Mumbai, April 10 (IANS) Prince William and his wife Kate Middleton, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, on Sunday started their first visit to India by paying homage to the victims of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks here.
Landing in the metropolis just before noon on their seven-day tour of India and Bhutan, the royal couple went straight to Hotel Taj Mahal Palace, where they were accorded a ceremonial welcome by the hotel general manager Taljinder Singh.
Shortly thereafter, the royal couple, attired in formals, paid homage to the victims of the Mumbai terror attacks by laying a wreath at the 26/11 memorial at the hotel, where they will stay during their Mumbai trip.
Later, they interacted with staff who were witness to the hotel attack by 10 Pakistani terrorists on November 26-28, 2008.
The iconic hotel stands just opposite the historic Gateway of India, built to commemorate the visit of their illustrious ancestor, King George V and Queen Mary in 1911.
When the news of the Kerala temple fireworks tragedy was conveyed to them around this time, the royal couple expressed their condolences for those who died in the disaster.
Later, the couple came out sporting casuals – Prince William in a full-sleeved shirt and dark trousers and Kate in a printed flowing frock – and joined a cricket match organised by NGOs Magic Bus, Doorstep and India’s Childline.
Both Prince William and Kate took to the crease and batted for some time, as visibly excited onlookers cheered on.
A large number of children, representatives of the non-governmental organisations and other invitees were present on the occasion at the famed Oval Maidan in south Mumbai, where Bharat Ratna Sachin Tendulkar and former cricketer Dilip Vengsarkar also joined them.
Tendulkar later commented on his experiences in a tweet: “Royal afternoon at the Oval with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Bowled over by their humility.”
The royal couple are travelling without their two minor children – two-and-half-year-old Prince George and 11-month-old Princess Charlotte.
They also joined children from NGO Apnalya in an open-bus ride in south Mumbai, accompanied by several children and NGO volunteers.
The British royals then headed for the around 900-year-old Banganga Tank at the Malabar Hill, constructed in 1127 by the Silhara dynasty rulers of the then Thane kingdom.
They were greeted by women of the local community and volunteers of the Smile Foundation with garlands and flowers, after which the couple showered petals in the holy reservoir.
Legend has it that the reservoir came into existence when Lord Ram’s brother Laxman shot an arrow into the ground during their exile, sprouting a tributary of the Ganges river there.
They went around a display of artefacts and handicraft made by the hosts on the occasion.
Prince William and Kate on Sunday evening attended a gala charity reception and dinner for raising funds for various NGOs, in the presence of some of the top names in Indian business and Bollywood.
They are scheduled to leave for New Delhi on Monday afternoon. Their engagements include a lunch with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and a visit to the Taj Mahal at Agra in Uttar Pradesh.