A.K. Browne and Admiral Nirmal Verma.

“The security barricade which had increased during the previous receptions was reduced, there were lesser restrictions on the movement of guests and a large number of the invitees were able to greet the President,” said an official, who attended the reception.

While the menu for the event did not include any specific Bengali cuisine, as was the speculation, the Naval Band did include a few Bengali numbers including the famous ‘Anand Loke’ composition.

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