On Sunday, on his second visit to India after 2010, President Barack Obama kept date with his "real hero" - Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi.
Soon after landing in India and after being accorded a ceremonial welcome at Rashtrapati Bhawan, Obama headed straight to Rajghat to pay tribute at Gandhi's memorial. The American President accompanied by coal minister Piyush Goyal, who has been designated as the minister in waiting for Obama's visit, placed a wreath and paid floral tribute at Gandhi's samadhi. He later planted a sapling at the premises to mark the occasion.
Also accompanying Obama were US ambassadorto India Richard Verma and assistant secretary of state for South and central Asia, Nisha Desai Biswal.
Gandhi has been a source of inspiration for Obama and on Sunday the US President once again reiterated his feelings about the Father of the Nation in the visitor's book at Rajghat. "What Dr Martin Luther King Jr said then remains true today - "the spirit of Gandhi is very much alive in India today. And it remains a great gift to the world. May we always live in this spirit - of love and peace - among all people and nations," Obama wrote in the log book.
In 2009, Obama during a visit to a US high school in Arlingtom Virginia had said that given a chance he would have liked to have dinner with Mahatma Gandhi, whom he considered a real hero.
The American President planted a sapling of Peepal tree, more popularly known as the wisdom tree. Legend has it that Gautam Buddha attained enlightenment while meditating under a Peepal tree.
Obama became the fourth US President to plant a sapling at Rajghat. Prior to him former US President Dwight G Eishenhower had planted a sapling when he visited India in 1959. The tree, however, was washed away in flood, Rajghat Samadhi Committee officials said.
In 1984, George W Bush senior planted a mango tree while former President Bill Clinton planted a Champa sapling during his visit in 2000.
Before leaving Rajghat, Obama was gifted a memento of Gandhi's bust, a replica of charkha (spinning wheel), a khadi shawl and three books on Mahatma Gandhi. "He told us that it is always a pleasure to visit Rajghat," said TRajnish Kumar, secretary, Rajghat Samadhi Committee.