Prez rubs nose with Maori chief as he arrives to traditional welcome

Prez rubs nose with Maori chief as he arrives to traditional welcome

Prez rubs nose with Maori chief as he arrives to traditional welcome

President Pranab Mukherjee rubbed his nose with Maori chief and his wife as part of the traditional welcome accorded to him on his arrival here on his 3-day maiden visit to New Zealand.

As the President arrived at the lawns of Governor General Sir Jerry Mateparae's residence, he was 'stopped' by Maori warriors as part of the tradition, originally conceived to ascertain whether the guest was an "enemy or a friend".

The 80-year-old President was briefed by an official about the significance of the tradition as the Maori fighters yelled their battle cries.

The warriors placed a fern in front of the President. According to the tradition, if a visitor picks up the fern, the warriors withdraw and accept him as a friend.

Mukherjee's ADC picked up the fern and handed it over to the President after which the 'aggressive' Maori warriors formally welcomed him with a song and dance performance.

Then came the most unusual part of the ceremonial welcome- rubbing the nose. An official of the Governor General escorted the President to the chief of the warriors who stood along with his wife. Mukherjee had to rub his nose with both before proceeding to inspect the guard of honour.

The rubbing of nose is a traditional Maori greeting known as 'hongi' in which two people press their nose and forehead against each other.

It has become a part of ceremonial functions in New Zealand and serves a similar purpose like a formal handshake.

The belief is that in Hongi, the "ha" (breath) is exchanged which is interpreted as sharing of two people's souls.

Mukherjee later had a meeting with the Governor General during which he spoke about air connectivity between New Zealand and India and also invited the Kiwi companies to be a part of India's Make in India programme.

The Maoris are the indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand and are believed to have settled in the country around 1280 AD.

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